Fat from turkey dinner, it’s the “list time” of year. The New York Times has released their 100 Notable Books of 2008 list – and reviewers Janet Maslin and Michiko Kakutani have put together their personal top tens for the year. More importantly, The Book Catapult’s immensely influential annual list will follow in the weeks to come. Lists seem to have an inescapable appeal for us – we love to either heartily agree or vehemently argue over any lists, whether it be the Notable list of books or Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists or Albums or Singers or Ham Sandwiches of all time – it seems to just be in our nature to express strong opinions over these likewise extremely opinionated compilations. We feel the need to continually challenge the opinions of others and to defend the items or individuals omitted from any one particular person’s list, even though it really doesn’t matter what we think. You don’t like the list? Make your own, chump.
So, in the spirit of the moment, My Opinion of the NYT list is this: they have included several fantastic books which I have fought to champion over the last 12 months which have apparently managed to gain the recognition necessary to make the top 100 – this I feel good about. Lush Life, Breath, The Boat, Black Flies, My Revolutions, A Voyage Long and Strange, and 2666 all deservedly achieved Notable status. Of course, books that I suffered through or put down out of boredom also made the list: Beautiful Children, Atmospheric Disturbances, The Lazarus Project – all considered to be among the best for the year. I suppose we can agree to disagree, although I cannot say that these are not good books, having never been able to finish them. And it is curious that the controversial winner of the National Book Award, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen failed to make the list at all. Hmm. See why we love the list?
That said in the interest of being impartial, yadda yadda, there are two rather enormous, glaring, shocking, appalling omissions from the Notable list from this (once) esteemed news organization: City of Thieves by David Benioff – easily the finest work of fiction produced in the year 2008 – and the Booker Prize winner, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. For shame! For shame! I guess I will have to manufacture my own list.