Getting To Know an Author - Part 1
December 10, 2013
We’ve all been there. You are at the library or airport looking for a good book to read. You've checked out all your favorite authors, and they don’t have anything new available. In desperation (they just called your flight or you need to get home to start dinner), you turn to one of the displays and grab a book at random. You begin reading and find that you are really enjoying the story. By the time you reach the last page, you are hooked. You have just found your newest favorite author.
If the author is really good, he or she will leave you with a hunger for more (and has probably written the same cast of characters into other stories). For example, this might be J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series, Tom Clancy and his Jack Ryan thrillers, or John Sanford’s Prey series. If you are just becoming familiar with the author, you might wonder how to find their other works and the order of the series. Some authors, like Sue Grafton in her Kinsey Millhone series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc.), make this intuitively obvious. Grafton is a rare exception, though.
My favorite resource for solving this dilemma is a website developed by the Kent District Library (KDL) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. KDL’s What’s Next: Books in Series Database is a fantastic Internet resource. Clicking on this link brings up a panel where you can enter the author’s name, a book title, or a series title. You can also select a category (youth or adult) and a genre (mystery, romance, science fiction, etc.) to further narrow your search. When you enter a name and click on the search button, it shows you a list of matching authors. Clicking on the "+" button next to an author’s name expands the list of series by author. Further clicking on the “+” button next to the series name gives you a list of titles. This can be very helpful, especially with the more prolific writers. For example, entering “Macomber” in the Author Last Name search box yields two entries: Debbie Macomber and Robert Macomber. Expanding the list for Debbie, you find that she has written books in twelve (count ‘em) different series (Angel, Blossom Street, Cedar Cove, Dakota, etc.). Clicking on the Angel series yields a list of six titles. Once you have your list of titles, you can click on the link on the right side of the page to generate a “printer-friendly” list of the books in your series.
Although KDL’s What’s Next Database is a great tool, it does have one limitation. It concentrates on books in a series that feature similar characters, settings, etc. It does not give you all the books written by a particular author. For example, searching for John Grisham’s works yields two series, Jake Brigance and Theodore Boone, with a total of six books between them. Anybody familiar with Grisham knows that he has written dozens of others. Finding the other non-series works by an author will be the subject of the next piece in this blog series.