YALSA: Delightfully Dangerous

How do most readers pick their books? One of my favorite methods is scanning the library shelves without any preference. I pull out a book with an exciting cover, read the synopsis, and if it’s something I think I would like, I check it out. It’s as if the book has chosen me. Sometimes I walk away pleasantly surprised or completely amazed. Other times, the book was boring, had a bad plot-line, or was poorly written.

library shelves

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Although this form of book roulette is wildly entertaining, there might be a better way:

YALSA Book Awards and Booklists. And there you have it folks, a delightfully dangerous way to build your TBR list and fill your Amazon shopping carts.

Instead of randomly selecting books, taking suggestions, or reading the summary, you can look at a list of books that has been deemed widely popular and definitely good. While I’m not condemning the other avenues, I am recognizing that there might be a better way. Readers can look at the YALSA Booklists and see what other readers have deemed fantastic in a wide variety of genres and contents. Hello, diversity!

As I was scrolling, one category caught my eye: The Best of the Best. Who does’t want to read the best of the best books around? This list reaches all the way back to 2011. Just select a year. A whole host of options appear when the year is selected: graphic novels, audiobooks, fiction, and even suggestions for reluctant readers.

Taking a shot in the dark can be really rewarding, but students who haven’t yet felt the glorious success of being immersed in a book and then finishing it might not persevere. One bad book experience could make a student even more of a reluctant reader. Having lists of widely recognized books popular among teens can give support to reluctant readers. Once they have had the success of finishing a great book, they will be more comfortable facing the risk of a terrible book.

To be honest, before this I have never really understood book awards. “The book is great; it gets and award,” was my deepest comprehension. I just never paid attention to what the awards were for, and I definitely never thought to look through those awards for books that might interest me.

YALSA does a great job of breaking down and explaining the book awards. For example, the Nonfiction Award “honors the best nonfiction written for teens each year.” I am not a huge fan of YA Nonfiction, but through this award, I can find the best books written in the year and strengthen my base.

The YALSA awards have possibly become new favorite reading tool. When I crack open a book from that list, there is always the chance that I won’t love it. I do know, however, that it will be well-written and widely-read. If I don’t love it or even like it, I’m sure I’ll know some students who will.

Some of my finds on the YALSA page:

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks 

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12 responses to “YALSA: Delightfully Dangerous

  1. Book roulette is fun! I enjoy the mystery of not knowing what I am getting myself into. At the same time, though, organization and finding quality and recognized books is also very important.

    • Definitely agree with you there! A middle ground is ideal. I think alternating between random choice and awards lists is probably a safe route to take.

  2. Nicky, I love this blog post (and all of your posts). You always do such a great job of piecing all of the information together in such an articulate way. You rock! 🙂
    As much as I love book roulette, I also don’t want to read a “dud. “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces” is a book that I added to my TBR after going through YALSA. If you read it before me, let me know how it is! 🙂

  3. I’m still going to play book roulette; I like having some choice, even if it’s completely random.

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