Our office book club is a lovely thing, in theory. We each pick a different book from a predetermined category and we report on it to the group. We write a pitch letter, as if we were sending the project out on submission, and then tell our colleagues what we really think of the title in question. It’s both fun and sobering to see how adept we all are at false praise and how mean spirited we can be when an author disappoints us.
Given that book club is an extracurricular activity for all of us and that, ironically, none of us has a lot of free time for reading, our picks are a hotly debated (sometimes hostilely so) subject. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, it won’t surprise you that the most vituperative battles usually erupt between Jim McCarthy and myself. I like to think that’s because we are the most passionate about book club. Our co-workers think it’s because we’re the most immature.
But I digress.
It’s time to select our next round of titles and we decided (as we usually do at this time of year) to choose from the “best of the year” lists. Jim forwarded a link to the New York Times Notable Books of the Year and I perused it with a gimlet eye. Like the Academy Awards, the paper of record seldom goes for fun over (heavy) substance when it crowns its winners. Its year-end list is always full of unimpeachably good-for-you books, and if you’re looking for the literary equivalent of junk food, you’re out of luck. So, I went hunting and found the Goodreads list (via Buzzfeed), a more, shall we say, democratic round-up of the year’s best. After looking at the offerings there—Rainbow Rowell! Stephen King! Anne Rice!—I ended up choosing from the Times list after all. The Goodreads titles are must-reads by excellent authors, sure, but the Sarah Waters novel on the Times list looks like it’s going to be both healthy and delightful in a Downton Abbey sort of way.
What list are you choosing your holiday reading from? Or are you going to ignore both the cognoscenti and the rabble and go your own way, picking your next book from a clever flap copy or an arresting cover?