The top tens of the year have taken on a life of their own, haven't they? It's interesting to me how . . best-of list became much more powerful when they staged the top 100 first (also known as the "Notable Books of the Year", and pulled the top 10 out of it, and went to a clear top 10 (not something between 8 and 12 books, depending on the year) and have pretty much now standardized it as five fiction or poetry, and five nonfiction.
So that display went up. And this year, Jason decided to also featureThe Washington Post top 10 on the same table. For one thing, the selection hardly overlapped, with the only title being in common is Elizabeth Kolbert'sThe Sixth Extinction.
It was nice to see All the Light We Cannot See, which we expected to see on lots of year-end lists, but as one critic said to me, in compiling the lists, you don't always want to be too obvious, and I guess Doerr's novel has become this year's Goldfinch*, the breakout book that is expected to be favored for best-of lists and awards for its popularity, but in fact may not make said lists partly due to its popularity. It's not like the three people at Boswell who read it early were jumping on the bandwagon; they had no idea what was going to happen. When I read it, I will be jumping on the bandwagon, but that's the way this sort of thing goes when you don't have as uch time to read as you want. For the last few months, all I've had to say is that it's the literary book everyone is reading, give a short plot and structure explanation, and be done with it. It always seemed to me that the Pulitzer is the prize for Doerr. Of course it depends on the judges, but I think accessibility is more of a criterion for that prize than some of the other big ones.
And of course it was nice to see at least one book I'd read, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Jane was thrilled with the Penelope Fitzgerald selection and Carly was pretty stoked about Dept. of Speculation making the list. Dave, our Norton rep said that I would love Akhil Sharma'sFamily Life if I read it. Who knows? Perhaps it will be a book club selection or he'll come to Boswell or I'll be stranded on a desert island (or the equivalent) with it. Those, alas, are the three scenarios I can come up with at the moment.
Like The New York Times post, The Washington Post had one book I read and loved (Station Eleven), one book that won a major award (The Narrow Road to the Deep North, versus Redeployment), one book about death that we're selling like crazy (Being Mortal, in lieu of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant), one crowd pleaser (The Paying Guests, which has at least four Boswell reads), and one biography that someone we know is in love with (Tennessee Williams, which also made the top ten of local critic Mike Fischer). Unlike The New York Times list, there's a book that Jason really likes, Empire of Sin. I don't think anything on The Times floats his boat; I could be wrong, as he reads so much that it's hard to keep track of it all.
We've got a nice display of both books back in the fiction section, which in most years moves up to the front of the store after Christmas, when the table of boxed Christmas cards is cleared.
*We still have a few signed copies of The Goldfinch. They are neither bookplates nor tip-ins but the real thing.
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