I’m eagerly awaiting the ALA Youth Media Awards in the morning. Hoping I can catch the announcements before my day of professional development begins. However, as much I as look forward to this each year, I have to admit, sometimes I’m a wee bit disappointed. I’m not saying that there’s anything flawed in the way the winners are picked; they just sometimes aren’t the titles that set MY reader’s heart aflutter.
Which has got me thinking…what DO I love in a book? And I think I’ve narrowed it down to three factors: the “Ooo!,” the “Awww…,” and the “Ohhh!”
I love an exciting hook/premise. (Okay, so I’m not that much different than the kids I work with.) I like books that make me laugh, that make me go “huh?,” that make me say, “WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?” But the “Oooo!” factor alone does not make a great read for me. I’ve abandoned many, many a book because once I began it, there wasn’t any follow-through. That’s because I also need…
Books with characters I care about–ones that are flawed and have to make hard decisions. Books about themes that are deep and resonant. You know, books with HEART. If the “Awww,” is particularly strong, it can overcome a weak “Oooo!”
And the best of the best: books that surprise me. Maybe it’s with a clever turn of phrase, maybe it’s a character who is not who I expect them to be, maybe it’s with a plot twist I didn’t see coming. I read a lot, and I LOVE it when books surprise me.
So, if they were asking me tomorrow morning what books I loved in 2011*, here’s what I would say:
Best of 2011
(yes, I know some came out earlier than 2011, but this is when I read them, so humor me)
* 2011 was not a great reading year for me. There are many, many books–some on everyone else’s best books lists–that for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten to yet. Also, I kind of flopped on listing everything I read, like I usually do. May 2012 be better!