By Kim Harris Thacker: Writer, Mommy, and Bookshop Talk Host
I’m a list girl. I keep lists of the things I need to buy, the things I need to sell, the things I need to do, and the things I get done. You name it, I list it. My favorite list is a lovely, tidy little thing I call The Queue. Isn’t “queue” a great word? I have a British friend who uses it, and I think it’s posh. But back to The Queue itself. Here’s what’s on this list currently:
Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
The Thirteenth Child, by Patricia C. Wrede
Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson
The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen, by Geraldine McCaughrean
Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones
There’s more on it, but that’ll do for now. As you’ve guessed, The Queue is a book list! My Books to Read list, to be precise. And how do I decide what books make it onto The Queue and therefore into my hands and (hopefully) my heart? That, my friends, is the topic of this Gab-Bag Post.
Because I’m a list-y sort of gal (not to be confused with the “listing”—as in “listing ship”—or “listless”—as in “All the gentlemen have gone riding and what’s a young lady to do in this blasted excuse my French weather”—kind of gal), I have three rules that I’ve created for myself when it comes to picking the books that end up on The Queue:
1) Always have at least one recommended book on the list. For my purposes, I consider a recommended book to be one that I learned about from a friend, a professional (writer/editor/agent/teacher/librarian), or someone on a book-loving website/blog (such as this lovely blog!)
2) Always have at least one award-winning book or book by an award-winning author on the list. I’m a writer, and I believe very strongly that if I fill my head with excellent books, I’ll be less likely to write rubbish (I hope, I hope, I hope!). But this rule is great for non-writers too, because award-winning books win awards for very good reasons, including the fact that loads of people love them. I often choose Newbery Award-winning books for my queue, a list of which you can find here.
3) Always have at least one recently published book on the list. For me, recently published means published within the last two years. I like books like these on The Queue because I’m a writer and I want to know what kind of stuff is being written and sold nowadays.
Sometimes I have books on The Queue that don’t fit any of these requirements, but are just books that caught my eye at the library, or are books that I read once, a long time ago (or not so long ago), that I want to read again. But generally, I stick to these guidelines.
I have friends who read their way through lists of the purported best books of all time. I have friends who read only Dickens books one year, then Crichton books the next, and on and on with various authors. I have friends who join book clubs and read only the book selection of the month. I have friends who read Oprah book picks or only books that are mentioned on NPR or Ellen or Good Morning America. I have friends who make themselves read contemporary realistic adult fiction, even though they prefer middle grade fantasy. We all have reasons for picking what we pick to read, and now I want to know yours!
How do you choose the books you’re going to read? Do you have a list a mile long, or do you keep the physical volumes in a stack beside your bed? Sound off in the comments below!