Adventures in Amazing Audiobooks

For me, the bright spot of every winter happens after the Midwinter conference, when YALSA releases its list of Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. This list is compiled by the Amazing Audiobooks Committee, which listens to many hundreds of hours of audiobooks and engages in spirited debates in order to select the very best titles for the list. This committee is composed of nine voting members and one incredible administrative assistant. In 2016, the committee will undergo some exciting changes, as it will be transitioning into a virtual committee. This means that committee members will not be required to meet during the Annual and Midwinter meetings but will instead conduct their business in an online environment. Hopefully, this change will make it possible for more people to participate in this dynamic group.

As the committee chair, I am often asked how our committee works. How do we receive titles? How do we share our votes and our reviews? How do we decide what titles are the very best?

As far as titles are concerned, we seek out and receive regular submissions of CDs, MP3s, and digital downloads from various audiobook publishing houses. We also actively seek out suggestions from our members and the public. In fact, if you’d like to suggest a title, please do! The form is here.

Our committee typically considers between 350 and 400 titles a year. That’s a lot of listening! In order to get through all of these titles, we ask that each member commit to an average of 2 hours a day of listening. In addition to listening, we also write reviews and discuss the merits of the titles with our fellow members. We maintain a robust set of spreadsheets, where we list our assignments, voting history, and nomination details. We share our evaluations on ALA Connect, where we are able to carry on discussions about the audios that we’re considering. We also have occasional online meetings and information sessions.

When we first receive a title, it is assigned to a single committee member. That first listener decides whether the title is good enough for further consideration. If it is, it is assigned to five more members. All nominated titles will be listened to by six committee members, all of whom will participate in the year-end discussions in order to decide whether that title is good enough for the final list.

Beyond these nuts-and-bolts details, one question remains–What is it really like to be a member? Debi Shultz and Charlene Hsu Gross, both new members to the committee, share their thoughts:

Charlene:

As a lifelong lover of audiobooks, I thought this committee would be fascinating to join. I have not been disappointed.  I have learned so much about evaluating the production of an audiobook and discerning that almost undecipherable element of “amazing.” After many months of experience and gaining insight from other committee members’ evaluations, I gained some confidence and can now usually tell within the first 15 minutes if the title is going to be a yes, maybe, or no. I find that maybe votes are the hardest because there are lots of positive aspects to the production and content, but they might lack that obvious mark of a “yes!”  This is when a second listener helps to confirm the pieces that make the decision to go forward with a title or to leave it behind.

I’m really looking forward to our final discussions in January when we work toward delivering a list that is the absolute best we can offer and celebrate the wonder of listening to good books for young adults.

Debi:

I have been a HUGE fan of audiobooks since the early 1980s when I drove 300 miles every weekend for a job in another state. Audiobooks kept me entertained, engaged and awake while they allowed me to keep up on some of my favorite authors and genres. Since then audiobooks have come a long way from simply being read-alouds to now becoming performances.  Multiple voices, multiple narrators, music, and sound effects are fairly commonplace and serve to not only support the text but also often enhance the story.

Since becoming a member of the Amazing Audiobook committee I have been listening to a wide variety of YA genres.  Books I wouldn’t read in print I find I will listen to (and enjoy) on audio.  My listening habits now go beyond just when I’m driving and include listening while I get ready for work, as I do routine cleaning, when I’m knitting or sewing, and of course when I’m outside gardening. My work on the committee has also fine-tuned my ears.  I now listen critically for uniqueness of voices, quality of speech, wet mouth sounds, p-pops, and audible breaths I had always considered myself a fan of audiobooks but since joining the Amazing Audiobook committee, my fan status has changed to that of an addict.

Sarah again:

I think that Debi says it best, and most of our members would heartily agree: “While my work with Amazing Audiobooks is intense and often time-consuming, I love being part of this group.” We hope that if you’re thinking about volunteering for YALSA, you consider joining us and helping to create the next list of crazy good audiobooks. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

To learn more about participating on a YALSA committee, visit the FAQ on the web site.  To learn about volunteer opportunities other than committee work, visit the Get Involved page on the web site.

Ready to Read?

There’s just one week left to submit volunteer forms for the following YALSA committees and taskforces:

Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults
Best Fiction for Young Adults
Fabulous Films for Young Adults
Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Alex Award
Morris Award
Odyssey Award
Outstanding Books for the College Bound
2014 Midwinter Marketing & Local Arrangements Taskforce
2014 Midwinter Paper Presentation Planning Taskforce
Readers’ Choice List Taskforce

Please see my previous post for the nitty gritty (http://bit.ly/SngekL) and feel free to contact me with any questions at shannon.peterson@gmail.com.

Thank you!

 

Serving on Amazing Audiobooks

Shortly after Midwinter, YALSA published its selected lists, signaling the end of one committee year and the beginning of another. Last year I served on AmazingAudiobooks, and as I take over as chair and gear up for a second year, I’m finding myself reflecting on last year and what I’ve learned.

That's a lot of audiobooks!I learned a lot about audiobooks. Over the course of the year, I listened to audiobooks in the car, at the gym, during lunch, while getting dressed in the morning, while making meals, while doing housework, and while sitting on the couch feeling like maybe I would never finish all of the listening that I needed to do (look at all of the titles we received last year!). But all of that listening helped me develop a more sophisticated sense of what makes a good or poor audiobook (you don’t always like something, even if it’s really good).

Continue reading

Get involved! YALSA Seeks Volunteers for Selection Committees, Award Committees and Taskforces!

This fall, YALSA will be making appointments to the following selection committees and taskforces! Put your passion for young adult literature to work! If you have experience in evaluating and selecting young adult materials, as well as time to volunteer your skills, please consider serving on a YALSA selection committee. The committees and taskforces are:

  • Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults
  • Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Fabulous Films for Young Adults
  • Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
  • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Alex Award
  • Morris Award
  • Odyssey Award
  • 2013 Midwinter Marketing & Local Arrangements Taskforce
  • 2013 Midwinter Paper Presentation Planning Taskforce
  • Readers’ Choice List Taskforce Continue reading

Audiobooks to the rescue!

Hey everyone! It’s Nichole King reporting from the Amazing Audiobooks Committee. As one list ends, a new one begins. To see our list of 2008 Selected Audiobooks, click here. This current list is the fruit of over 400 hours of listening. Just in case you were wondering, that is over 16 days of listening! We are extremely proud of our current list and hope you enjoy the selected audiobooks as much as we did.

Just when I started listening to my “Valley Girl” soundtrack and getting my radio stations programmed again, our first box came in with new titles for next years list, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Some of the titles included are Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey (woohoo!), Deadline by Chris Crutcher (Yeah!), Starcross by Phillip Reeve (Larklight was great!)and the one I have been most looking forward to listening to, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Will these be nominated? Will they be on our list? Stay tuned…

Top 10 Audiobooks

Greetings … inspired by the Best of 2007 lists that have recently come out from a bunch of publications (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and the New York Times are what I’ve seen [My computer has forgotten my SLJ password and so have I, so I haven’t seen its list, but according to Fuse#8 it’s out too]), here is my highly personalized list of favorites from this year’s listening:

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham, narrated by Charlotte Parry
  • Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
  • Larklight by Philip Reeve, narrated by Greg Steinbruner
  • Mimus by Lili Thal, narrated by Maxwell Caulfield
  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, narrated by Natalie Moore
  • Soul Eater by Michelle Paver, narrated by Ian McKellen
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, narrated by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary L. Schmidt, narrated by Joel Johnstone
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers, narrated by Dion Graham

(Bear in mind, of course, that I’m not done listening, there may be other gems awaiting me.)

Our nomination deadline is December 1 (that’s next Saturday!). If there’s an audiobook that you’ve enjoyed — published this year or last — and you don’t see it on our most recent list of nominations, be sure to nominate it yourself. We might have already listened and decided not to nominate it, but your vote might change our minds!

Keep on listening!