Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sarah’s 2013


I was just working on my own stats when I saw your post. I’m humbled by your prowess!

I read 127 books in 2013, which is a pretty typical year for me.

The breakdowns:

74 YA and children’s books–mostly YA; 53 Adult books.

35 by male authors; 92 by female authors.

111 fiction; 16 nonfiction.

86 were published in 2013 or 2014.

I only read a couple of graphic novels–one fiction, one nonfiction, and one poetry collection, which I lumped in with nonfiction.

I want to start by mentioning a book I read at the end of 2012 and reviewed for AB4T: Eight Girls Taking Pictures, By Whitney Otto. I read it too late in the year to nominate it for the best of the year list, and in any case, I think it has limited (though real) teen appeal. But this book has been my reader’s advisory triumph of 2013. I recommended it to four different women (including your wife), and each one of them came back to me afterwards to tell me how much they had loved the book and how much it meant to them. Considering how much reader’s advisory we all do with no feedback whatsoever, that’s obviously a success! What was intriguing to me was how each reader noticed and commented on different aspects of the book: father/daughter relationships, mother/child relationships, art/life, career/family, and more.

This year, I read my first Maisie Dobbs book, by Jacqueline Winspear. I know Maisie Dobbs was an Alex winner back when it was new (10 years ago) but I hadn’t read any of the books until this year, when I read the first five.  I also went back and read some of Kate Atkinson’s earlier books in the Jackson Brodie series: Case Histories and Started Early, Took My Dog.  I’m planning to read more of both series.

I also indulged myself by listening to Jim Dale’s masterful productions of all seven Harry Potter books . Thanks to my library’s Overdrive subscription, they were my near-constant companions for a couple of months this fall, while I was knitting some rather large Christmas gifts! It was really pretty fascinating to listen to all seven books in a row, and see the connections.

I feel like I’m way behind on reading Printz-worthy books, and I didn’t really push myself too much this year.  Books that are still rattling around in my brain months later include Black Helicopters  (Woolston),  Yellowcake  (Lanagan), Charm and Strange (Kuehn), Picture Me Gone (Rosoff), and September Girls (Madison).

Books I don’t think have a chance at the Printz but that I personally loved included Just One Year (Forman), The Beginning of Everything (Schneider), and Fangirl (Rowell).

Books we’ll want to talk about in 2014 include Laurie Halse Anderson’s upcoming The Impossible Knife of Memory, and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars.

I see I didn’t read much science fiction or fantasy this year.

And, as always, I wish I had read more nonfiction, although percentage-wise, it’s a pretty typical amount: 12.5% of my reading. I anticipate correcting that in 2014, when I will be on YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee. (Of course, although I’ll be reading plenty of YA nonfiction, I won’t be discussing it here.)

– Mom




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2013 Wrap Up


We did this last year, so I thought we’d do it again. In last year’s post I said: “Next year will in all likelihood be back down in the 100s, for my own and my wife’s sanity.” That . . . didn’t happen.


Books Read: 279

Gender Breakdown:

  • Female authors: 141
  • Male Authors: 132
  • Both male and female authors: 6

Genre Breakdowns

  • Fiction: 220
  • Nonfiction: 59
  • GNs: 32
  • Poetry: 7
  • Short Story Collections: 7
  • Plays: 6

Age Breadown

  • Adult: 138
  • YA: 83
  • Children’s: 58

Books Published in 2013 or 2014: 178


I feel like I’ve talked endlessly about my favorite Adult Books 4 Teens, teen books, and children’s books, so in lieu of listing overlapping favorites, I’m going to leave this year by briefly mentioning my favorite books that I wasn’t able to discuss, generally because they were adult books without teen appeal, were published prior to 2013, or both.

1. The Finno-Ugrian Vampire by Noemi Szecsi. A brilliant adult book with absolutely no teen appeal, more about language and Hungarian culture than vampires. Hilarious.

2. Between My Father and the King by Janet Frame. Previously uncollected and unpublished short stories by New Zealand’s greatest writer. Unpublished stuff unusually stays unpublished for a reason, but not in this case–these are amazing stories.

3. Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law by Joe Mazzone. One of my favorite pet issues–which I did get to discuss in the context of Phil Lapsley’s Exploding the Phone. IP is arcane and difficult, but utterly crucial for all of us living in the digital world to understand.

