Outside of my parents, it wasn't easy to find readers in my family. Thankfully, my grandma reads and has been looking for new books to pick up. I am not quite as close to my grandma as I am with my parents, so I had to work harder to get a feel for what she was looking for. She made it clear to me from the very beginning that she is primarily interested in “no-brainers”—she reads solely for entertainment and has a difficult time enjoying books that require her to concentrate or ponder things too deeply. I asked for an example of an author she enjoys and why she enjoys his or her work. She first mentioned Nicholas Sparks, and she explained that she loves him because she feels that though his love stories are often sad in tone, they are also heartwarming and make her “appreciate the human spirit.” I asked her which of his titles she likes best, and she told me that she could relate better to the ones that featured older characters like herself.
This time, I went straight to RA Online. I looked at the author read-alikes for Sparks’ The Choice and, using the faceted search, found Elizabeth Berg, so I asked Grandma if she was interested in her. She told me that she has heard good things about Berg. I read her some of the summaries for Berg’s more recent works and together we selected Dream When You’re Feeling Blue.
Next, I ask her what other authors she enjoys, and she initially had trouble coming up with one name. She says that she used to read Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins religiously, and she might like to read something akin to their work. Although NoveList isn’t one of my favorite RA tools, I decided to try it to look for read-alikes for Danielle Steel. Interestingly, I found a detailed list of author read-alikes compiled by Joyce Saricks, who described each of the appeals of Steel’s worked and what other authors shared these characteristics. Sarick’s recommended titles with a focus more on women’s lives and may feature a hint of romance. Barbara Delinsky’s A Woman’s Place seemed like a suitable choice for my grandma, who prefers books that are contemporary, but that don’t rely too much on modern technology or fads as plot devices. After I read the summary for her, Grandma expressed interest, and we had a second title.
She seemed satisfied with these two books, so I searched and found them in her local library catalog and told her they were ready for her to pick up. I also went ahead and quickly wrote up a list of more author read-alikes from literature-map.com for future possibilities. My grandma does not have internet access, and would have no idea how to operate it if she did, so she was especially appreciative of this list:
Nicholas Sparks read-alikes
Richard Paul Evans
Danielle Steel read-alikes
Barbara Taylor Bradford
Jackie Collins read-alikes
Nelson De Mille
Grandma read Elizabeth Berg’s novel, and really enjoyed it. She said that the author did a good job of portraying the WWII era, and she could relate somewhat to the characters because of their Irish heritage and because she also grew up in a time of war. She thinks she might look into reading more of Berg’s work before moving on to the other titles and authors I suggested.