Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seven things "Best of" Lists can teach us

We are awash in "best books" lists this time of year. NPR's Book Concierge Guide to 2016's Great Reads. The New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2016. The Association of Library Service To Children's Notable Children's Books 2016. I could go on and on and on (but I won't... And heck, if you're reading this, and you want more, you have an internet connection. Go for it.)

Amid all the list-reading, I decided to work out what we can learn from and do with these lists. I've come up with seven, but feel free to add your additional ideas in comments.

And without further ado, here's my list of what to do with these lists:

1. Play the game - a "best of" list is a scorecard of sorts, where we get to ask ourselves, how many of these have I read? The more you read, and liked, on a list, the smarter that list's judging committee. Or isn't that obvious?

2. Play the other game - how many of the authors and illustrators of those books have you met and/or seen speak at an SCBWI conference or book signing?

3. A "best of" list can suggest books we haven't read yet that we simply must check out, helping us build our personal "to read" list.

4. A "best of" list can be aspirational. Are there qualities in the selected books that you see in your own work? As you shape and craft your current work-in-progress, what qualities would have you place it on a "best of" list?

5. It's inspiration to look back on our year of reading and create our own "Best Of" list. What books do we still remember? What books still move us, weeks (or months) after reading them?

6. A reminder that the value of what we create is not solely determined by best of (or best-seller, or award) lists. The value of our work is determined in many ways, including our personal satisfaction with what we've created, the impact on a single reader, the conversations our work sparks... success of our endeavors has many, many definitions, and we can't fall into the fame-or-nothing mindset trap. Creative value is more interesting (and nuanced and complex) than that.

7. The differences between the many lists should remind (and re-assure) us that this is all subjective – and maybe everyone shouldn't take these lists so seriously. But having said that, being included on a "best of" list is absolutely something to celebrate.

Cheers to everyone on a "Best Of" list - even if it's a list of our own design!

Illustrate and Write On,

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