WomanHeadacheI had a mild panic attack this week while looking at my calendar for January. There, marked in red, on January 18th, were the words “First day AAR Annual Poll.” Yikes! How could this be? In one month, voting will start. While this is exciting for me as one of AAR’s pollsters, it struck terror for me as a romance reader.

I have voted in every one of AAR’s Annual Polls, and am usually one of the first to vote. Most years, I have used used elaborate record-keeping devices to keep track of my reading, solely to help with my Annual Poll ballot. All that has changed this year.  As we announced earlier, this year the Annual Poll will begin on Monday, January 18, but will last only two weeks, until Sunday, January 31. This leaves almost no time for catch-up reading during the polling period, meaning I really need to have done all of my major 2009 reading by January 18….and there’s my problem.

Due to some personal problems last spring, I pretty much didn’t read any 2009 books from mid-March until mid-May. When I did have time to read, I focused on some of my favorite comfort reads. Since then, I’ve been playing catch-up with reviewing. Now sometimes review books turn out to be great (and I’ll actually be voting for a couple I reviewed this year). But more often that not, it provides me with mediocre reads (can’t vote for them) or downright awful reads (have a few to choose from for my “worst” of 2009).

I’m going to try to do some quick 2009 reading over the next month, in addition to reading my review books. But first, I have to figure out what wonderful books I should select. As a first step, I looked over the books I’ve reviewed, and the two or three good books I’ve squeezed in on my own time. Among those books, I pretty much have the best contemporary romance, series romance, paranormal romance, and best chick lit book covered, as well as some pretty good ideas for romantic suspense.

Things completely fall apart, with historical romances, both those set in the U.K. and elsewhere. Hard as it is to believe, I haven’t read a single 2009 historical romance this year. Thanks to the AAR power search, I now have a listing of all of the 2009 European historical romances that received a grade of A or A- here. I’m planning to reread the reviews of each of them, to figure out which one or two seem most likely to appeal to me.

I also tweeted about my predicament, and got some recommendations (most appear on the AAR DIK list) from people on Twitter. Finally, I’ve been lurking more than usual on the AAR Forums to see what you — the readers — are saying about some of your favorite 2009 books.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll be able to squeeze in a few excellent historical romances between now and January 18.

How about you? Are you planning on doing any reading over the next month to get ready for the Annual Poll? What strategies — if any — do you use, to prepare your Annual Poll ballot? And finally, are there any other strategies you can suggest I use to pick a few “good books” to read over the next month?

– LinnieGayl Kimmel