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28 May 2014 @ 10:52 am
When Holden Met Katniss: Why Lists Drive Me Crazy  
Rolling Stone entered into the summer reading list craze with this: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/lists/when-holden-met-katniss-the-40-best-ya-novels-20140522/. It is not that the list is terrible, it is just that there are inherent problems with ANY list. I face this situation each and every semester when I prepare the reading lists for my classes in literature for children and young adults. I can only require a certain number of books (about 75-100 for children's lit and 30-40 for YA). I need to ensure I represent all genres, forms, and formats. I want "classics" as well as current titles. I want to ensure I have books for a wide range of readers (#weneeddiversebooks). So, when I see any list, I wonder if the creators of said lists also considered all the factors that need to be considered.

I have seen many summer lists so far as this school year winds down. Many have no poetry. Some have little or no non-fiction. Some have no diversity. So it is with the list from the Rolling Stone. I wonder: 1) why 40 books? 2) what expertise in YA books does the author have? 3) is there a purpose beyond stated? Since this is listed under Culture, I suspect that is the case. 4) why FIOS and not the Printz winning titles by John Green? 5) why Miracle's Boys and not From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun? I could go on, but I will not. If this list makes even one person pick up a book and read, that is a good thing.

Ask me for a list and you will have to subject yourself to some questions first: age ranges, interests, etc. I would sooner send you the list of books I compiled as my best of books from 2013 or earlier. I would rather flood you with selections.

This weekend Donalyn asked me and a few of her reading community friends to give her our top 5 picture books of the year. FIVE? That hurts! I think all of us gave her more than 5. I know I did. Ask the same from me about YA favorites. I would have to go back and look at the list of books I have read this year.

When I served on selection/award committees, the best piece of advice I received was to keep a stack of my top 5 on the desk. When I read a book I thought deserved to be in that stack, I had to remove one of the existing titles. Agony! I wonder how much the list makers agonize?
 
 
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