If you wait long enough on the Internet, someone else will write the blog you dream of writing. Every year I think about gathering all the Best Books of the Year lists and putting them into a database. That’s a lot of work. So this year I configured a Google Alert to notify me whenever someone published anything on the Internet entitled Best Books of 2012. I figured sooner or later someone else will have compiled my mega list.
I was right! The folks over at the Williamsburg Regional Library compiled a spreadsheet with 12 categories of recommended books. Each category ranks the books that were on the most Best Books of 2012 lists. They asked that bloggers not link to the results, but to their blog that explains everything. So click on All the Best Books Compilation (ABBC) 2012, First Edition. Ah, and it even appears it will be updated, because this spreadsheet is called the first edition. Williamsburg Regional Library used 175 different Best Books of 2012 lists. See the 13th tab at the bottom of their spreadsheet called Sources. Their spreadsheet even include hyperlinks to the original best of lists. This will provide an orgy of reading about the best books of 2012.
Their General Fiction – Novels list, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain got on 27 different Best Books of 2012 lists, and that’s a book I don’t even remember hearing about, reading about or seeing at the bookstore. However, the second book on the list, and on 19 best of lists, is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I saw reviews of it everywhere, and I’ve already read it and can highly recommend it. If I created a Best Books of 2012 list, it would be right at the top. Book number 3, also on 19 lists, is The Round House by Louise Erdrich, who my friend Linda has been recommending. Luckily, my wife bought it this weekend.
At the top of their Speculative Fiction list is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker that I read when it came out and loved. Third on the list is The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, which I also read and loved. It’s always fun to discover great books when they come out.
At top of the YA List is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I bought it, and my wife has read it, and I hope to get to it soon.
And I’ve read or bought several top non-fiction titles, however, I’ve been avoiding the most acclaimed non-fiction title, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which is on 28 best of lists, ten more than Passage of Power by Robert Caro, which I’ve bought but haven’t read. Being on 28 recommended lists makes me feel like I should overcome my prejudice and give Wild a try.
The fact that the new books I loved the most last year were the ones on the top of these lists say quite a lot about the value of this tabulation list. Books on five or more best of the year lists are almost guaranteed to be great reads. And I wonder if I’m cheating myself if I don’t read books that were on ten lists or more. There were many books on just one list, or two. And those books might be great too, but their success are probably determined a lot more by personal tastes than overall excellence.
I’ve always asked my friends, why read any book when you can read a great book? The trick is finding the great books.
If you love books, visit the Williamsburg Regional Library link and download their spreadsheet. You will need Excel or a clone to read it. Also visit their site for lists from previous years, 2008-2011.
JWH – 3/2/13