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 LIS jobs resource (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s 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 has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk 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 a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.