Making the lists, checking them twice

  • Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2013 12:01 a.m.
The Circle
The Circle

NPR, which loves to make lists, took a different approach to naming the best books of 2013. Last year, they posted 20 different year-end lists. They went from 13 lists in 2008, to 15 the next year, 18 in 2010, 19 in 2011. This year, they have compiled 200 titles in what they’re calling their Book Concierge.

Producers and editors wrote, “in November we reached out to our book critics and staff to ask which books they absolutely loved in 2013. We got more than a total of 200 titles in response from trusted names such as NPR’s go-to librarian Nancy Pearl, Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan, Morning Edition host David Greene, and even Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! limericist Philipp Goedicke. Then the members of the NPR Books team locked ourselves in a small room for several hours to hash out how exactly to categorize titles ranging from ‘Mr. Wuffles!’ and ‘Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great’ to an 832-page biography of Woodrow Wilson.”


You can check it out here http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2013/ and dip into whatever tickles your fancy.

Here’s another list that might be of interest — http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/12/16/3062521/thinkprogress-year-culture-books/. It’s the best and worst books of 2013, and the reasons why, according to writers on ThinkProgress. You may not agree with the list, but the arguments are well done.

Hop over to https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2013, the goodreads website, where readers picked their favorites in numerous categories, fiction, historical fiction, paranormal fantasy, romance, horror, graphic novels, young adult novels and more. The voters are experts of a sort because they read a lot.

For fans of the Huffington Post, you can follow their best books list. You’ll start to notice some books appearing on numerous lists. Here’s Huffington’s picks http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/best-books-2013-_n_4344225.html. “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” by Karen Russell and “The Circle” by Dave Eggers are making repeat appearances.

That venerable authority on books, The New York Times, offers its list here http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/books/review/the-10-best-books-of-2013.html?_r=0. Here’s “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders and “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt again.

For a set of quite different lists, go over to the Kirkus book review website. Kirkus is known in the book world for giving negative reviews for almost everything. If an author gets a positive review in Kirkus, it’s cause for celebration. Their lists are themed — fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, teen books, nonfiction, indie books and best book apps for 2013 — a category that will be released tomorrow. Here’s a place to get started — https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/best-of-2013/section/fiction/.

Publishers Weekly also lists their top 20 picks. It’s another book review magazine, and generally more even-handed than Kirkus. This list shows books you may never have heard of, fiction and non-fiction. This is one I have not seen: “The Silence and the Roar,” by Nihad Sirees, translated by Max Weiss. It’s a satirical novel said to echo Kafka and Orwell.

National chain bookstores Barnes and Noble and Amazon have all different kinds of top 20 lists, the aim, of course, to pull you into a buying spree. Some are customer favorites, some editors’ favorites and some are bestsellers in 2013, which means they don’t have to be new books. A look at Barnes and Noble’s bestselling books, for example, shows “The Great Gatsby” at No. 4. And what was their No. 1 bestselling book for 2013 ... “Inferno,” by Dan Brown, proving good writing is not essential to becoming a bestseller. (My editorial comment — Brown’s writing is florid and often boring.)

Look for a column by Deal Safrit of the local blog Literary Outpost on his choices for 2013, with a short sidebar about mine next week.

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