Downton Abbey and Dream Questions on the Ref Desk

by Renee Holden, Head Editor, INALJ Nebraska

Downton Abbey and Dream Questions on the Ref Desk

reneeh1I kid you not…I was sitting at the reference the desk the other day and a patron came up to me and said with a copy of Downton Abbey in her hands “I love, love, love this show. I simply can’t wait until the next season.  What books are like Downton Abbey?”  I proceeded to ask her a bunch of questions to try and find out what about the TV show she liked.  At the end of the reference interview, she simply said “Wow!  Librarians give out better recommendations than Amazon.  Does Amazon know you are doing their job, but better?” 

After the patron left I started thinking about the fact that librarians have been doing reader’s advisory for a lot longer than Amazon’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…  So I thought that I would share with everyone the top 5 read alike questions that I have received working the public library reference desk.  The answers to these questions are not very scientific…just the most popular books based on patrons telling me how much they loved the books.


  • Question #1 – “I love the TV show Downton Abbey. Are there any books that you can recommend that are like the TV show?”
  • Answer – TIE – The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin & The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  • Questions #2 – “OMG! I am so sick of Twilight! I don’t want to read another vampire novel with a character who is such a victim!  Any ideas?” – teen patron
  • Answer – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  • Question #3 – whispered tone “Hi.  I loved that 50 grey book.” “50 Shades of Grey?” I ask.  “Shhhhh…don’t say the name of the book.  It’s dirty.  Got anything like it?”
  • Answer – Bared to You by Sylvia Day
  • Question #4 – “I’m a guy.  I want a real man’s man book.  Something like James Bond, but without the accent.  Suggestions?”
  • Answer – Iceberg by Clive Cussler
  •  Question #5 – “I absolutely hate science fiction books, but I have a new boyfriend and he loves them.  Do you have any suggestions for science fiction books that won’t be too complicated for me?”
  • Answer – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


Hopefully these great suggestions will come in handy for those of you sitting at reference desks.  Just remember that librarians do reader’s advisory better.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.