How Very, Very Few Books I’ve Read on the Best Books of the Year Lists

Is she reading one of the best books of the year?

Like every reader, I am enthralled by Christmas Book Gift Guides. Every year I peruse the Best Books of the Year lists in multiple publications. Do I agree with the critics? Well, my reading seldom coincides with theirs, so it is hard to say.

Before I announce my hilarious Best Book List reading stats, let me recommend three books I loved that are on none of the lists!

The Story of Stanley Brent, by Elizabeth Berridge (I wrote about it here)

It Is Wood, It Is Stone, by Gabriela Burnham (here)

Interlibrary Loan, by Gene Wolfe (here)


I read ONE of the New York Times 100 Notable Books. Pitiful! I expected to have read more. The book is A Burning by Megha Majumda, which I predicted would win the Booker or the National Book Award. I was wrong.

This appears on multiple lists.

I read ZERO of The Guardian Best Books of the Year. Pathetic. How could I have neglected to read the best books on this splendid book page?

I read ZERO in the Washington Post Top 10, but FIVE in their Notable 50. I give myself many, many points for this. I read: Actress by Anne Enright, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, A Burning by Megha Majumda, Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford, and The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. I also blogged about these books, but am tired of linking.

I read TWO at The TLS Best. Lydia Davis did not recommend new books, but wrote that she is ” looking forward to Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree, followed probably by Cather’s The Professor’s House…” Good taste, Lydia.

I read TWO at the BBC Best, which means the BBC and I have something in common. I loved Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler and Actress by Anne Enright. I predicted–wrongly–that the latter would win some awards.

I read ONE of the Best Fiction Books of 2020 Time. A Burning by Megha Majumda. Yes, again!

I read ZERO at NPR’s Favorite Books of 2020, of 2,500 titles picked by staff and “trusted critics.” Pathetic! How could I not have read one of those?

I read ONE at Bustle’s Best Books of 2020. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas . Not a personal favorite, but Bustle is a Millennial publication, and this novel has a Y.A. style,

I read ONE at Parade. All Adults Here by Emma Straub (one of my favorites of the year).

I read ZERO at Town and Country. No surprise there!

I have read eight! And yet I read so many books…

Do you read Best Books Lists? With reverence, amusement, or excitement? Are they useful?

I can’t wait to hear!

The “Alternative” Black Friday & Best Books of Year Lists

Even if you watch only one TV show–say, The Good Place or Mom-the Black Friday commercials are discombobulating.  They drum it into you that deals are the point of Thanksgiving, and Black Friday now begins on Thursday.

The shopping ritual dismays me, and a dark cloud descends till I turn off the TV, though I see the appeal of leaving the guests if things aren’t going well, or doing a female-bonding thing by announcing,  “Let’s go shopping!” Still, I suggest that everybody take a walk instead.

The Bookworm, Omaha

Kerri Jarema at Bustle reminds us that there’s an alternative shopping day, Small Business Saturday.  She says, “…and for readers, this year’s indie bookstore line-up of events will have you more excited than ever to stack your shelves with new reads.”

She even mentions The Bookworm, where I sometimes shop. She writes, “Stores like The Bookworm in Omaha will be having special readings and signings, along with the chance to win a freebie tote bag and enter a raffle for a $50 gift card.”  And if you’re in Omaha, be sure to go to Jackson Street Booksellers, though I doubt the hipsters at that used bookstore have ever heard of Small Business Saturday.

Kudos to Jarema, because few New York writers mention the Midwest!


The Best Books of the Year lists are published earlier and earlier.  It’s annoying, but it’s a shopping ritual thing.  And I do enjoy perusing the lists, so here are a few links.

1. The New York Times 100 Notable Books.  They call them “notable” rather than “best,” which is wise. I have read five and a half on the fiction list, which is pretty good for me.  I liked two of them: Joan Silber’s Improvement, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, a collection of linked stories about a group of New Yorkers, and Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Recreation. a satiric novel about a woman who decides to sleep for a year.

The others I’ve read were just okay:  Sigrid Nunez’s National Book Award-winning The Friend, basically an essay about the  narrator’s  best friend, a professor who seems to have died because he could no longer sleep with his students, and the Great Dane he leaves her;  Lionel Shriver’s Property, a collection of two novellas and some short stories (a couple of these are gems, the others so-so); Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, a metoo novel; and Rebecca Makkai’s well-researched historical novel about the AIDS crisis in Chicago, The Great Believers.

2.  The TLS Books of the Year.  Intellectuals recommend the best  books of 2018. They seem a little stuffy this year. Thank God for Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey, who got a laugh over Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and RecreationThe new Penguin translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days is also my kind of thing, but I don’t remember who recommended it.

3 . The Washington Post Best Books of 2018.  I haven’t read any of the top 10 and couldn’t access the rest!

4.  Barnes and Noble Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.  The B&N SF blog is very good.

If  you know of any other lists do tell me!