|At the Tacoma Dome waiting to hear from Michelle Obama about her book 'Becoming' with a friend, my mom, a sister, and a daughter. I love doing bookish things with others.|
My nephew, Bobby Powers, wrote a compelling post about reading like a true nerd. In it he posed a few questions about reading practices which prompted me to give him a very detailed answer about some of my reading/book related practices. In the article Bobby essentially asks and answers his own questions so I recommend that you hop over and read what he wrote, then come back and let me know, in the comment section, your answers to his questions (Reading Like a True Nerd)
When I was in graduate school to become a high school librarian I learned about professional organizations that write book reviews, like Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal. All of these publications give starred reviews to the books they deem to be the best. I started paying attention to these starred reviews as I was building my collection for the library. One cannot read every book before purchasing them for a library so it was a tool that helped me feel like the books I was purchasing had met some standards for excellence. The more starred reviews, the better. The highest number a book could earn in children's publishing was six, so I would strive to purchase those with 4+ starred reviews, if I could.
As I started paying attention to starred reviews I noticed the correlation to book awards. In the YA world, The Michael Printz Award went to the best YA books published in the US in a given year. The American Library Association gives out all kinds of awards each year. The ALA Youth Media Awards for 2021 were just announced last Monday. I would look over the prize winners that were also YA books to help make my purchasing decisions. I would automatically purchase the Printz winners if I didn't already have them in the library.
At some point I had enough prize winners in the library to allow check-outs to all the students of several English teacher's classes at once and I kept a really elaborate database for them to consult to make their decisions. At this point I branched into adult book awards that might interest advanced readers. The National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize for literature, Carnegie Medal, Booker Prize, Andre Norton, Bram Stoker, RITA, etc. The National Book Award does give out one award to Children/teens each year so I would certainly scrutinize their long list and the finalists. Now that I am retired I still look at these lists and try to read the winners, at least. In fact, I have set myself a personal reading challenge to read all current Pulitzer Prize winners and many past winners, going back to its inception. With few exceptions I have found these books as excellent as one would expect from a winner of such a prestigious award. (Here is a list of my reading challenges which includes my Pulitzer Project.)
Bobby, I know you like to own your own books so you can write in them. I rarely buy books for myself (though my junky bookshelf would make you think differently.) Instead, I am a big fan of libraries because the books are free! In pre-COVID days I liked to wander around libraries and I would always end up at the displays where librarians set aside their favorite books. Sometimes they will include little blurbs about what they like about the books. I take these to heart. Like bookstores (My town no longer has any bookstores. None.) I can wander around a library and end up with some real treasures that I wasn't expecting to find, often off topic from whatever I was searching for in the first place. And the best thing about libraries---the books are free.
Around the time I started book blogging, I decided I needed help keeping track of the books I read and have used Goodreads as my tool. I don't use Goodreads for book suggestions, however. I use it as a place for me to keep track of my books. My short reviews there help me quickly look back on what I was thinking when I read it. This has become a very valuable tool to keep me on track. My end-of-the-year survey, which you now do also, is made possible because of the tags I add to each book. Since one can create their own tags on the site, I just make tags that will be useful in the future for finding books around a theme. Mine are things like: audiobooks, poetry, children's, Pulitzer, re-reads, did not finish, YA, etc. In addition to noting books I've read, I also keep a list of books "I want to read" or TBR books. If someone I trust, like you, recommends a book, I add it to this list. Several times a year I will review the growing TBR pile of books to determine if I still want to read it or not. If the answer is the latter, it is easy to delete the book and forget about it. But the ones on the 'want to read' list that remain serve as a reminder of what I could read next. The day before the COVID restrictions went into place, I had dropped by the library and checked out twelve books from my TBR list. Lucky for me, too, since the library shut down for over a month before they opened up with curbside check-outs. My current TBR list has over 200 titles on it and it includes books for my Pulitzer challenge, current books, and old classics I'd still like to read.
Lastly I talk to people about books. If I like and trust the persons judgment I often find myself adding the books they mention to my reading list. Sometimes I add the books to my list because the recommender is a sister or a nephew, like you, and I want to have that book in common with them. For one of my book clubs we select the books ourselves and we go through a rather detailed vetting process before making our selections. One gal does not have a very good track record for making good recommendations so when she suggests a title, I am biased against it. Ha! But I bet others could say the same thing about me. Many of the books I like aren't liked by the others. I think that is because I often listen to the audiobook version and have a more positive experience with the book than they did.
As a book blogger I have many virtual 'friends' that also blog about books whom I have come to regard very highly over the years. Four gals in all areas of the country (California, Texas, Delaware, and Maine) write especially good book reviews and have tremendous sway on my choices. If Helen, Rummanah, Sue, or Deb say they like a book, I add it to my TBR. If they say they don't like it, forget it. The book won't see the light of day on my reading list.
Oh. One thing I forgot to add on my reply on your blog, Bobby, was about authors. I have a few authors that I will always read, or consider reading, when they publish a new book: Barbara Kingsolver, John Green, Bill Bryson, Margaret Atwood, Maggie Stiefvater, and Mary Oliver come to mind. Tried and true authors are my go-to choices if I am casting about looking for something to read.
Now that my answer is almost as long as your original blogpost, I've decided to grab it and post it on my blog. I'll link your original post and your questions. Let's see if my blogging friends have any other suggestions to facilitate further discussion.
Okay blogger friends. Your turn. What are your answers to Bobby's original questions.