Where the Books Are

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who had two kids who were both readers, but she wasn’t sure how to keep finding books they might like. “It’s hard to tell from an Amazon review,” she mentioned. Which got me thinking about the places I find books to add to my (never-ending) reading list. In no particular order:

Book blogs/social media
This is probably where I find the most books. I follow a lot of book/writing-related blogs, which often post reviews, lists of book recommendations on a particular theme or topic, or interviews with writers about their work. Some favorites include:

I follow these (and others) on Feedly and, when I see a good review or description that sounds interesting, add to to my list.

Browsing bookstores/libraries
This used to be the primary way I found books. From the time I was an early reader through high school, I’d go to the library or local bookstores and spend time scanning the shelves for titles that sounded interesting. I still love doing this, although most of my library browsing tends to be through their online catalog of available audiobooks to download.

Award lists
I don’t pay a ton of attention to year-end book lists (like “best of 2018”), but I do keep an eye out for which books win major awards. In the children’s literature/YA sphere, that includes ALA Youth Media Awards, the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. These might be more popular/well-known books that I already kind of have on my radar, but the awards make me feel like I should check them out to get a sense of what’s being recognized in the kid/YA lit sphere.

Professional publications
Getting a good review from professional review organizations like School Library Journal, Kirkus, or Publishers Weekly can be a big boost for books in the market. It’s also a place I tend to read book reviews. I don’t put a ton of weight into whether a book gets a great review or not, but if I like the sound of a book overall, I’ll check it out.

Recommendations from friends
This one is actually a little iffy, because lots of times I get weirdly defiant when people tell me I have to read a certain book. Even if it’s a book I know I’d enjoy, a lot of times I’ll stubbornly feel like You can’t make me! I also tend to pick books from my reading list based on feel (like “I want something fun and scifi next”) vs. recent recommendations, so I don’t usually circle back to friends’ recommendations until later. But there are a few people I 100% trust with book recommendations and am always happy to get their suggestions–even if I don’t always end up reading them right away.

Books by friends
This is total literary nepotism, but I’m way more likely to read a book if I know and like the person who wrote it. Again, it may not happen right away, but friends’ books are always on my list. I’m also way more likely to buy friends’ books, when I can afford it, vs. getting them from the library, which is how I read pretty much everything else.

Books similar to what I’m writingA lot of times, especially in the early phases of a project, I’ll search for books similar to what I’m

writing to get a sense of what’s already out there and what other authors have already done. Sometimes this is in tone (quirky, funny, sad, etc.) or topic (books about military families, books about teens in theatre, etc.) or just genre (sci-fi, fantasy, contemp, etc.). I know a lot of people don’t like to work this way, in case they get too bogged down in other people’s stories, but I find it immensely helpful and inspiring.

Where do you find your next read? Share your recommendations in the comments!

An Ode to Audiobooks

Image by Innovate Impact Media

Until recently, I thought I wasn’t an audiobook person. My mind tends to wander and I worried that I’d lose the plot and not be able to follow the book I was supposedly listening to. Then Walt and I went on a fourteen-hour drive and Amy Poehler kept us company with Yes Please, and I’ve been binging on audiobooks ever since.

In case you’re still afraid of diving into the world of audiobooks, are are my top ten reasons why audiobooks are awesome. In no particular order:

  1. You can read while doing other things
    With physical books or ebooks, I mostly read while waiting in offices, getting coffee, or in bed. With audiobooks, I can read while driving to work, working out, doing laundry, or baking up something tasty. When I was training for the Boston Marathon, I really looked forward to my long runs because they meant I could listen to the Tiffany Aching books for a few hours. Audiobooks have also been a fantastic way to get reading in while I’m walking Bodo, because I’m often out with him for at least forty-five minutes, which means so much reading time! Which means…
  2. You can read so many more books
    I’m getting so much more reading done this year because of audiobooks. Right now I’m on like 25% hard copy, 10% ebook, 65% audiobooks.
  3. Having a story read aloud to you is cozy and fun
    Remember when you were in elementary school and your teacher would do read alouds? Why don’t we get to do this as adults. Spoiler alert: audiobooks do that for you.
  4. Audiobooks are read by professionals
    Even better than your second grade teacher? Professional actors who know how to do the voices right and say all the words clearly. Also, sometimes audiobooks are read by the authors themselves, which I find really cool. (I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane written and read by Neil Gaiman, who’s got the best voice a writer could ask for.)
  5. You don’t have to carry anything extra
    Okay, so my purse is usually big enough to fit a book. But you can download audiobooks right to your phone/mp3 device, which you probably already carry with you.
  6. You can get them for free from the library
    Caveat: audiobooks can be pretty expensive to buy. They require all the normal work a book requires, plus paying a reader plus studio time plus sound editing/mixing. But you can borrow audiobooks from your local library, via programs like Overdrive or Hoopla.
  7. You might pay more attention to content
    I’m a fast reader, but sometimes that means that, when I’m really into a book, I end up reading too fast because I’m so excited and miss little bits of info or description. With an audiobook, I find myself actually paying more attention to particular phrases or pieces of dialogue.
  8. You can speed up or slow down as necessary
    Audiobook apps I’ve used let you adjust the reading pace to be slightly faster (if the reader is slower than you’d like) or slower (if you want to really appreciate every word) or slowest (to make the reader sound like they’re drunk, which can be hilarious).
  9. Audiobooks do count as ‘real reading’
    Don’t worry, you’re not missing out on ‘real reading.’ Whatever that is.
  10. It’s easier to get through those big books you’ve been meaning to read
    Earlier this year, I listened to The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which was fascinating, but also almost 600 pages long. It took a while to listen to, but it was so much easier to listen while doing other things and carry around my iPod as usual, vs. having to lug around a huge book or set aside time at the end of the day to read about how the tobacco industry lobbied against cancer research and blamed victims. (I know.) Having a copy on audio meant I could read more frequently and not feel like I had to set aside specific time for a serious book.

