Whatever genre you’re writing in, you should be reading and be aware of the books that are getting recognition–the books people are talking about. You may not always agree that they’re the best (I often don’t!), but the process of reading and analyzing helps you see what qualities are valued right now in your niche of the industry. It also helps you participate in the conversations going on in your community. It’s ok not to agree, but it’s hard to take part when you haven’t even read the books being discussed.
Take a look at PW’s Best Books of 2016: http://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2016
I focused on just the 18 picture books. I’ve read and liked or even loved 7 of them (I even have a poem in one of them). I’ve recently heard 5 of them discussed on book podcasts. I’ve read 2 that I did not care for at ALL. 4 I have never even heard of. I just put the ones I haven’t read on my TBR shelf.
So many books are published every year. It’s hard to keep up! But I think it’s important to try, at least:>)