My friends outside the library world look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them how I spent the last year. There were several wonderful, almost-relaxing family vacations (I spent too much time worrying about the mountain of books I'd brought along and hadn't read), a little time in the garden (with an audiobook playing) and an occasional peek at the Olympics or election news (book still open on lap), but really, when I wasn't working or sleeping this year, I was reading.
I had the privilege of serving on YALSA's 2009 Best Books for Young Adults Committee. Best Books for Young Adults is a book list created annually "to select from the year's publications those adult and teenage books significant for young adults." Think about that a minute - we are tasked with finding the best books for young adults from all literature published for adults and young adults in one year. Fifteen committee members from all over the country read and read and read and finally gathered in Denver this week to vote on our favorites.
Over the course of the year, the members of the committee read widely and nominated 224 books. When we met in Denver, the committee had read those 224, taken notes and prepared arguments for and against. We came ready for the first meeting of a four-day meeting marathon with our intended votes, and the committee chair conducted a straw poll to see where we stood. Over the next three days, the committee had four minutes per book to engage in intelligent, sometimes emotional and often persuasive discussions about each book.
I think all of us changed some of our votes over the course of the weekend, based on the insights of our peers. There were a few polarizing books on the table: the intriguing but very weird Madapple by Christina Meldrum had our vote split, but argument for the book swayed a few on the fence and when the final vote was cast, you could hear half a dozen folks whisper "Yes!" when it made the cut. But there were also books that were unanimous favorites like Suzanne Collins' gripping new dystopian novel The Hunger Games (picture 15 green "yes" paddles waving happily in the air during this vote).
You know how much fun it is to talk with friends about the movies you've seen? Well, I feel like I just spent four days in just such a conversation - talking with an incredible group of people about what for all of us is our work and our passion: books. Our final list of 86 books and our top ten were posted Wednesday morning, and I think it's the sincere hope of a very enthusiastic and earnest committee that the list will be used by teens, parents, teachers and librarians to find some of the very best books for young adults.