Friday, December 7, 2012

The curse of the trilogy

Every day I hear kids' excitement about the next book in a series, and then I get to witness their dashed hopes as the subsequent books don't live up to the promise of the first (or second). Here, I'm the one disappointed. Here's my Los Angeles Times review of Ally Condie's Reached.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reading, Listening, Playing, More Reading

I haven't been posting on Dig Me Out of late, but I haven't been slacking. Instead, I created a new, improved books blog for teens, teachers, teen librarians, and parents who need books that grab older kids' attention. 

Here's my new blog, YA Reads (and other things). An added bonus is that it includes brain-challenging video games, fantastic audiobooks, and even music (so I get to dabble in my old profession -- music criticism -- a bit). 

There is a ridiculous bounty of wonderful stuff out there just waiting to be read and explored. I plan to add something to this blog every week (maybe posting that will make it come true!).

I really hope that you enjoy my new blog. If you run into something that you haven't read, listened to, or played, please try to find it at your local library. If they don't have it, request it. Make friends with your teen librarian. I've dealt with many and have found them to be exemplary human beings, both helpful and incredibly cool. They are your resources and we are so lucky to have them (and we need to keep them).

I would love to hear from you if you have any comments and suggestions! Welcome to YAROT

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Can Byliner save writers?

Los Angeles Book Fest, Day One: A great start from the beginning, running into some of our favorite writers, M.G. Lord and Dana Gioia. Didn't get to see as many panels as I would have liked, but did get over to one that had the words "digital" and "narrative" in the title. At first, it was a letdown that most of the panel was about the writing business -- namely, can the digital landscape save (rather than obliterate) magazine, short story, and novel writers. But panelist Mark Bryant, co-founder and editor at Byliner, gave me hope that the state of online reading was on an upswing.

Anyone who's ever tried and failed to find a magazine or newspaper article by a certain writer within a site's clunky search engine should be pretty excited about Byliner. The site features original content but it also collects and, hooray!, CURATES excellent articles. I keep hearing that curation and editing will characterize Web 3.0, and here we go...

Another discovery from this panel is Atavist, a site that specializes in the kind of literary, lengthy magazine story that is becoming extinct. As the front section of the New York Times Magazine mimics a web-surfing 15-year-old buzzed on Arizona Iced Tea, web sites are stretching out and allowing us to luxuriate with a 25,000 word article. A positive trend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kid in a candy store

I just got back from Montrose, where I was able to spend some time with my favorite YA book expert, Kris Vreeland. Kris used to be at Vroman's but she now sells books at Once Upon a Time Books. Spending time with Kris is pretty dangerous, and she's inspired me to clear aside huge chunks of time to dig into these awesome-sounding books.
Here's a sampling (click on the title to see the Goodreads page for the book):

Wonder by Ed Palacio: The story of a misfit who now has to go to school. Goodreads readers give this one an excellent rating.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick: Crazy, apocalyptic horror.

 Starters by Lissa Price: In this dystopia, the old can rent out youthful bodies until this perfect set-up goes horribly awry.

 Other books I can't wait to read:

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I loved Graceling so much, I was actually afraid to read the follow-up, Fire. Got to bite that bullet now; am hearing that the third in the series is amazing.

My big victory of this year has been in FINALLY convincing one student to read Green's Looking for Alaska. That student told another, and now they keep coming for it. This new one is getting raves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why reading matters

Photo by Richard Howard.

Back in 1991, I took a graduate course from Sven Birkerts, a charming and stubborn intellectual. Again and again, he came back to his misgivings over the flood of information that was coming our way and his fear that writing on computers (rather than by hand or with a typewriter) did not allow for deep thinking. Let's just say that his ruminations on the topic didn't do much for the self-confidence of all aspiring writers in the room.

The book that he was working on at the time was the praised and denounced The Gutenberg Elegies. Now, in this School Library Journal cover article, Birkerts argues, simply, for the act of reading. Instead of assuming that reading is good, he analyzes why it's a worthwhile practice.

While much has been written about the constant distractions of our digital world, Birkerts gets to the very root of why reading matters in this paragraph:

"Does it matter? What use is the imagination—as opposed to, say, the kind of mental agility, the quick-reflex thinking, that video games encourage? What is the argument we make for reading and daydreaming and cultivating inner resonances? I would say, to put it in the simplest terms, that imagination nourishes the primary self. As much as our skills and practical accomplishments bolster a sense of independent identity, imagination fills out the inner counterpart. It consolidates the “I” by making plausible the other. Imagination enables empathy, and imagination exercised through reading, through the work of inhabiting the language and sensibility of created characters—and of course the author herself—pushes continually against the solipsism fed to us by a marketing industry selling consumption as the index of our worth."