Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More on Reading the Best

Here’s another way of unearthing some of the best books published, ones that will help you irrigate and fertilize your inner landscape: check out the major award winning books over the past years.

While I don’t for one moment suggest that only prize winners are worthy of reading, or that superb books don’t get overlooked for prizes, it is a reliable place to start. And it’s a great way to discover writers whose work is unique and invigorating, writers who may well become your favourites.

So here are some sites to check:

The Governor General’s Literary Award Winners from 1936 to 2010

NOTE: Children’s Literature was not included in these awards until 1987

The Newbury Award winners, from 1922 to present

Lately, there has been some discussion as to whether the Newbury Award winners appeal sufficiently to children, or whether they’re overly slanted to adult tastes. I happen to disagree – I find the winners consistently excellent and eminently readable. Not all award winning books go on to become best-sellers and I believe that awards should focus on the best, not just the most likely to be popular books.

– There are several children’s literature prizes in the UK and I find these winners are always of a quality, and splendid reads.

Happy reading, and may you discover new treasures.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some Book Recommendations

It's mid-way through January, and I suspect many a resolution has already been broken if not actually forgotten. At the beginning of the year, I like to think on the books I will read, anticipate the oodles of time I will have to indulge in the delight of losing myself between the pages of books. And reflect back on the books I read last year, often with some haziness because I tend not to have a very good memory -- perhaps because I prefer to read for the sheer pleasure of it, than to analyze.

About a year and a half ago, though, frustrated with my inability to remember which books I'd read -- or what they were about if I had read them -- I began to compile lists of books I'd read. I put them in two categories: ones I'd recommend and the ones I wouldn't. I wrote a brief description of each book, along with what I found particularly compelling (or not) -- which is a useful thing for a writer to do because it serves as a source of reference if I want to study a book to see how a particular situation, say point of view, or multiple narratives, was handled in a book that I deemed to be a success.

I won't go into the books I wouldn't recommend -- I don't see the point of it. I know how writers pour their hearts out into their work and it doesn't serve any purpose to include here a list of books that I thought were not well written (enough), or books that, although fairly well written, didn't delight me enough to be included in my list of recommendations.

Every writer I know reads a lot. One of the more delightful things about being a writer is that you learn through the sheer joy of reading, even when you don't know you are learning. It serves both the art and the craft of writing to simply read, read, read.

It helps, though, to read the best of writing so the subconscious mind isn't filled with reams of mediocrity. I think the mind tends to burp it up, if that is all you read.

So here is a list of just a few of the books I read recently that I'd recommend. This isn't a comprehensive list of all the books I read, let alone all of the ones on my recommended list; nor are they all recent publications. But these are books I enjoyed for a number of reasons -- some because of the brilliance of the writing, some because of the inventiveness of the plot, or striking voice, but all because they satisfied at a certain level. I haven't included the books I've already mentioned in previous blog postings. Most of these are children's books -- I read all over the place, adult fiction as well as children's fiction -- but I won't indicate which is which, because a good children's book is ageless. So, in no particular order:

Counting Stars by David Almond

Jackdaw Summer by David Almond

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Alice, I Think by Susan Juby

Nation by Terry Pratchett

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

A Thousand Shades of Blue by Robin Stevenson

Cockroach by Rawi Hage

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Something to Hang Onto by Beverley Brenna

The Gathering by Anne Enright

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

Saffy's Angel
Indigo's Star
Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay
Caddy Ever After
Forever Rose

The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden
Granny The Pag
Carrie's War