Bonus reason: I’ve been reading more nonfiction because of audiobooks. Maybe it’s because of the easier to carry around/easier to listen to longer stuff thing? No clue, but it’s working for me.

And in case you’re still not convinced, here are a few of my recent favorite audiobook reads:

Audiobooks you’d recommend? Favorite things about listening to stories? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Links Galore

Lots of links I’ve been saving:

Links Galore

A few of good links for today:

ARCs, Feminism, Thin Mints, and Librarian Friends: a Weekend at ALA Midwinter

collage-2016-01-12 (1)This weekend I got to go to ALA Midwinter–aka where librarians, educators, authors, publishers, bloggers, readers, and general fans of books and media come to learn and engage and share Girl Scout cookies. (Seriously, bringing Girl Scout cookies to a conference is a way to ensure people love you.) I’d never been to an ALA event before, and I only got an exhibit hall pass, but it was such a fantastic weekend. Some highlights:

  • Meeting librarian and writer and blogger friends from the Internet in real life–you get to hug them in real life!–and seeing lovely librarian and writer friends from the Boston area.
  • Seeing adorable baby pictures of aforementioned friends. (Or adorable pictures of their babies or their nieces/nephews.)
  • Having writer friends in from out of town meant an awesome panel at Brookline Booksmith, one of my favorite places to both meet readers and buy books. Awesome questions, thoughtful/hilarious discussion, fantastic audience.
  • Saying hi and the Candlewick booth and snagging an ARC of A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls.
  • Listening to thoughtful discussions at the We Need Diverse Books panel and the Class of 2K16 Debuts panel.
  • Seeing ARCs for friends books and getting excited about all the future readers who will love these books.
  • Sharing Thin Mints with friends old and new.
  • Talking about reading, writing, publishing, teen readers, feminism, graphic novels and more with people who get it.

collage-2016-01-12This is the kind of weekend that reminds me why I love being part of the book community. People are so enthusiastic and smart and talented and kind and thoughtful and funny. They’re pushing the boundaries in all sorts of fields and making a difference for readers everywhere. I cheered along with the webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards this morning, and was so proud to be part of this larger community.

Thanks to all who helped make this such a fun and inspiring weekend. Here’s to another awesome year of our bookish community!

Links Galore

Lots of links I’ve been saving:

Real Teen Lives Panel This Friday!

I’m so excited for ALA Midwinter this weekend–so many awesome librarians and writers in town? Aw yeah! And what better way to kick off the weekend than with a great YA panel featuring some wonderful contemp YA authors? The details39e45766-c4c3-41b0-b7e1-4eefd92fcb2d

Real Teen Lives Young Adult Panel
Friday, January 8th, 7pm 
at Brookline Booksmith
YA authors who are keeping it real–Marieke Nijkamp, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Emily Martin, Jen Malone, and I talk about crafting real stories for teen readers. Also book signing and hilarity.

Come say hi and chat with us about writing, books, and being real. Looking forward to an awesome start to a bookish weekend!

Real Teen Lives YA Panel – January 8!

After last winter and 100+ inches of snow in the Boston area, there are only two things that could have me looking forward to January: ALA Midwinter and a panel with delightful fellow YA authors at the wonderful Brookline Booksmith! Details for the event:

Real Teen Lives Young Adult Panel
Friday, January 8th, 7pm 
at Brookline Booksmith
YA authors who are keeping it real. Come see Marieke Nijkamp, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Emily Martin, Jen Malone, and me, as we talk about crafting real stories for teen readers.

Librarians in town for ALA, please join us and share some high fives for contemp goodness!

Read Local in New England!

New England’s a great place to be a children’s/YA author. We have a fantastic network of enthusiastic readers, booksellers, educators, librarians and fellow writers; we’re the kind of people who show up for book events even during a winter of 100+ inches of snow.

So what better place than to read local? New England educators, librarians, and readers, take the Read Local Challenge!

The logistics, from wonderful New England author Jen Malone:

The challenge is open to any school, library, homeschool cooperative, or book club and will run throughout the 2015-16 school year. Working off the poster to the right (contact me to request a free copy by mail), groups work together to read the featured titles. Each book featured is written by an author who calls New England home and is appropriate for middle school readers. (Note: some titles are classified as Young Adult. Please contact me with any questions about possible content within a particular title.)

If at least one student in the school/library/group completes a book, mark it off on the poster. In April 2016, groups will send in their tally and we’ll award the top four groups an author visit by one of the four sponsoring authors. If more than four groups achieve the highest possible score of 30/30, we will hold a drawing to select the winning group.

How cool is that? I’m beyond excited to see The Chance You Won’t Return on the list, along with awesome books like MonstrousFish in a TreeBecoming JinnThe Hunger Games, and more.

To get started, click through, get the poster, and start reading local!

Links Galore

Lots of links to start your week: