Thursday, January 24, 2013

Countdown to ALA: The Alex Awards

One of my favorite awards is the Alex Award. Named for Margaret Edwards (called "Alex" by her friends-- she's also the namesake of the Edwards award for lifetime achievement), a librarian at the Enoch Pratt library in Baltimore who was a major pioneer of teen librarianship.

The Alex Award is awarded to up to 10 books every year that were published for adults, but have teen appeal.

Did you know ANYONE can nominate books for the various awards? I nominated a few for the Alex this year, so I have some definite favorites! Also, in addition the awards, the Alex publishes their official nominations list, so you have even more books to look at.

Here are ten of my favorite Alex Winners:


Soulless by Gail Carriger. Alexia Tarabotti is a half-Italian blue-stocking spinster in Victorian London. Every knows that. What not every knows is that she has no soul. In a London teeming with vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, Alexia can turn them mortal with a mere touch. But lately, random vampires are attacking her, and others have disappeared. They're after Alexia, too, but only if she doesn't find them first. The first in a delightful series, Carriger also has a new YA series set in this same world-- Etiquette & Espionage comes out in a few weeks.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. Set during the rebellion of the early 1990s in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Mister Pip tells the story of the one white man who stayed on the island after every one else fled and the island was blockaded. When he starts school again, he teaches Great Expectations and soon Matilda's entire village is talking of Pip's adventures, but the soldiers think Pip is a real man hidden among them.

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway. Our nameless protaganist is just a normal guy, until he meets Anna, the new girl in town. Anna's written an obituary for everyone in town. Anna likes codes-- especially the one developed by the Houdinis and is obsessed with the numbers stations. But then, Anna disappears and her dress found by a hole in the ice. But is she gone? And if she is, where?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Kathy spends a lot of time driving to visit Ruth and Tommy who are in the hospital or hospice or something (it's not overly clear until the end of the book). While for now she's a caregiver, she knows she'll be a patient soon enough. On these drives, she reminisces about their time together at an exclusive and elite boarding school and what sets them apart from regular people.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Christopher is an autistic teenager who is wrongfully accused of murdering the neighbor's poodle. He sets out to find who really did it, which proves even more challenging due to his social issues.

The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini. Amir and Hassan were childhood friends in Afghanistan, despite ethnic and class differences. (Hassan was the son of a servant who worked for Amir's family.) After Amir and his father flee to the US, Amir remains plagued by guilt over his treatment of Hassan and eventually returns to see how life has changed under Taliban control to see if he can make things right.

The Complete Persepolisby Marjane Satrapi. While only the first volume of this graphic novel memoir won the Alex award, both volumes are worth reading and this edition handily collects them into one book. Marjane was a child in Tehran when the revolution broke out, changing her world forever. The first volume covers the overthrow of the Shah and the Iran-Iraq war. The second covers her time in schol in Vienna and her return to Iran.


Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs is a private detective who uses her knowledge of human emotion and body language to help her solve her cases. Her first case seems simple, but as she delves in deeper, she finds something sinister at a retreat meant for WWI vets who need to get away, and must confront her own lingering issues from her experiences as a battlefield nurse. The first in a series, follow it with Birds of a Feather.

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde. In this alternate version of England, the Crimean War is still going strong, time travel is no big deal, and cloned dodos make excellent housepets. Thursday Next is a detective with the Literary Division and is on the case when someone starts kidnapping characters from fiction, but, her investigation will take her into the pages itself. Fans will love Fforde's wacky meta-fiction world, so luckily this is the first in a series. Follow it with Lost in a Good Book.

The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom. In 1984, Peter Feldstein set out to photograph all 676 residents of his town, Oxford, IA. In 2005-2007, he tracked down as many as he could and photographed them again, this time bringing along Stephen Bloom to talk to them about their lives. This book is full of their portraits side by side, showing how much the town has grown, changed, and stayed the same.

What are your favorite Alex books? Which ones are you rooting for this year?

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