Nerds, geeks, Atari fans, sci-fi and fantasy lovers rejoice … it is almost time for “Armada.” Come to think of it, all readers rejoice, since I cannot think of another book more loved and appreciated by as many current McArthur Library staff as “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, published in August 2011.
While I could fill this column with links about Ernest Cline and his many fan tributes, let me just give you one: http:// www.ernestcline.com/blog/. Ernest’s blog will give you more information about his new book, “Armada,” which will be published on July 14 – an unofficial holiday that many readers have been looking forward to since they sadly closed the cover of Cline’s first novel. “Ready Player One” numbers in the top 500 of Amazon best sellers and while that may not seem significant, consider that: a) Amazon has an inordinate amount of titles for sale and b) Cline’s novel has been available for less than four years.
RPO (as it’s lovingly referred to on many websites) crossed boundaries of age, genre, and reader interest. Was it a sci-fi novel? Urban fantasy? Dystopia? Coming of age story? Was it a Young Adult book trying to be an adult read, or vice versa? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Librarians and readers alike will often state “Read what you love, as long as you read.”
And many, many people loved “Ready Player One.” Fans of video games, pop culture, 80s music … so many read Ernest Cline’s opus/love letter to the 1980s and passed it on. Do you know the experience of buying a book just to push it into other people’s hands along with the urging ‘Just read it...?’ For me, “Ready Player One” is that book.
Cline was able to sell the screenplay relatively quickly, even before the book came out, but there are websites devoted to the question of how, when (and if) they will ever successfully capture the book on screen. You may have noticed by now that I’m specifically not going into detail about RPO. What is it about? Why am I not telling you? Just read it. Remember how Harry Potter redefined reading and many authors strived to write the ‘next Harry Potter’? For the last few years, many authors have been trying to write the next “Ready Player One.” No one has succeeded, in my opinion anyway.
More than three years ago, a staff member who subscribed to a newsletter called Shelf Awareness made me aware of “Ready Player One,” and said, ‘This sounds like something you would like.’ When a librarian recommends a book to another librarian, we tend to listen. I did, and I can safely say that “Ready Player One” is one of the best books I have read in my life. The title’s popularity spread like wildfire through the library staff and before you know it, we were all reading it and recommending it like crazy. The audiobook version was a particular favorite of many staff, since it was narrated by Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, and overall a cult hero to many).
Allow me to digress momentarily. Librarians like jargon. When you come in and ask us what to read next, the process we go through with you is called Reader’s Advisory, or RA for short. Let me let you in on a trade secret – for nearly every librarian, RA is the favorite task we are privileged enough to be paid to undertake every day. While many librarians read voraciously, of course not every librarian does…but still, we consider ourselves experts in our own collection, and more to the point, experts in pointing YOU in the right direction. It makes our day when you tell us that you loved something that we recommended to you.
There are so many RA tools these days – Amazon, a librarian’s suggestion, GoodReads, Library Thing, Shelf Awareness, Novelist (which you can access via the MARVEL databases at our website), our own Dear Reader newsletters (which you can subscribe to on our website). A reader does not have the excuse of not knowing what to read next. For me, personally, the last several years has been a fun quest (using all of the aforementioned tools) to find something I loved as much as “Ready Player One.” While it has not been topped, I have discovered authors like Marcus Sakey, Daniel Wilson, Douglas Richards, Brian Vaughan, Peter Clines, Scott Meyer, James Dashner, Walter Jon Williams, and John Scalzi, and pleasantly rediscovered authors like William Gibson, Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson.
It is all about the journey – find something you love to read, then try to find something you love to read even more. Oh, and mark July 14th on your calendar. Ernest Cline may be able to top his first bestseller, but either way, it will be fun to find out.
Jeff Cabral is director of McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.