Ten: On Choosing Books

Readers find books in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they’ll make use of the sort of resources we listed last week, sometimes they’ll ask someone they trust — a friend, parent, teacher or librarian — and sometimes they’ll just go browsing. Each reader develops a sense of what characteristics tend to mark the sort of books they’ll like, including title style, plot features, protagonist characteristics, setting, format, and even features of the physical book, such as colours, fonts and types of images used on the covers. I think it would be fascinating to have students browse the library, pick out five books that appeal to them, and then have them sit down and look for the common features that they’ve learned intuitively to watch for. In the meantime, I thought I’d share ten new(-ish — 2012/2013 releases) books I’m looking forward to reading and why.

Based on Experience
Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart and illustrated by Diana Sudyka
I loved the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, in part because I was so impressed by Stewart’s ability to tie the three together effectively while making each story distinct and enjoyable on its own, and in part because I liked the characters so much. Each is unique, grows believably through the course of the trilogy, and relatable in their mixes of strengths and weaknesses. While Reynie, Kate, Constance and Sticky won’t be in this prequel, I’m hoping to find Nicholas Benedict similarly developed as a dynamic, memorable character.

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
Unwind blew me away, and Bruiser demonstrated that Shusterman’s books are a reliable pick. I love novels that make me think without killing the story in the process. When it comes to ponderable stories, Shusterman’s a pro.

A Wrinkle in Time Graphic Novel written by Madeleine L’Engle and adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
Despite an unfortunate introduction via a disappointing (abridged) audiobook, I’ve been a devoted reader of Madeleine L’Engle’s YA fiction for years. While A Wrinkle in Time isn’t my favourite (I think that might be A Swiftly Tilting Planet, or possibly A Ring of Endless Light), I’m fascinated by adaptations and reinterpretations. I’m curious to see how Larson has reshaped the story to suit the graphic novel format.

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
I really enjoyed Princess Academy, but it’s been ages since I last reread it. I expected to enjoy this sequel, but following Shannon Hale’s blog has increased my interest in making time for it. “Knowing” the author through a blog, Twitter account, etc. somehow makes the books seem more…relevant, I suppose.

Bear Has a Story to Tell written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead
I’m not very good at anticipating picture books. There are a few authors (Oliver Jeffers) and illustrators (Jon Klassen) that I follow pretty closely, but for the most part I just keep an eye out for titles that suggest interesting, rereadable stories, and/or cover images that promise great illustrations. In this case, my interest depends on previous experience with the Steads’ A Sick Day for Amos McGee (review tomorrow!). Sick Day is a sweet story with enough substance and humour to appeal to both adults and children, and I’m hoping the same is true of this new story.

Based on Recommendations
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery
I’ve been looking for more narrative non-fiction for kids and teens, and came across this biography of Temple Grandin. The portrayal of a different way of experiencing the world is definitely one of the characteristics I watch for in a book hunt, so this one went on the to-read list without much hesitation.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Though I like the title a lot, the descriptions of Code Name Verity haven’t really caught my interest. I enjoy novels set during the world wars, but I generally lean more toward those that explore the civilian experience of war, rather than the battlefield. Still, this book seems to be everywhere, and I’ve seen very positive reader reviews. This would be the “branching out” book on my list.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
This is another book that seems to be coming up a lot lately, with good reviews from sources I trust. These “behind the scenes of stuff you thought you knew” books have always intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a try. I started the audiobook this afternoon, so you’ll hear soon what I thought of it.

The One and Only Ivan written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao
This one wins on so many counts for me: great title, intriguing cover, a premise that suggests depth. In short, it feels like a story of significance in a lovable package. This is one of the books I’m most looking forward to reading this year.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis
I first read about Timmy Failure in an article about the work that was going on behind the scenes to produce and promote the book. With such an intriguing introduction, and a premise that sounds entertaining at the very least, this book went straight onto my hold list at the library. We’ll see how it lives up to the buzz. Update: While there were a few bits that made me laugh, Timmy Failure didn’t really do it for me. It did improve toward the end, but I’d still only give it a 3/5.

What appeals to you in a book? What are you looking forward to reading this year?


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