I eliminated the 2013 titles and the few 2015 titles. That took my list down to 600 books. Not much help there. After about 4 hours, I had completed the presentation: 10 lists of 5 books each. Nonfiction, graphic novels, mentor texts, etc. Some lists are genre based; others are form and format. A few are hard to classify. But it is done.
And this usually has folks asking some questions. So here, in advance, is an FAQ of sorts.
1. How do you read so many books?
I make reading a priority. I try to find time every day to do some reading. Sometimes, I read a stack of picture books; sometimes all I can manage is a chapter or two. If am in the car, I read with my ears in lieu of listening to the radio (and that saves me hundreds of $$$ because I do not need Sirius in the car).
2. How do you keep them all straight when it is time to talk about them?
I keep a running list using Titlewave (www.titlewave.com). I can pull up the list any time I need to do so and read the annotations if I have forgotten details. As I am reading the books, I am generally making mental notes on how I would share them with educators, too.
3. Does every book you read make it to the list?
Just about. If a book is "bad," I do not finish reading it. I am not serving on a committee right now, so I do not have to read a book that does not resonate with me. On the other hand, though, I get very few books that would not make a good selection for some reader. Not everything I read will be an award winner. But it might be a gateway or touchstone book for some reader or readers. Bad books are never on the blog or my lists. Why waste time and energy talking about a bad book. Exception: books by celebs and idealogues. Those are fair game when I present. They illustrate some of the pitfalls of books: celebs think they can write; ideologues believe their point of view deserves space in the world of books for children. I do read them, and I do talk about them (though not on the blog).
4. Why do you read so many books?
In part, this is my job. I teach children's and YA literature. How could I do that if I did not keep up with as many new books as possible? Yes, I still use some of the "classics" in class: THE CHOCOLATE WAR, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, etc. However, my students need to read current books to better meet the needs and interests of their students. And, BTW, I enjoy reading books for children, tweens, and teens. It is truly a Golden Age, and there are so many fine books out there to read and share.
5. How do you get these books?
I want to thank publishers for their incredible generosity. I do receive review copies of LOTS of books. I also buy LOTS of books (ask my accountant). I remember asking Dona Gallo once how I could start getting books sent to me. His advice is my advice today: go to conferences, talk to publishers, read, talk about books at meetings. To that I would add: use social networking to talk about what you are reading. I read a book and post to Twitter and Facebook and my blog. I add books to recommended lists at workshops. I write short blogs for other outlets. I review books for several journals. I share the books as widely as I can.
6. What do you do with all those books?
Almost every book I receive floats on to other educators. I am well known at the UPS store in my neighborhood. So are some of my friends. I also donate books to local librarians and teachers. I give many away as door prizes.
So, as I head off to do workshops for YALSA and NCTE, I am reviewing my reading life this year. It was a very good year. And it is not over yet.