4. Mr. Posterior and the Genius Child by Emily Jenkins. Jenkins/Lockhart’s sole adult book is just as good as anything she’s done for teens and children.

5. The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published by David Skinner. The story of the creation of Webster’s 3rd International Dictionary. No seriously, it’s fascinating.

6. Tenderness, Heroes, and Tunes for Bears to Dance To by Robert Cormier. I went on a little Cormier kick in October which confirmed for me that he remains one of the towering greats of YA literature.

7. Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare by Paul Werstine. Throughout most of the 20th Century, editors based their editions of Shakespeare on a set of assumptions about the way plays were transferred from the author to the playhouse to the printing house. These assumptions turn out to be almost entirely baseless when you look at the actual manuscripts which we still have access to. Werstine does look at them, and demolishes most of 20th Century editing in the process.

8. A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Lowry’s first novel. I was stunned at how much of her greatness was already apparent.

9. Revolutionary Summer The Birth of American Independence
by Joseph J. Ellis. A history of the summer of 1776, looking at the parallel’s between Washington’s military battles and Jefferson and Adams’s political ones.

10. The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. A decidely minor, but nonetheless engrossing, postmodern detective story.


Filed under Adults, Books, Children, Teens

Morris and Nonfiction


You discussed the Morris finalists–the other major award for which YALSA announces the finalists ahead of time is the Excellence in Nonfiction Award. And the finalists are:

  • The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
  • Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
  • Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler
  • Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone
  • The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson

So, between the Morris and the Nonfiction Awards, I’ve read . . . one book. That, as you know, is Courage Has No Color which I was unimpressed with. I do have a copy of Kidd’s book at home, and while I’m not sure I’m going to read it in its entirety, I will say 1) it is gorgeously designed, which you might think goes without saying for a book on graphic design, but you’d be wrong, and 2) the bits that I’ve dipped into are very well written and fascinating. So, though I can’t say I’ve read it, I’m thoroughly behind Go as a Nonfiction finalist. The Nazi Hunters and Imprisoned are books that I’m vaguely interested in, and I may read at some point if I catch up on other reading. As for Swanson’s book, someone is going to have to work very very hard to convince me to read anything more about the Kennedy Assassination. Unlike so many others, I find the subject endlessly boring.

Back to the Morris–I have heard some things about Belle Epoque, along with the other three you mentioned. But Sex and Violence (what, no ampersand, Mesrobian?) remains a mystery to me. The others are books that I’ve heard good things about but all sound pretty mid-range to me. On the other hand, keeping up with the Morris has never been one of my strengths. Of the 30 finalists and winners the Morris has honored, I’ve read all of 9, and only have good things to say about 3 of those–two in the first year, Graceling and A Curse Dark as Gold; and last year’s winner, Seraphina. Oh, I suppose I like Girl of Fire and Thorns fine, but the others I’ve read–Paper Covers Rock, Where Things Come Back, Between Shades of Grey, The Freak Observer, Wonder Show–plus After the Snow which I abandoned, read like a list of “books Mark finds hopelessly pretentious.”

So, go read Go. Other than that, I’m not of much use on these two lists.

– Mark

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I Called One!


Today YALSA announced the five finalists for the William Morris Award for a Debut YA work.

Of the five, I’ve read one, started one, had one sitting on the shelf for months, and haven’t even heard of two.

The one I have read is Charm and Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn, which I talked about here several months ago. At the time, I said I hoped the Morris committee was looking at it, so I called that one, at least!

The one I started is Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I picked it up at the library several months ago, but couldn’t get into it–it just felt a bit precious to me, but perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for it. I would be interested in your take, though, since the main character has an anxiety disorder, and you know more about that than I do.

The one I have had on the shelf is In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters. Spanish Flu pandemic: check. World War I: check. San Diego: check. It’s just the spiritualism aspect that has held me back, I think. But I’ll definitely take a look at it now.

The two I haven’t even heard of are Sex and Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian, and Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross.

Some random thoughts:

  • 3 contemporary, 2 historical
  • 3 with male main characters (two of those written by women), 2 with female main characters
  • 2 (possibly 3) about forms of mental illness
  • no fantasy or science fiction this year

How about you? Have you read any?

– Mom


Filed under Awards, Books, Teens