For the past few months, I’ve been circling around and back to two books.* I start reading. I stop reading. I start again, from the beginning. I get a little further. I accidentally leave these books at home instead of carrying them to read on the train; when I do have them in my bag, I somehow leave them on my desk instead of carrying them home again.
In between, I’ve read many other books, but for whatever reason, I am just spinning my wheels with these two.
As a result of all this (and possibly as an additional procrastination method) I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between writing a blog and being an actual committee member. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the sacrifices committee members make, and the amazing effort they put out to create a wonderful list of books each year.
I don’t have to finish these two books. Yes, it’s a bit lame for me to give up, but once I expunge all my conflicted feelings here, and throw the titles out there and see what you all, my imaginary fellow committee members have to say, I’ll hopefully either be able to write the titles off completely or I’ll be able to return, refreshed, to either or both books.
But I don’t have to, and that’s a wonderfully freeing notion, especially at this time of year. I remember the year I skipped Christmas mass with my in-laws-to-be in order to get in a precious hour or two of reading in the midst of a week of big family celebrations (that was for BBYA). The year I learned to balance both my nursing baby and my book on the same pillow so that nursing and reading could happen simultaneously; adoringly gazing at my newborn was not something I had time for, given that the piles of books were threatening to take over his room (that was for Printz).
And the thing is, these are not crazy me stories; everyone I know who has served on a selection or award committee seems to have at least one or two tragi-comic tales of the things that didn’t happen because the reading had to happen.
The Printz is in some ways an easier committee than, say, a selection committee: many many books can be set aside unfinished, and it’s possible to not read more than a hundred or so in full in the year. If you are lucky enough to go into a Printz term in a year when you aren’t serving on another committee, you can spread the reading out over more than twelve months, so it’s even lower impact. But sooner or later you are down to the wire and there’s a book that you need to read or reread and you don’t have a choice, nor can you read half-heartedly; you need to be all in in order to read it closely enough to talk about it meaningfully come Midwinter.
And if it’s a book that you find slow going? Too bad. If it’s been nominated, you don’t get to bag on it. You don’t get to surf the web or vacuum the apartment or design your holiday card or go out for dinner or read a 2012 book or three (whoops and also all hypothetical, of course).
The freedom to do all of that is making me remember how big of a round of applause and thanks we owe to all the folks serving this year.
So as we celebrate the turning of the year, let’s take a moment–before the announcements and the second guessing and the rest of the mishegoss that happens after the Youth Media Awards–to thank our colleagues and friends working tirelessly to find wonderful books.
Thank you thank you thank you to all serving on an ALA award or selection committee!