Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Best of Lists: A Complaint

Why are everyone's end of the year BEST lists so predictable? Take this one for example. Now, I know these people read all year long, new books, that's their job. (That's their job! How did they get so lucky??) But...why so predictable Michiko Kakutani and Janet Maslin? (I know there are others, but theirs are the only names I know...)
I'm happy to see Steven Millhauser on the list, because even though he's been around a long time, he's not very popular. So who am I not happy to see on the list? Toni Morrison and Jhumpa Lahiri. First of all, does anyone not know about Toni Morrison? Say you wander in to your local bookstore and see this book propped up on a table. Is anyone likely to pick it up and say, "Hmm...Toni Morrison...never heard of her"? No! So the NYT book review does not need to promote books that will be read no matter what. People will pick up that book. What they need to do is point out to me a writer I have never heard of and say, "People!! You should be reading this book!! What have you been doing? Put down that 'Twilight' shite and read this. This!!" That's what I want them to do for me.
And I am sorry, but I am not (NOT!) going to read any of those nonfiction books. They are all about war, war, war, and egomaniacs. Blah!
Sadly, I read very few (2?) book published in 2008. But, of the books I read, I can tell you which ones I liked.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: This was very good. It had dogs and a sympathetic narrator, and did I mention dogs? Also, it used some parts of "Hamlet," which I just taught. I thought it was well written and did not draw attention to its own style, unlike some other books that I read that were published this year, but will not appear on this list.
The Long Goodbye: Do I even have to explain this?
All the mysteries by Arnaldur Indridason: If you haven't read these, get on it. The new one comes out in February.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: This was really good and sweet. I think I might teach it in my novel class.
Lucky Jim: Funny!
Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender: Why isn't she on the list???? (oh. it was published last year.)
Blink: I love Gladwell's style.
Time's Arrow: There's no Amis, like old Amis. Apparently. When I saw him in NYC, I thought he was a blowhard, but I loved this book. Love.
Writing at the End of the World by Richard E. Miller: I actually want to reread this. It was great.
Okay, one more: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. It took me awhile to get into this one, but I really liked it.

So, having criticized lists and created one, I'll say I'm thankful for books and all those hardworking folks who write them.
Please, friends, tell me what books you loved this year. I'm sad to say that no book made me cry or rethink my life, but I'd have to say Edgar Sawtelle came closest.


Nik said...

I'm beyond embarrassed I've read none of the books on your list but The Book Thief. But break is long. And I trust your bests.

Lisa B. said...

Best lists are stupid, except for the fact that I kind of depend on them, in a probably stupid way, to construct some sort of agenda. But actually, that's mainly true of popular music. And jazz. The rest of those lists, I read just the way you did, like, "Right, Toni Morrison, genius, greatest writer of all time, etc. Maybe I'll read another Icelandic detective novel." Basically my new reading strategy is this:
1. The New Yorker (same as my old reading strategy)
2. Internet
3. Detective novels from every country and culture known to humankind
4. Poetry
5. Cookbooks
6. Books with lucid dogs in them.

The end.

I would also recommend Summerland (7. also YA novels), which was lovely.

ErinAlice said...

Okay yea all the "reading" I have done as of late has been for school. I did read The Book Thief, which I loved. Also the Glass Castle which made me very grateful I did not have her childhood. I can't remember anymore right now, a year is a long time. I will try to read more but I am writing a dissertation next year so I can't promise anything.