Looking over the list of books I've read this year, I amused myself by thinking about which ones I would consider the "best" (a possible blog post). Some books were easy to pick. Others gave me pause. There were some that I admired, that were well written and/or important, that I'm glad I read, that I would advise others to read, but--I wouldn't say I enjoyed them. I don't long to reenter them, to savor their pages again. Then there are the ones I do want to reread, even though part of me knows they're a bit corny or predictable or flashy, or else they're so "quiet" or esoteric that I suspect their audience is small.
It's easy to call a book "good" if it's beautifully put together and I
enjoy reading it. But what of the books that only meet one of those
criteria? Not every book has to be everything at once--in fact, that's
impossible. And I can't reduce book ratings to a number. On a scale of
one to five, where do I put the book that was rollicking fun, but fluffy
and insubstantial? The sober tome that made me think deeply, but was
hard to get through? The elegant, thrilling, engrossing novel that
delivered on all its promises until the last chapter, where its ending
disappointed me? The quirky book that broke new stylistic ground but
whose characters never really grabbed me? The wonderful book with the
one problematic subplot? It doesn't help that my appreciation of a book
can also vary according to when I read it.
This is why I rarely do "best-of" lists.