A few years ago I started selecting a few titles at the end of the year that I called Bick's Picks. I think I have made some decent picks over the years and many of these books end up in my syllabus for a YA Literature course or as a supplemental text in a methods course. You can check out the picks for 2016, 2017, and 2018.
During the course of my year I read a lot of YA fiction. As the year passes, I keep track of the books I keep thinking about. They pop into my mind as I write for the blog, work on book chapters or articles, as I prepare for my classes, or when I find myself in conversations with colleagues. I am frequently asked for book recommendation. I pay attention to the books that come to my mind as I discussion options with these students, teachers, friends, and parents. Of course, the ones I think about or recommend the most start making their way to my Bick's Picks list.
One example of a frequently flier this year was Padma's The Bridge Home. It is a fantastic book and I found myself recommending it over and over again. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson is another one that just seemed right to recommend to readers who knew some of Laurie's other books, especially Speak, but just weren't aware of her new book yet.
I love Jason Reynolds' work, but I must say (and I told Jason this) I just didn't get Look Both Ways for awhile. Then it dawned on me that I was reading a fantastic work of literature. I short story cycle that fits in with the legacy of Anderson's Winesberg Ohio, Hemingway's In Our Time, Steinbeck's The Long Valley and the more recent work, The House of Mango Street by Cisneros. I have already started an academic paper on this wonderful book.
Many of you are fans of A.S. King already. I agree; she is a gifted writer. While she has a number of excellent novels, I think that Dig is one of the best novels I have read in several years. For me, the first two pages of the books stand as a short story that gives perfect insight into a couples complicated relationship.
A few years ago Trevor Ingerson introduced me to Maria Padian's Wrecked. I was looking forward to next book. I loved How to Build a Heart. It is a remarkable book about family, heritage, and race. I think it should find its way to every possible awards list. I have refrained from ranking these picks, however, if I had to pick a top three, this would be one of them.
Several times during the year, I receive an invitation from an author or a friend of an author to read their book. Two of the books that made the list this year came to me this way. Both of them happen to be books about mental illness. The first is The Book of Joshua. It is a powerful story by Jennifer Anne Moses that just keeps coming back to me. The second was brought to my attention by Chris Crowe--thanks Chris. He introduced me to Spencer Hyde and his wonderful debut novel, Waiting for Fitz. Fortunately, his publisher was as enthusiastic about Spencer's work as both Chris and I had become. They were able to support his way to the ALAN Workshop. He was one of four authors featured in this post who made their first visit to an ALAN Workshop in 2019.
The three other authors who were attending for the first time are Randy Ribay, Matt Mendez and Tiffany Jackson. If you don't know about them you will. That are all dynamic authors. Randy is also a classroom teacher and his solo speech at ALAN still has people talking. Matt Mendez debut novel Barely Missing Everything still has me shaking my head in amazement. I read all three of Tiffany Jackson's books over the past year. In reality, all three are excellent, but I just found out about her this year and I limit the list to books published in 2019, the current year. I started reading and I couldn't stop until I had all three under my belt.
If you need a book to read over the winter break, all of these will do just fine. They are in no particular order, If you have read them send me your rankings. If you have a favorite, let me know. If there is a book I missed, send me the title (I read a lot, but I don't get to everything.). Some of these books don't need my help, they are by author who are well promoted or have a large presence on social media. I hope you have heard of most of these books. I hope you give them a try. I think you will find it well worth the effort.