The Selection Process

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The goal of the Notable Books Council is to make available to the nation's readers a list of 25 very good, very readable, and at times, very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader. In order to do this, the twelve members of the council identify titles of interest from published reviews and other sources. Members suggest titles that meet the criteria for selection and submit their suggestions to the chair of the Council. There is no limit on the number of suggestions a member may make. Each member is responsible for reading all of their suggestions.

From these suggestions, the chair compiles the working list of titles under consideration. A monthly list is compiled and the titles are requested from the publishers.

Once a member has read a given title and believes it to be notable, they formally nominate the title by writing a brief statement of nomination. This statement is both a critical and descriptive account of the book and the reason a member believes it to be notable. Once a book has been nominated, all other council members are required to read the title. Each council member is limited to a total of fifteen nominations during the reading year.

If, after reading a title, the member who suggested the title believes it is not notable, they withdraw the selection. Only the suggestor or nominator may withdraw a title from consideration. However, another council member may re-introduce a withdrawn title as a suggestion or nomination. The suggestion, withdrawal, and nomination process is meant to reduce the final list so the titles discussed at midwinter will be those most worthy of consideration.

Two meetings are held each year at the ALA Annual and Midwinter Conferences. At the Annual meeting the members vote to take books off of the working Notable Book list. A majority vote of those present who have read the book is required to take the title off the list (e.g., seven of the twelve members must have read the book and vote against keeping it on the list). The purpose of the Annual meeting is to have a mid-year check on the list and vote on books nominated thus far.

At the Midwinter meeting the actual Notable Book List is created. At this meeting, a majority of council members who have read the book must vote to keep a title on the list. If at the end of the first round of voting there are a substantial number of titles over the 25-book limit, a second round of voting will take place. This round a majority of readers will vote to take the book off the list. In the event of a tie vote during deliberations on the final list, the consultant from Booklist (who ordinarily does not vote) casts the deciding vote. In the event that the consultant is not able to break the tie, the chair of the Council does so.

Once the 25 books have been selected, the council members write annotations for each of the books. The list is published on this Web site, in Booklist, and  in an annual publication by ALA.

Council meetings are open to ALA members and publisher representatives.

Criteria for Selection

In support of the stated purpose the following criteria will be used to determine and select books to be included on the list:

  • A book may be selected as notable for at least one, and preferably more than one, of the following reasons: it possesses exceptional literary merit; it expands the horizons of human knowledge; it makes a specialized body of knowledge accessible to the non-specialist; it promises to contribute significantly to the solution of a contemporary problem.
  • Each book will be considered in relation to the general adult reader. Books of limited interest and books requiring highly specialized knowledge for their use will not be eligible. Books will not be excluded on the basis of their unsuitability for younger readers.
  • Each book shall have been published between November 1 of the preceding year and October 31 of the current year. In case of doubt, a letter from the publisher indicating the exact date of publication or some other reliable bibliographic source shall verify the actual date of publication. Forecast dates for publication will not be accepted.
  • The books selected will be limited to titles published in the United States, but may include translations from other languages and/or editions previously published in a foreign country.
  • Materials previously published in periodical form, revised or extended editions, or anthologies which have drawn together portions of previous publications may be included.