Recently, I was challenged by a friend on Facebook to list 10 books that had “stayed with me.” Normally, I enjoy those types of FB challenges as much as I do folding three weeks’ worth of laundry and I often decline to participate. But, given my line of work, it feels churlish and ungenerous to refuse any opportunity to share what I consider to be one of my life’s great passions, so despite the ambiguity of the challenge—“Stayed with me” how? In a good way? In a throw-it-across-the-room-in-a-fit-of-rage way? I mean, I hated everything about The Scarlet Letter, but it stayed with me. And don’t even get me started on The Goldfinch—I went ahead and posted my list.
Thing is, I find listing books for any purpose—favorites, tree killers (those that are a waste of paper), recommendations, etc.—a trying activity simply because there is so much to choose from and there is such judgment implicit in every choice. In fact, no one is as judgmental as a book lover. Admit it, you have mentally demoted friends and lovers based on their book preferences. You have gloated (internally or otherwise) about how much better your taste in literature is than anyone else’s. You have shamed people publicly after finding out they’ve never read a certain author’s work (okay, maybe that’s just me…and, the rest of the DGLMers). So, there’s no way to pick the best of any category of books without great screeches of dissent, anger, hostility, possible projectile throwing.
And the weird thing is that I love book lists. Other people’s that is. I love nomination lists, seasonal lists, lists about books featuring animal protagonists, whatever. I will happily read lists about lists of books. In fact, you can keep your Booker and Pulitzer and National Book Awards, just hand me their shortlists. Given the proliferation of lists on the Internet, I suspect I’m not alone.
To that end, and because it’s back to school, time to get serious about reading again, here’s The Millions’ Lists page where you can get as lost as the kid from The Phantom Tollbooth. Go crazy and then tell me what your favorite book of the year thus far is.