It’s that time of year again when best of lists start popping up daily. There are lists for just about every type of book you can imagine. Every newspaper, magazine and store seems to be chiming in with their picks of the year, and I don’t know about any of you, but it feels like too much.
Don’t get me wrong- it’s an important part of my job to be up on the hot books and to know what people are talking about. I’ve been inspired to read more than one book on the basis of seeing it mentioned enough times. But as much as I like to “be in the know”, I wonder if all of these lists are really necessary or useful. Much like movie awards season where the same 10 movies seem to always be up for all of the awards, I get a bit tired of seeing the same handful of books appearing on every list when there are so many thousands of new books being published in a year.
Books, like any art form (including music, movies, art, etc…) are incredibly personal and subjective. I know what I enjoy and what I don’t, and once I ask a few key questions of my customers, I can get a good sense of what will or won’t fly with them.
I’ve noted award winners, and have often been bored when I’ve picked them up. I’ve picked up “the book’ that has received all of the starred reviews and gotten 1/3 of the way into it before finally acknowledging that it just isn’t to my taste.
What I can and do appreciate seeing are lists that are more personal. Lists that reflect the personal recommendations of the writer instead of the books that are supposed to be “the best”. This is why I appreciate bloggers.
Bloggers, while being ever more closely equated with journalists, have a freedom that professional reviewers don’t. When a blogger loves a book, they can gush. When they hate a book they can rant, and they can be as emotional about it as they like. And why shouldn’t they be? Books evoke an emotional response, and when I’m scouring reviews trying to make educated buying decisions, it’s the emotion in the review that I’m looking for. I want to know why you as a person loved the book and what makes it worthy of a recommendation.
I want to see a different kind of booklist. I want to see more lists of “the books that made me weep this year” or “books that made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt”. or even a top books I want to talk about with everybody I know” kind of list. Those would definitely be different and exciting kinds of lists, and ones which I think would call attention to many of the worthy and incredible books that don’t get mentioned on the numerous “best of” lists.
With that in mind, I turn the question to you the readers- what was your favourite under-the-radar book this year and why?