An hazard of being a bibliophile is being overwhelmed with booklists. I confessing to contributing to this feeling for those who follow my blog and social media. This time of the year is the best, or worst, depending on your perspective, as a number of outlets publish their “best of the year” lists. In the next weeks, I’ll be doing this myself. And I’ll be posting others.
Today, I came across a most impressive list–all the books NPR has reviewed since 2013, organized as NPR’s Book Concierge, which is quite elegant as a book site. The list is tabbed by years, with access to their reviews by cover images or lists. You can search by your favorite genre. In all, there are over 2,000 reviews.
So how do I avoid being overwhelmed? Here are some things I find helpful:
- I pay attention to what sparks curiosity or interest. It might be a favorite author, or a cover, or a subject I’m interested in.
- I notice books that keep coming up in genres I’m interested in.
- I look for lists in subjects I’m interested in. I like Five Books because they post five books by an informed expert on a variety of subjects. Some awards, like the Hugo Awards (science fiction and fantasy) are genre specific.
- I read a number of religious books, and Christianity Today’s Book Awards each year is one list I pay attention to. If there is a topical area you are interested in, finding out what the flagship publication in that area is, and learning if they publish a list of books helps.
- Some of the most famous lists also reflect a particular literary culture. If you like the reviews you see in a particular outlet, the list may be helpful. If you tend to check out when you read the reviews, the list might not do much for you either. I don’t feel compelled to read what the literati think I should read.
- On the other hand, some lists may be useful if you want to branch out and read in an area different from what you usually read. For example, if you want to read more books by international authors, searching international book award lists may be helpful. Wikipedia, has a great list of these.
- Often, these lists have a latent effect on me. I may notice a book, perhaps multiple times and move on. Then I come across the book in a book store, and it just seems the right moment to pick it up.
- A special form of booklist is a bibliography, usually in more academic books. Sometimes, when I’m researching a topic, there will be a reference to another book, sometimes multiple ones, that tell me that the referenced book is really the one to read on the topic.
- Some of the best book lists come from other bloggers who are readers. One from the Modern Mrs. Darcy site is a compilation of 52 lists this blogger has posted over the years.
- Finally, when I’m tempted to become overwhelmed and shriek “so many books; so little time,” it helps to remember that most books are actually meant for others, and that the joy of perusing lists is looking for that book that was meant for you.
For me, the “Best Books” lists are my adult equivalent to the release of the Sears Christmas catalog, the “Wish Book,” when I was kid and I could leaf through the pages and make my Christmas wish list. Those are long gone. We bibliophiles are more fortunate. I suspect these lists will be around as long as there are books.