Pick a genre, era, or topic there is a book list. As a writer I’m addicted to book lists, they are opioids for my reading addiction. I seek them out in libraries, online, and in news feeds. I share the lists I find with fellow readers and writers. If by chance a shared list choice becomes a book club title, a mutual read discovered in conversation or a pass along to a fellow traveler all the better. The hours of reading are enhanced by pooled thoughts Reading of new and loved authors also serve as a tutorial for readers who are also writers. Prose enchantment can lead to a hangover composed of how did she or he do that? The hangover can only be cured by writer analysis.
The holidays offer up a plethora of possibilities. Tis the season of Book Lists. 2018 lists are long — The New York Times Notable 100; nominees for prizes — The Man Booker Shortlist; short — The Ten Best Books of 2018; funny – The Best Comedy Books That Can Save Us From 2018, classical – The Guardian’s List of the Top 100 Books of All Time.
Some titles are put through an annual final four style tournament. Books are pitted against each other in an online popularity vote until one remains as the Tournament of Books winner for the New Year.
Book lists are great. Right? Yes, to a point. There are also lists that stratify types of writers. Books by Women, Books by African Americans, Books by Natives, Books by LGBTQ authors, you get the gist. The lists like all lists are interesting and somewhat addictive when searching for new voices. Such lists shine a light on authors that might not be included in more established lists. There is a downside. Lists stratified by race, gender or geographical identity also imply that these authors are indeed writers of a sort but they have not earned the unqualified identification of AUTHOR (white male).
Stratification hints that books written by women of any color are for females, LGBTQ authors write for the rainbow community, African American writers serve a population of color and thus all are somewhat less than books written by the ages-old cadre of male writers.
Books are a collaboration between writer and reader. Pages written are learned and shared experiences when the meld is successful. All that matters is the writing that creates touchstones by an author of any color, origin, or historical background. When that connection is made societal pigeon holes become irrelevant. Read a book because it appeals to not because it has been blessed by a list. Happy reading.