I frankly find end of the year lists of best books a little tiresome. Firstly, all too often, authors plug the books of their friends, other authors with the same publisher/agent or authors who plug their books. UK satirical mag Private Eye is good at poking fun at these. Secondly, many of them seem to cheer the same book. How many times do we need to be told that A Sense of Ending is the best book? Then you get the author/critic who says that the only essential book is some totally obscure book of Slovenian poetry (only available in Slovenian) which no-one has heard of, even in Slovenia, let alone in the English-speaking world. Yes, we know you are a genius. Finally, and most pertinent for me, most of the books I read in any year were not published in that year. I notice, from my website, that I seem to have read thirteen books published this year, all but one originally written in English. This is probably a record high for me.
Having said all that, of course, I do enjoy a sneak look at what the authors and other pundits are recommending, partially to agree, partially to sneer. I like the idea of combined lists. Fimoculous used to do lists of lists and not just for books but apparently has had enough. This year, the novelist Ivan Thays, in his wonderful blog Moleskine, gives a list of lists, mostly taken, as he states, from that other wonderful blog The Literary Saloon. It is an interesting bunch, though I have come across a few other interesting ones, which I looked at but did not note. Maybe I will try such a compilation next year. But then maybe I won’t. The sad thing is that, this year, as far as I can tell, there has not been any great novel published, though there may have been one we failed to notice and only become aware of in a year or two. Which is why I tend to ignore best of lists. As for the books on the lists, I have found that new books by the tried and tested authors have been sadly lacking. But I have probably not yet read the worthwhile ones and won’t do so for a few years.