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24 September 2015 @ 05:30 pm
You have seen the lists all over Facebook and other social media. The headlines scream that here is the ultimate list. All your prayers are answered. No need to look further. Just read these books, and your life will be complete. The search is over.

To a lesser degree I see some of this firsthand. Sometimes someone at a workshop will confide that they use my list for their annual book order or to fill in a collection. It is flattering, of course, but it also makes me wince. Yes, do take recommendations from trusted sources, but do not look at one list as THE list.

This rule applies to every list. To be sure, I comb through the lists. From award lists to selection lists to starred review lists and even to the inane lists I find on social media. Right now I am reading lots of Mock Newbery lists. If there is a title I do not know, I try to read about it. Is this something I would want to read? Is it a title I would add to my own presentations? Is it a book for which I already have a reader in mind (still making the match after all these years)?

And this is also the problem with other lists: lexile and level lists. They narrow the choices for readers. They include some titles that few will appreciate while perhaps overlooking titles that will have wide appeal and readership.

I have served on quite a few of the committees charged with creating those lists. I have some experience applying criteria. And so I have much respect for the lists created by these committees. They are using criteria, reading and rereading books, measuring how the books meet the criteria, discussing these books with others. It is an incredible process.

But the lists I refer to in the title of this post seem to be, well, random. Here is one from Buzz Feed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariannarebolini/best-ya-books-of-all-time#.ow2RwpBMM. Where to begin? First, let me just say that I do to give one whit for the average rating of a book on Goodreads. I left Goodreads because I read some of the ratings of folks who seemed not to have read the book before assigning it stars. I left Goodreads to move away from giving stars as well. I sort of feel that this system does not tell me one thing about a book. For instance, LITTLE WOMEN has about the same Goodreads rating as every other book on this list.

Next, I do not know all of these titles. I do not feel the need to remedy that situation either. They are relatively new books; some are part of a series. None of the titles I was unfamiliar with would supplant a book such as THE CHOCOLATE WAR, MONSTER, or any book by Lynch, Crutcher, Peck, Kerr, Hinton, and other recipients of the Edwards Award from YALSA. I immediately wonder why they get a place on the list and not others. There is absolutely no criteria other than ratings on Goodreads. (see above)

Third, some of these are not YA. I know there are some blurry lines here, but let's be clear. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER was published initially as an adult book. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES preceded YA as an age classification. HARRY POTTER is more middle grade than YA (at least the initial books). THE LIGHTNING THIEF is not generally considered YA. I know it might seem nit-picky, but we do need to be better about our labels.

Next, there is little diversity on this list.

Fifth, why THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and not LOOKING FOR ALASKA or AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES? Green won a Printz and Printz Honor for those books. This is to to say that FIOS is not a terrific book. It is. It is. It is. But, selecting one book from Green or Zusak or Hopkins or Clare is tough.

finally, there are few older books on this list. Yes, there are a few classics, but no books from the beginnings of YA or the decades where YA was coming into its own. There was YA in the 70s (FOREVER) and 80s (STOTAN) and 90s (NIGHTGOWN) and 00s (FREEWILL) as well. And there are other books even on Goodreads with higher average ratings. So, this begs the question, how was this list assembled?

None of these considerations are likely to occur, though. People see a list and grab hold. They use the list to sort of evaluate their own reading (how many of these do I know?). The lists are the equivalent of displays in bookstores touting the best new books. I love to look at those as well. I want to track down the person who assembled the display and talk to her or him about why those titles. But I do know that in some cases it is all about the bejamins. Sales. Marketing. Hype. There is much of this when we look at lists.

One final word. Do I have a list of books for 2015? Yep, I do. Do I share many of these books in presentations? You bet. I am often asked to just that for PD. Do I call them "best" books? Not generally. If I do, I am quick to point out that they are the BEST for ME and from MY perspective. I do not publish these lists as some sort of quick fix: read these and all will be well. Rather I try to share books as folks make requests with information about their readers and what new books they might consider.

I know that I read a lot of books. I love that part of my job. But even I cannot read them all. I know I miss some terrific books along the way. And I know I do not always love the books others do. All that is what makes this field in which I work so much, well, fun. We get to talk about books, to discuss their finer points, to cheer some, to maybe get some more readership for others. It's a great job. And it is a fantastic time to be involved in the field of YA which is so rich, so deep, so rewarding. I. LOVE. MY. JOB.
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(no subject) - politova_mari on September 25th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Vero BenVero Ben on October 3rd, 2015 09:23 pm (UTC)
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