One of the things I look forward to every December is the release of all the “best books” lists. Like all librarians, I try to keep up with newly published titles throughout the year by reading professional review journals, attending conferences, and following authors, publishers, and other librarians on social media. However, we all know there are more great titles than any one person can keep up with. The best-books lists provide me an opportunity to discover books I missed earlier in the year and to be reminded of titles I want to read or that I think my students would enjoy. Here are some of the end-of-the-year best-book lists I look forward to each year.
NPR Book Concierge. Now in its seventh year, the 2019 NPR Book Concierge “features more than 350 recommendations from NPR staffers and trusted critics” (Mayer 2019). It’s a fun, visual, interactive guide to recommended titles that allows users to narrow down their searches by employing more than thirty filters that include traditional categories such as Biography & Memoir, Historical Fiction, Kids’ Books, and Mysteries & Thrillers as well as more creative categories like Seriously Great Writing, The Dark Side, and The States We’re In. Granted, most of the titles on the list were written for adults, but I find that useful as family and friends often ask me to recommend such books. Plus, I find books I want to read.
100 Notable Books (from The New York Times). The editors of The New York Times Book Review share their favorite books of the year in this annual list. Browsers can filter by selecting one of seven categories (Comic/Graphic, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Stories, and Thrillers). The website includes a brief description of each book, and clicking on the title takes the user to the original New York Times review. Like the titles on the NPR list, most of the books were written for adults. However, some of them may be of interest to teen readers.
The 25 Best Children’s Books of 2019 (from The New York Times). The titles on this list are chosen by The New York Times children’s book editor. In this case, “children’s books” is a broad term that includes picture books, middle grade books, and young adult books. While I wish this list were longer, it’s still a great one for school librarians or anyone else interested in children’s literature.
The New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids and Best Books for Teens. This year, the New York Public Library has identified 110 best books for kids and 50 for teens. Both lists can be filtered by tags, making it easy to narrow the lists according to the user’s interests or needs. Because these lists seek “to reflect the diversity and beauty of New York City’s readership,” they may be especially helpful to librarians looking for books that represent a wide range of cultures and people (New York Public Library n.d.).
The Best Books of 2019 (Kirkus). Actually, Kirkus has six best books lists: Fiction, Nonfiction, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Young Adult, and Indie. Each of these lists is divided into categories, which makes the site simple to browse. The short book summaries are perfect for scanning, while the ability to click on the title to see the full review provides ease and convenience to those wanting more information.
SLJ Best Books 2019. School Library Journal‘s list is also divided into six categories: Picture Books, Transitional Chapter Books, Middle Grade, YA, Nonfiction, and Graphic Novels. This selective list contains a total of ninety-two titles. Like many of the other lists, a brief summary accompanies each title, and the title links to the original review. The website also contains a link to a PDF of the full list.
The saying, “so many books, so little time,” undoubtedly applies to end-of-the-year best book lists as well. I know there must be hundreds (if not thousands) of such lists out there. What are your favorites?
New York Public Library. n.d. “About Best Books.” www.nypl.org/books-music-dvds/recommendations/about/annual-lists (accessed Dec. 10, 2019).
Mayer, Peter. 2019. “It’s Back! NPR Unveils 2019 Book Concierge.” NPR.Org (Dec. 3). www.npr.org/2019/12/03/784553294/its-back-npr-unveils-2019-book-concierge (accessed Dec 10, 2019).
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.