Wednesday, December 7, 2011

[December 7th] The Nature of Best-Of Lists and Having Your Voice Out There

 Books you consider to be the "best" should blow your mind, then implode and restructure your skull and brain in ways you have not anticipated, but you like. Great books hung and haunt your memory, perception and creativity. 

I'm participating in the proud tradition of Smugglivius hosted over the Book Smugglers' blog. It's a month long event with bloggers and authors sharing their very best picks from books and media for the past year, which is epic scale as far as The Best-Of lists and events are concerned. 

The concept of ranking books is ludicrous to me. I can't quantify joy. Joy cannot be measured and even if it could be, every book would be a source of different joy, unless you are reading in a very niche, niche subgenre [detective stories about the supernatural death of Lincoln with flying monkeys involved in some constant way throughout every novel]. It's why I don't quite like these lists, which seem to centre around a set of criteria as to how best rank certain books. 
When I ran Temple Library Reviews, I paid more attention to these best-of lists, because I sensed a certain trend among reviewers as to what rose to popularity in certain circles, which is more or less obvious given our nature to create a sort of mini societies, where ideas and recommendations are exchanged. I myself don't believe in the ranking itself; the system that determines, which is number one and why and why book "X" should switch position with book "Y". Should book "Z" even be on the list or is book "W" a better fit? 

I'm not sure whether or not these thoughts cross reviewers' minds during "Best-Of" seasonal preparations, but creating a list is not something someone with a love for their blog will consider lightly. Perhaps it's the cynic in me at the time, who whispered about the potential insincerity of others and the more marketing oriented motifs others had [more or less provoked by my too unhealthy drive for competing with others]. Perhaps there are bloggers, who pick books in order to secure more ARCs and review copies from hot new publishers. I'm not ruling that out. 

This year I'm freed from prejudices. I don't have a review site, I don't have a territory like I though I did, I can talk about books and review books without the numbers game shuffling in the back of my head [what I can say, it's one of my many failings] and see the good in the "Best-Of" lists as emphasis on books  enjoyed, words that have left an imprint and stories that have caused spiritual alterations. They are about managing to squeeze in your voice and try to persuade someone to discover and share your love for any given book on the list, because favourite books are no JUST the writer's intellectual property, they belong to the reader as well.