This time of year brings out not only the list-makers, but the list-lovers and list-haters as well. The literary ether seems to be especially ripe for that kind of debate, maybe because these end-of-year best-ofs can seem wan in comparison to the the jockeying of all the literary awards scattered throughout the calendar. Or maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeding oversaturation, and by December I’m just done with seeing the same 25 books trotted out over and over (and hey, I liked The Goldfinch, or at least a good 9/10 of it).
I’m more of a fan of agglomerations of the year’s interesting reads, recommendations that don’t necessarily have to intersect with popular or even contemporary picks. I know, doh. Not just Open Letters Monthly’s Year in Reading feature, but the Millions’—free-rein love letters to an actual quirky and well-populated reading schedule (oddly, the Guardian seems to have redacted theirs). Even NPR is moving away from the straight-up list this year, with their slightly unfortunately-named Book Concierge (well, at least they didn’t use the other c-word). It’s more app than list, using some nice faceted search technology borrowed from library OPACs, and lets you search for, say, short funny geeky graphic novels or mysterious international love stories. All are 2013 picks from NPR contributors and commentators, of course, so there’s still that slant to begin with. And I take issue with their lumping poetry and short stories together—they may be consumable in a sitting, but their content and audience are far enough apart to warrant two separate categories. But other than that it’s a neat twist, a handsome interface, and a decent selection with at least a few surprises—I know now that I there are at least a few small people in my life who need to own Mr. Wuffles!.
The definitive word in end-of-year book lists, if you’re looking, is over at Largehearted Boy. He’s got just about all of them, and posts updates throughout the month—which is a good thing, in case of any notable omissions. I’ll be writing about a few of my own favorites over the next month, too, from what turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying year in reading.