Barbara Fister

Barbara Fister

writer, reader, librarian, observer, curmudgeon-at-large

books | what I'm reading | other writing | teaching & speaking | contact me

In many ways, I'm an eternal undergraduate who can't decide on a major. It's not always easy to find the thread that runs through my various interests: crime fiction, popular literacy, the social nature of reading and research and how to help undergraduates participate, where publishing is going (and where it should go), and how anxiety shapes what we think about social issues. What ties these interests together is my curiosity about how various media shape our perception of the world and how we individually make sense of it.

My CV links to articles, book chapters, and presentations. What's here is mainly information about my fiction.


if then else cover If Then Else (Gazornum 2016)
What are you going to do when your doofus of a big brother gets himself arrested on a terrorism charge? If you're a young coder with a sense of justice and a passion for privacy, whatever it takes to save him from prison. This open access young adult novel - inspired by the real-life stings that the FBI has used to entrap unwary would-be dissidents and by the growth of the surveillance-industrial complex - was serialzie online in February 2016 and is available in html, mobi, ePub, PDF, and print on demand formats under a Creative Commons license.

Babel Fish Bouillabaisse cover Babel Fish Bouillabaisse (Gazornum 2015)
This lightly-edited, open access, creative-commons-licensed collection of essays is drawn from the Library Babel Fish blog at Inside Higher Ed with additional material exploring online reading communities, the subject of my 2014-15 sabbatical year. It's available (free!) in the following versions.  
pdf (459 pages)
print on demand

through the cracks Through the Cracks (Minotaur, 2010)
In her second appearance, Anni Koskinen is hired by a the victim in a notorious and racially-charged rape case after the man arrested for the crime has had his sentence overturned. At the same time, the disappearance of a young white woman and the arrest of an undocumented Latino has Chicago on edge. This investigation into a series of rapes is more broadly an examination of violence against women and a look at the intersection of race and the criminal justice system.

"Fister is a master of plotting and pacing . . . first-rate." Steve Weinberg, The Star Tribune
Packs a real punch. It will appeal to Sara Paretsky fans and mystery readers who long for tough and savvy female investigators." Library Journal
Read an excerpt
More about Through the Cracks

buy in print | kindle | nook | ibook | google books | buy used | borrow from a library

in the windIn the Wind (Minotaur, 2008)
A woman who turns up at Anni Koskinen's door, asking for a
ride out of town, turns out to be wanted by the FBI for the 1972 murder of an agent who had been pursuing radical members of the American Indian Movement. Anni’s investigation into crimes of the past throws her in the path of a no-holds-barred federal effort to find and convict the fugitive.
Drawing on parallels between counterintelligence practices of the Vietnam War era and today’s hostile climate for civil liberties, the events  of the past collide with the present – and, for Anni, the political becomes all too personal.   

"Barbara Fister is the heir apparent to Sara Paretsky.  In the Wind is an intriguing mystery, filled with great characters, an interesting and needed perspective on the city of Chicago, and a strong grounding in the politics and history of the past thirty years.  Read it.  You'll love it."
Kris Nelscott, Edgar and Shamus award nominated author of the Smokey Dalton series 
"an understated crime fiction gem . . . a wildly thought-provoking whodunnit." Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune
Read an excerpt
More about In the Wind
buy in print | DIY paperback version | kindle | nook | ibook | buy usedborrow from a library - or download the free DIY amateur audio version.

on edgeOn Edge (Dell, 2002)
A flip of a coin sends Konstantin Slovo, a troubled Chicago cop, eastbound on I-90 until he comes to a small town in Maine that is experiencing a nightmare. Nearly twenty years ago, an investigation into allegations of child abuse spiraled out of control, ending without convictions - leaving the community scarred by suspicion, distrust, and anger. Slovo, all too experienced with crimes against children, arrives in Brimsport just as a search is on for a missing girl, the third child to be abducted and murdered in recent months. He's drawn into the race to end the horror before the town tears itself apart. Because whoever is behind these killings knows Brimsport's tortured past and is using its worst fears to push it over the edge.

"On Edge is a knockout thriller." John Orr, San Jose Mercury News
"Just the paperback to browse when your plane enters a zone of turbulence and the pilot turns on the fasten-seat-belts sign." Eugen Weber, Los Angeles Times
more about On Edge
kindle | nook | ibook | google books | buy used | borrow from a library

what I'm reading
I inherited my mother's insatiable appetite for reading, and like her tend to choose mysteries over other genres. I write reviews for Reviewing the Evidence as well as my personal blog and a blog I keep on on Scandinavian crime fiction. I keep track of what I've been reading at LibraryThing. Here's a sampler.

other writing 

In the last few years, in addition to the usual palaver academics write, including a sample below, I have been writing weekly commentary for Inside Higher Ed

teaching and speaking 

Some courses I've taught include Books and Culture (interim course), Information Fluency (spring semesters) and Reading Workshop (spring semesters).

Assorted presentations and workshops can be found on my CV; here is a sample.

contact me

by e-mail | on twitter | at librarything

Creative Commons License
The contents of this website, unless otherwise indicated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.