What I Read In 2014

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1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2. On Writing by Stephen King

3. No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz

4. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

5. Timebound by Rysa Walker

6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

9. Hate List by Jennifer Brown

10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

11. Foreign Exchange by Denise Jaden

12. Gone by Michael Grant

13. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

14. That Night by Chevy Stevens

15. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

16. Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

17. Term Limits by Vince Flynn

18. Don't Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout

19. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

20. Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

21. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

22. The Lost by Margaret Petersen Haddix

23. After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

24. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

25. City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

26. Love Is the Higher Law by David Levithan

27. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I've seen other people's reading retrospectives who've hit 70 and even 100 or more books in a year, but no matter what I do, I can't seem to break 30 in a year. Although if I count the number of times I've read and re-read my own manuscripts, I'd get a lot closer.

Young Adult novels still dominate my list with 16, but I read 8 books for adults, including a book about writing and a memoir. I also read 3 middle grade novels this year. There was one book I didn't finish and a bunch that I really liked, enough to read them again (Sharp Objects, How I Live Now, Thirteen Reasons Why, If I Stay...). But I think my favorite was Before I Fall which came out about five years ago and I finally got around to reading. Loved it. I Am Pilgrim which was a Christmas present from my sister was a close second.

I don't usually set reading goals, but I'm going to this year. Not for a specific number of books read, but just to have a book with me, always. In November, I started trying to catch random people reading to post on twitter after I realized how rarely I see people doing it (original post here). I would never have guessed that in 2+ months, I'd only find five. And two of them were in bookstores, so, not exactly random.

I continue to see lots of people tapping away at their iPhones in down moments. I'm guilty of it, too, and it's the last example I want to set for my kids. So, I'm making this my reading goal or New Year's Resolution or whatever you want to call it: to keep a book with me at all times and, instead of checking my email or the news or texting someone, to spend my spare moments reading (which is what I'd rather be doing anyway). 

Thrilling Teen Reads at Books of Wonder

Yesterday, I did a Thrilling Teen Reads event at Books of Wonder in NYC. My family was visiting from PA and were total troopers, hauling into the city with me for the event - that's my mom and dad on the right :) 

My sister and brother-in-law came too, but thanks to a hungry baby and NYC traffic, only made it for the tail end. But Baby Nephew got a bunch of new picture books out of his first trip to the city (Isn't he beautiful?)

It was a fun, well-run event (thanks, BoW staff!) with some really interesting books. Fortunately, my dad got a copy of each so I can borrow them when he's done.

 

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And, there are now a bunch of signed copies of THIS IS HOW IT ENDS as well as THE MARK and THE VISION in the store and available for order online.

Many thanks to everyone who came out for the reading!

 

Random People Reading

Last Wednesday, I was driving home from dropping my kids at school and passed a girl in her mid-twenties who caught my attention. She was dressed like she might be going to work or classes with a backpack strapped over both shoulders and she walked briskly, but the entire time I watched her, she never looked up once. Even though she was on a sidewalk that could have been uneven. Even though she was beside a busy road. She was totally immersed in a book.

It was a good-sized one - maybe four hundred pages - and she wasn't very far in, but it must have been great because she was so focused I could almost see the story-world unfolding in her mind. I wished I could see what book it was, but she'd taken the dust jacket off and there was no title, only the black binding underneath.

All the way home, I thought about her. I used to do that same thing - have my nose buried in a book as I walked back from the library when I was a kid. Or when I rode the bus to work or on my lunch breaks. I realized how rarely I see people doing that. 

I wanted to go back and tell that girl how awesome it was that she was so into her book, but that would have been weird. Instead, I decided to tweet pictures of any people I saw reading as a small homage to the love of books.

Isn't this a beautiful sight?

Isn't this a beautiful sight?

It took me five days to find another one.

I actually saw three people reading all on that same day and I was like phew! because I was starting to make all kinds of excuses like its getting cold here and no one would be sitting outside with a book and I'm driving around a lot and the other adults are too and so of course none of them would be reading. But, of course, I saw plenty of people poking at their phones at bus stops and other places.

But this girl was happily reading at her brother's soccer game. She even called a friend over to show her the book. And I saw a boy around the same age, sitting up a hill and reading with his much younger sister by his side. And another boy reading a Star Wars graphic novel. And each of them gave me a little warm fuzzy feeling. Thank you, readers. You are awesome.

Afterward, I looked up some articles and statistics and, I probably shouldn't have been surprised by what they said, but I was:

  • Over the past 20 years, the percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled, yet the amount they read for school or homework has stayed the same.*
  • About a third of 13-year-olds read for pleasure less than twice a year.
  • Children who read for pleasure do significantly better in school and made more progress in math, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read**
  • Less than half (48%) of American adults read for pleasure*
  • Parents are the most important reading role models for children.*** Yikes. 

Can you imagine that...reading nothing for pleasure? I'm trying to picture who I would be if I didn't read for pleasure growing up. Or now.

All three of the people I saw reading were kids and I wonder how long it will be until I see another adult, like the girl I saw walking last week.

I'm going to keep looking for people like her, the ones who always have a book in their bag and sneak it out in spare minutes to dive back into the world of a story. I know they're still out there and when I find them, I'm going to give them my own small you're awesome on  twitter.

If you're on twitter, please join me and post your pictures, too (#randompeoplereading & #readersareawesome).

And, as the gifting holidays approach, please consider giving BOOKS to people on your list. Even the non-readers. Maybe especially them.

One of my friends recently told me it was only when she read a YA book as an adult that she realized reading could be fun. Sometimes it just takes finding one book that resonates. If you're not sure what books to give, nearly any independent bookstore where the staff knows books inside and out, can help.

 

*National Endowment for the Arts – “To Read or Not to Read”, corroborated by “Adult Literacy in America” a report from the National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007

**University of London, IOE study

***National Literacy Trust, Reaching Out with Role Models, April 2009

8 Terrible Titles

I’ve been tagged by my agent-mate Shannon M. Parker, author of a (soon-to-be-retitled) YA Contemporary coming from Simon Pulse in Spring 2016, in the 8 Terrible Titles challenge.

The rules? Scroll through your manuscript and stop at a random spot. Wherever your cursor lands, that’s your title. There’s no hunting through your pages for the perfect phrases. This challenge is to see how truly awkward your title could be.

I know all about awkward titles since I came up with some doozies when we were re-titling THIS IS HOW IT ENDS. But those pale beside the 8 Terrible Titles from my most recent manuscript, a YA Contemporary currently with my agent:

1. Scavenged From Someone Else’s Trash

2. Don’t Scratch It, You Ninny

3. Across the Whole Thing

4. Ladies and Babies and Nannies

5. I Am Less Human

6. The Cigarette Tip

7. Just Wide Enough to Climb Through

Yeeeaah.

So, now I'm tagging:

Denise Jaden

Kim Culbertson

Good luck, ladies!