Tag Archives: collections

How I keep up with the latest YA books

Browsing for books.

Photo by flickr user MarLeah Cole

My careers as both a librarian and a YA writer require me to keep up with the latest books coming out. I need to be able to recommend books to readers with varying tastes, and I need to know what’s being published both within and outside my genre so I can identify comp titles and make sure what I’m writing is selling. (This is not me telling you to write to trends, but if you’re writing a contemporary YA your characters need to look, act, and talk like today’s teens. Reading the books they’re reading is just one way to make sure you’re on track.)

I use a number of sources to develop collections, improve my reader’s advisory skills, and cultivate my to-read list. Here are my favorites. If I’ve missed a source you like, please share it in the comments!

YALSA’s The Hub — contributors regularly post book lists related to a range of genres and topics, including read alikes for popular movies, TV shows, and video games. Recommendations also include graphic novels and audiobooks. And for those trying to stay up on tween and teen pop culture, they’ve started posting about things of interest to teens beyond the books.

Teen Librarian Toolbox — this is hands-down my favorite librarian blog. There is so much useful information here related to teen programs and technology, but the contributors also regularly discuss MG and YA books. Karen shares her teenaged daughter’s reactions to books (many of them pre-pub ARCs), and Amanda shares the reviews she writes for School Library Journal. Their book lists on tough topics are fantastic, and their reviews are consistently insightful and honest. If I’m thinking of reading a book and see it recommended here, it immediately jumps to the top of my to-read list. And if a review on TLT points out something problematic in a book, I’ll try to find a similar book that doesn’t have those issues to recommend when teens come looking for that type of story.

Reading While White — examines diversity in children’s and teen books, with the authors admitting up front that they are reviewing these works from a position of privilege. This is another place where, if a book gets a good review, it jumps up my to-read list.

Professional journals — my library subscribes to Library JournalSchool Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly (among others). The reviews in these journals, as well as the genre spotlights, are useful when trying to decide whether to purchase or read a new book.

Publications by Baker & Taylor — these technically fall under professional journals as well, but they include a wider selection than the publications mentioned above. My library (and many other libraries) orders new materials through Baker & Taylor, and the company publishes lists of all the items they’ll be selling in various genres/categories. Common Core and Growing Minds are a good source of MG and YA titles, and CATS Series helps me stay up-to-date on new books in a series.

Adventures in YA Publishing — this blog highlights new books published every week, in addition to author interviews, and writing tips and contests for those who write as well as read YA. I used to follow this more closely, but I’ve found that most of the books mentioned on AYAP are already on my radar.

Other sources:

Twitter — I follow a lot of publishers, librarians, and authors, and if everybody’s talking about a book, I make note of it.

Word of mouth — if any of my writer or librarian colleagues recommend a book, I try to keep the title in the back of my head even if it sounds like something that wouldn’t interest me, because every book has its reader.

Shelf Awareness — this company publishes daily newsletters both for readers and for industry professionals (librarians, booksellers, and publishers). Both newsletters cover all genres and categories, with the focus more on adult titles, but they do review some children’s and YA books.

Early Word — if there’s any big news in the reading world — a famous author passes away or announces a new book, a book gets picked up for adaptation to a film or TV series, a debut author is predicted to be a big name — Early Word will have it.

Those are my main sources for finding new books. What are yours?

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Reading: It’s not just reading anymore

With increasing frequency, reading is becoming a multimedia activity.  Rapidly emerging enhanced books, magazines, and periodicals (both print and electronic) contain embedded videos, sound files, and other content that can be opened/viewed/listened to/interacted with by using free or inexpensive apps.  I recently read an article discussing the seemingly endless possibilities of enhanced magazines — a “buy it now” option in the Sears catalog?  The ability to pin a recipe on Pinterest that you found in a magazine in the checkout aisle?
And it’s not just periodicals.  Picture books with interactive games and videos are becoming more prevalent, and I wonder whether publishers a few years from now will even consider making a children’s book that does not have some kind of enhanced content.
And while children’s books may be the trailblazers, they’re by no means the only ones with enhanced content.  Novels for older readers have been published electronically with multiple reading options — for example, a book that begins in medias res with an option to read the story as the author initially wrote it, and one in which the events happen chronologically.  I see a world of possibilities with this kind of thinking — books where readers can choose their own adventure, choose which viewpoint character they’d prefer, or choose which plot-line to follow.  I see fantasy novels with interactive maps that let readers explore the author’s world, even embedded video games that allow them to go on adventures in that world.  I see movie tie-in editions which include trailers, deleted scenes, and interviews with actors and directors.  And let’s not forget enhanced textbooks containing interactive diagrams, adaptive self-tests at the ends of chapters, and educational games.
All of this is very exciting, but it also raises some very big questions.  First of all, what constitutes a book?  I don’t think we can define books simply as text and images anymore.  Books are becoming multimedia capsules.  Which begs the question, what does it mean to write a book?  Will writers someday be expected to write the same story from different viewpoints or with different endings?  Will they be expected to present multimedia tie-ins for their stories?  Or will it be the publisher’s job to come up with enhanced content?  Will being able to provide the enhanced material oneself make for a stronger pitch when seeking a publisher?
And how will libraries handle the collection of enhanced materials?  Should we provide eReaders or tablets with the necessary software to view enhanced content?  In order to truly provide equal access to our materials, I think we would have to.  But what would that mean for our budgets?  One could argue that, if we simply focused our collections on non-enhanced materials, we would be able offer a larger collection.  But quantity does not equal quality; if our patrons want books with embedded videos, they’re not going to care that we have three copies of the un-enhanced version.
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m very curious to hear what others think.  I’ve read hundreds of articles on eBooks in libraries, and on publishing electronically, but I haven’t heard much about how either industry is handling enhanced materials.