An example of this in the world of books is simple: lists announcing the best books of 2011 are already floating around the internet, posted in libraries and mentioned on Twitter. The three biggest ones to catch my eye were the lists by Amazon.com, Publishers Weekly, and the voting currently taking place at Goodreads.com.
Upon reflection, I'm not really sure what to make of these lists. Do they tell us anything we don't already know? Of course there can be surprises, a book may show up on these end of the year lists or ballots that didn't get maybe as much attention as it ought to have when it first came out in the last twelve months. But it seems to me like these lists are more of a confirmation than anything: these are the books that have touched us, have said something, and in a lot of cases but certainly not all have had time on best-seller lists as well.
To me, it's a difficult thing to grasp. To narrow down all of the talent and hard work that was published this year down to a list of ten items just seems cruel and very narrow. I'm not saying that these books which have been selected don't deserve the honor, but I personally would love to know exactly what criteria is being used to determine what exactly "best" means to the people forming these lists.
For this reason, I like that Goodreads has made it possible for users to nominate and vote for books that may not have been selected in various categories. In a small way, it is a step towards leveling the playing field. I sometimes find myself actually more interested in pursuing these write-in candidates because I want to know what was so good about that book that none of the others on the ballot warranted the vote in an individual's mind.
But maybe that's just me. Just because I don't know exactly what my feelings are about these lists doesn't mean I won't be looking at them, still eagerly reading descriptions and summaries to add to my ever-growing pile of titles I'd love to read at some point.
I'd love to hear the opinions of others on this topic, so if you have thoughts, please leave them in comments. As always, happy reading.
Best Of Lists: