Annie’s Non-Scientific List of Best of 2016 Books That Were Probably Not Published in 2016 but Are Best for Other Reasons

I don’t read a lot of “best books of the year” lists. Most of the time, I’m catching up on books that were published prior to this year, and ‘best of’ is so subjective anyway. The best book for you might be one that’s about a particular topic that you read at a particular time. Maybe it’s not the best crafted or the most popular, but it’s the best book for you in that moment, and that should be celebrated, too.

With that in mind, here are some of my best books that I read in 2016–with some very specific categories.

Best Audiobook to Listen to on a Road Trip That Lasts 3.5 More Hours Than You Think It Will: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Trust me. Amy and her friends are here to help.

Best Book for Making You Want to Scrape Your Emotions out with an Ice Cream Scoop: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
I’m still obsessed with this book. A tough read but so powerful.

Best Picture Book for Making You Wish You Were a Toddler Again: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
This book is adorable and hilarious and I don’t know why I can’t read it every night as an adult person.

Best Book for Helping You Put Things in Perspective: Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People by Camille DeAngelis
I read this one immediately after buying it, which is rare for me. Get on this, fellow artists. (Also this one actually came out in 2016 so mwahaha, nailed it!)

Best Book for Making You Want to Run Everywhere: 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon by Michael Connelly
I never considered myself a sporty person but now I’m reading all these running books and having major feels.

Best Book for Making You Want to Spend a Summer in Maine: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
How does Birdsall craft stories that are so gentle and yet so real?

Best Book for Feeling Like Melina Marchetta Writes Specifically with You in Mind: The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Damnit, Marchetta, how are you so good?! Why do you want me to cry and have feelings?!

What’s on your specifically categorized ‘best of 2016 (or maybe not 2016)’ list? Share in the comments!

Love Those Love Lists: Road Trip Wednesday

I don’t tend to take part in a lot of weekly activities, but this week’s Road Trip Wednesday on YA Highway is too awesome to pass up.

Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

From Stephanie Perkin’s original post about Love Lists:

“Whenever I begin a new project, I also begin a list called “What I Love About This Story.” I start by writing down those first ideas that sparked the fires of my mind, and then I add more ideas to it as I discover them during my push through early drafts….I use this love-list as a touchstone to remind myself during the hard times why my story is worthwhile. It’s easy to forget the GOOD STUFF when I’m wading through the muck, and the end is still months away, and it feels pointless and hopeless to continue. This list becomes a crucial reminder: Yes! This is a story worth telling! If I saw this sitting on a shelf, I would want to read it!”

Such a great idea! What a great way to keep yourself going, and to have a point of reference for all the stuff in your story you’re working toward or focusing on. My current project’s love list so far:

  • haiku
  • humor
  • concerts
  • Judaism
  • pie
  • grocery carts
  • tradition and identity
  • Bat Mitzvah
  • poseurs

Make sure to check out the comments in YA Highway’s post, because people link to their own love lists. Share yours, too!

Links Galore

A few more links for today:

  • YA characters aren’t the only ones who like to use lists. Check out these examples of great lists in literature.
  • Awesome interview with author-illustrator Peter Brown.
  • Not sure why you’d need to buy sets of color-coordinated books when you can organize books you already own by color.
  • Glad Young Writers Workshop is flourishing even with the new setting. (Also, assistant director Jeff Martin was my fiction counselor back in ’01. Way to lead, Jeff!)

The Wait Is Over: NPR’s Top 100 Novels for Teens

The results are in! NPR collected suggestions, tallied votes, and have compiled the top 100 best ever YA novels. Okay, so I’d still argue that books like Harry Potterand Anne of Green Gables aren’t exactly YA, but it’s a giant reading list of awesome. It’s hard to argue against that. Still, a couple of quick thoughts:

  • Not at all surprised to see Harry Potter topping the list. I think this series will be beloved for a long time, and it connects with readers of all ages.
  • I think Speak should be higher than #26. It’s stunning and a necessary read.
  • Really surprised to see My Sister’s Keeper above #50. I don’t think of that as YA at all.
  • Really surprised not to see more M.T. Anderson on the list. Dude is a genius.

Scanning through, there are still a bunch I haven’t read. Might have to take this on as a long-term reading project.

Share your thoughts on NPR’s list in the comments!

Friday Fifteen

It’s Friday, so we need a celebratory round of fifteen-word reviews!

1. Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn
MG novel about the homefront during WWII.  Only read once but it stayed with me.

2. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
One of the first novels. I’m sure that’s why it was assigned in class. 

3. A Sister for Sam (Tale from the Care Bears) by Evelyn Mason
My parents bought for my brother when I was born. But I was a delightful.

4. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Worth a read, if only for the stage direction “exit, pursued by  bear.”

5. Ever by Gail Carson Levine
Sweet and clever take on Snow White. Gail Carson Levine rocks the fairy tale adaptation. 

Friday Fifteen

Hey Friday! Here’s the best in this week’s fifteen-word reviews:

1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Script Book, Season One, Volume 1 by Various Authors
Let’s talk about how much I love Buffy. Ideal middle school TV watching.

2. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Excellent stories, although in general I prefer Salinger’s longer works.

3. Piping Down the Valleys Wild ed. Nancy Larrick
Read in fifth grade, my first real encounter with poetry. Lovely collection for kids.

4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Always kind of hoped the tree would whack the boy with one of its branches.

5. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
A courtroom drama centered on race. Expected more To Kill a Mockingbird than I got.

Friday Fifteen

This week’s Friday Fifteen takes us into a long weekend–woohoo! Onto the reviews:

The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Jostein Gaarder
Per usual Gaarder, there are storytellers, philosophy, precious children, and a certain level of weirdness.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Small town romance meets music. Not my favorite Dessen, but fun.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Romantic period at its best and eeriest. Victor passes out a lot.

Logan Likes Mary Anne! (The Baby-sitters Club #10) by Ann M. Martin
Mary Anne manages to snag the cute new guy guy, giving hope to awkward preteens.

Let’s Go 2005 London by Let’s Go Inc.
My travel guide for summer study abroad. Didn’t lead me astray.

Less Evil Cheerleaders, More Flying Motorcycles

Love this list of stuff to stop doing in YA novels. A few favorites:

“4. No more main characters who want to be writers.”

Because then you quote something your main character has written and it’s supposed to be amazing, and I put on my judgment cap.

“5. No more evil cheerleaders, even if it IS true to life. May still work if they’re zombies or something, though. I HAVE always wanted to do a book called “Pushing Cheerleaders Down the Stairs.””

Evil non-zombie cheerleaders are so 1994, guys. There are lots of evil people in high school. Let’s give them their chance to shine! Or something.

“9. No more dystopias without flying motorcycles. Because flying motorcycles are awesome and I don’t want there to be a future that doesn’t have them. Really, any dystopia set in a world that doesn’t look like a Meat Loaf video is just not okay with me.”

If Sirius Black can have a flying motorcycle, we should all have flying motorcycles. Work on it, scientists!

My own additions:

  • No more wild and wacky best friends. You want to give your characters fun friends, sure, but they should also feel like real people, not caricatures.
  • No more total lack of anything related to school. We don’t need major details on math class, but lots of kids have extracurricular activities they love, midterms they cram for, and rivalries with other schools.
  • No more characters not eating. (Okay, novels about people dealing with eating disorders get a pass.) I hate seeing characters sit down for lunch and pick at their food or leave suddenly. People eat every day! Have a sandwich!

Obviously this is just for fun and there’s always a good reason to break rules when writing. Still, I think we’ve got a solid list going here. Anything you’d add?

Friday Fifteen

Hey there Friday! Perfect time for the Friday Fifteen, in which I review five books in fifteen words or less.

1. Connections: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults, ed. Donald Gallo
Got for class in 8th grade; ended up reading most stories on my own.

2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Love boarding school books. Great look at personal cruelty and vindictiveness.

3. American Smooth by Rita Dove
Beautiful poetry as usual, with a shoutout to ballroom.

4. The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones
Read for class. Having a hard time remembering much about this one.

5. About Me (Childcraft: the How and Why Library #14) by World Book-Childcraft International
I liked learning about diseases I could contract. Measles, anyone?

Friday Fifteen

Welcome back to the Friday Fifteen, in which I review five books in fifteen words or less. Onward to the reviews!

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater
Paint splotch on one roof inspires neighborhood creativity. I’d read, then draw my own wild homes.

The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers by Vendela Vida
Bought because I liked several authors included. Don’t remember much; should flip through again.

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
An MG favorite. Anastasia is hilarious and it’s easy to relate to her faults.

I Promised I Would Tell by Sonia Weitz
Poetry fills this Holocaust memoir. Read in middle school, probably missed a lot; should reread.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Intriguing concept, but pace didn’t quite work. Left with more questions than I’d like