No surprise, considering the nature of this web site and it’s ever-expanding lists of kits, I love lists. I especially love literary lists and movie lists — or should I say lists of “films.” So, when I was perusing my Reader this week, I was thrilled to find the New York Times Book Review’s Top Ten Books of 2007 – 5 fiction and 5 nonfiction titles — a sneak preview of their top 100 books of the year. I was even more excited to see that I had only read one — Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson — and immediately logged into my library site to begin requesting. Most had a short waiting list, and I had actually already requested Tree of Smoke. But the ever-present question arose… Who’s doing the picking and what criteria are they using?
Well, according to The Elegant Variation, these two questions have prompted the National Book Critics Circle to begin their own list of recommendations, based on what writers and critics are recommending to each other. Here is an excerpt of why according to NBCC President John Freeman:
“What if a best seller’s list was made up of books people read rather than books they simply bought? What if it was a list of books you just had to read rather than books that were just good reads. And what if the matrix for recommending those books wasn’t cash-registers, but the opinion of award-winning poets, novelists, biographers, novelists, critics and readers? These are the utopian ideas that prompted the National Book Critics Circle to create a monthly Best Recommended List. Polling our 800 members, as well as the former finalists and winners of our book prize, we asked, What 2007 books have you read that you have truly loved?”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? A sampling of the judges’ thoughts and selections can be found at Critical Mass. Seriously, with judges like John Updike, Carolyn Forche, Anne Tyler, Jane Smiley — to name only a few of the 500 — the list should be interesting! Cross-referencing the NBCC’s list with the NYT’s list, I found Out Stealing Horses and Tree of Smoke, and then three more titles to add to my library list…
And, by the way, when I asked Paper Cuts how the books were selected, within an hour Dwight Garner replied with the following:
“Yes: the arguments can get intense, in a big way. The Book Review’s top editors choose the 10 from the list of 100 Notable Books we compile each year. First we read and re-read, for many weeks. We sit in a room and argue it out, first to pick those 100 … and then, more agonizingly, to whittle it down to the 10. Frequently, one of us would hand a book to a colleague and say: “Here, go read X again overnight and tell me it’s not better than Y.” Not all of my personal X’s made this list – but then, all of no one’s did. I am happy about some of the dark horses here, like the funny, flinty “Little Heathens.” Where did *that* come from? What a joy.”