I posted this to our One Thousand Picture book group on Facebook, but it occured to me that this information might be helpful to many writers needing to find wise guides for their work. Obviously, if you're writing longer works, the time constraints and numbers will be different, but these approaches work whether you're deciding what to read or reading through large numbers of books.
1. Author studies. I found authors who were writing in areas I was interested in and ordered every single one of their books from the library. Heck, if you do an author study of Jane Yolen, you'll be able to read about half the requirement. This month, I've immersed myself in Jonah Winter, Dianna Hutts Aston, and Laura Purdie Salas.
2. New book and library display intervals. I went to the library and pulled all the books I hadn't read off the new shelves and all the books I hadn't read that were faced out (twenty at a time) and sat down at one of the short little tables to read and add them to my Goodreads list. I chose some to check out for further study, and then (because I love my librarians) returned the books to the proper places on the shelves. I brought my librarians cookies today to celebrate my 1,000th picture book.
3. Bookstore power hour. I did this twice during the past year, once in the early summer and today. I went to Barnes and Noble and pulled books (ten at a time) from the shelves, logged on to my Goodreads with their network, and read until the hour was up. Today, in that hour (and a half, I couldn't stop), I read thirty-two books, enough to push me over the top. I made notes about authors I might want to do a study of and gave stars to the books I thought merited 4 or 5 stars. This is a great thing to do because the face outs are either new books, classics, or books that are selling well. I put the books back where I found them when I'm done. I heard one of the booksellers say they had 256 boxes to unpack and display. I've worked in bookstores, so I know they have enough to do without replacing the books read by obsessive picture book readers. I thanked them when I left. And they thanked me for putting the books back neatly.
(Note: This is adapted from a post I made to the One Thousand Picture Books Challenge group on Facebook.)