No, I’m not talking about Santa’s naughty and nice lists. I’m talking reading lists. These days, everyone’s got lists of the best books of 2014, the best books to read, the best kids’ books of 2014, the best YA books to be made into movies – you name it, there’s a list of books for it.
There’s also a lot of literary hand-wringing by reviewers and bloggers about the number of books they’ve read this year and whether they’ll meet their challenges or polish off their to-read lists. (You can check out mine here. Just interested in children’s books?)
I don’t get all wound up in lists. My to-read list is usually around 250 books – although it’s been creeping up toward 300 lately – and I just figure as long as I’m reading books from the current year (or year just prior), it’s all good.
How do I pick what to read? I have a secret librarian weapon. No, really. It’s called Booklist. It’s the American Libraries Association’s book review journal, and it’s packed with short reviews for all genres and ages. I love it so much, I subscribed for my own personal copy when I stopped working in public libraries.
Booklist isn’t my only source, though. The usual suspects – New York Times Book Review, for one – all help me decide what to add to my list – and sometimes what to remove. Friends’ recommendations? Sure. Though I’m not a huge fan of Amazon reviews or those on Goodreads… like any sort of research, you have to consider the source.
Since I average about 300 books each year, I’m asked all the time how I read so much.
Well, I don’t have a lot of other hobbies. And I don’t watch much TV. 🙂 And I do read quite fast, which has always been a big help. (No, I do NOT use one of those speed-reading apps or course or stuff like that. I just read fast. Always have. Some superpower, huh? 😉 )
Reading isn’t just fun for me – it’s research. Research into what my students will enjoy, research into what’s being published, and research into great writing. Reading wonderful writing will make you a better writer faster than any how-to book, no matter how great. (And there’s a LOT of great ones – but that adds to the reading list. See?)
I look at my to-read list much like I look at my to-do list. I love crossing items off, but I know I’m never going to finish everything on it. There’s always one task more, or one book more. And if I did finish my list, what would I do?
Probably go back to browsing the shelves at my local library. 🙂