As I have said many times before at this time of year, I am not a fan of year-end best-of lists. I think they're a bullshit convention set up by mediocre journalists so that they can score a little extra time off. I read too much good shit in a year to narrow it down to a list of ten. You want to find out what I liked this year? My books archives are right here. You want to find out what I think you'd like? Ask me in Questionland.
But I do appreciate that other people enjoy best-of lists. They appeal to some readers' desire to reflect on the year that has passed, and maybe find some gems that they missed. They like to argue over whether, say, Freedom really deserved to be number 3 on a list or if it should instead be somewhere in the low fifties. To those readers, I genuinely apologize. If I were to make a list of books, it would be a half-assed, phoned-in thing, and I just can't do it. I don't believe in best-of lists, I don't believe in guilty pleasures, and I don't believe in favorite books of all time. The world is too complex, and my reading life is too varied, to narrow things down that simply.
Slog commenter Gurldoggie sent me a very good idea in an e-mail a while back:
Well, then I saw the NY Times list, and the Guardian list, and I thought, "why not make a list of the top ten best top ten lists." You know, discuss all the different lists and why they're good, better, best.
Thank you for the very good idea, Gurldoggie. And I promise you: I tried to do this. I tried to read everyone's top ten lists, but they just made me mad. They're just an arbitrarily arranged list of blurbs, and I can never get through them. By the time I get to the third entry on the list, it occurs to me that there's something better, somewhere, to be read, and I go read that thing instead. But I have something for you: There's one year-end list that didn't make me want to shoot myself in the head. So it is the first and final entry on my top-one list of 2010 best-of lists. I encourage you to read this one:
Edward Champion's list of the 13 Most Underrated Books of 2010 over at The Millions is incredible and you should read it. You should pay attention, too, to the list of mainstream successes at the very beginning of the list. (I was not at all crazy about Tom McCarthy's C, but we are two different human beings, Edward Champion and I, and I expect there are many things we don't agree on.) I haven't read a few of the books on Champion's list, but I bet they are at the bare minimum interesting reads. You should read this list, commit it to memory, and pick your next two or three books from it.
And if you have a best-of list that you think should be highlighted, let me know in the comments and if I like it, I will add to this list.