I have to admit, I am wary of all the "best book" lists that start cropping up this time of year. Publishers Weekly has announced its 101 best books of the year; Good Reads is currently seeking votes from you on best books in multiple genres; and book critics (including me, I must admit, a bit shamefacedly) are busily writing their "What to Read" recommendations for Salon's end-of-the-year What to Read Awards. (Here's mine from last year.)
And yet, these lists fill me with angst. I love to read them, but I'm suspicious. Because who has read everything? Who has even seen everything?
Who has read all the new novels, or all the new memoirs? Nobody, that's who. So how can anyone pronounce anything "the best"?
And who can legitimately say what the best book of the year is when there are so many different kinds of books, so many different purposes for books? Even splitting it up by genre doesn't quite do it--how do you compare Lawrence Wright's "Going Clear" (his history/expose of the Church of Scientology) against, say, Jill Lepore's biography of Benjamin Franklin's sister? Or against Howard Norman's beautiful memoir? They are such different books!
So now that I've talked us all out of these lists, I'm asking you to help me come up with one. All I want is for you to write and tell me the best book you read all year.
This will not be a ranked list. There is no voting. Please do not seize the opportunity to flood my e-mail (as some have) with persuasive (though nearly identical) messages in support of one particular locally published mystery. It will not work! I am too smart.
I'm just looking for a brief note from you telling me the best book you read this year--the title, the author, and why it was so good. It does not have to be a book published this year; it can be any book, though of course new books are always of interest when it comes to gift-buying.
Please send your messages to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please include your name and city of residence.
We'll run your suggestions and praise on Dec. 1, along with our recommendations for fiction, nonfiction, gift books, regional books, memoir, biography and our second annual "Critic's Choice" awards. Yep, Another list of best books....