Post-Traumatic Best Book List Syndrome, or If I Don’t Know You, I Don’t Care What You Recommend!

Catching up on the 2015 list!

I enjoy Best Books of the Year lists.

But how many did I read from the Best of 2015 lists?  One-third of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.  The one I intend to read is Patricia Duncker’s Sophie and the Sibyl, a novel about George Eliot.

Though my own taste is usually for older books and classics, I do read the lists over the holidays. And I am already agog  and overwhelmed by lists, as I flap through newspapers, skim the Dover catalogue, and scroll own the online Best of lists before giving up and heading to the mall.

Mind you, I’m banned from the 100 Notable Books list at The New York Times because I already read my 10 free articles, err, forty free (I read 30 more on various e-devices) during the election.  I’m waiting for the daily critics to post their lists in December.  I recognize and respect the unique voices of Michiko Kakutani and Dwight Garner.

I also recommend The Washington Post book list, though at first it looked tame and  predictable.  That’s because only the top of the page had loaded, and it took forever.  Scroll down…keep scrolling…scroll some more… then wait… and eventually the entire article appears, with links by genre to other recommendations.

By the time  I got to the TLS  Books of the Year list,  I was struck by hilarity and what I call “If I Don’t Know Who You Are, I Don’t Care What You Recommend” syndrome.  I rather think this is my brain on pumpkin pie.

One reviewer (sorry, didn’t write down his/her name) called a book “an assured product of cosmopolitan high culture,” so I had to pass.   Another  recommends new translations of Homer’s Iliad, and what a good idea: he especially liked Caroline Alexander’s translation,  which I read and very much enjoyed.   Mary Beard recommends museum exhibition catalogues, her favorite being the catalogue for the British Museum exhibition, Sunken Cities: Egypt’s lost worlds, edited by Franck Goddio and Aurélia Masson-Berghof, but must skip since I’m shopping for fans of Amelia Peabody and Mara Daughter of the Nile.

I  skipped over the pieces by reviewers  I didn’t know, though  perhaps I missed the best. I sometimes lingered over phrases like “surreal fantasist”and “meticulous mosaics of clustered hues”out of context.  I enjoyed the “Best of”s by  Joyce Carol Oates, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Drabble,  D. J. Taylor, William Boyd, and Michael Dirda.

And, yes, I agree with Edmund Gordon (no idea who he is) that Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City is “gorgeously written.”  It’s the perfect gift for anyone. My God, if you winter in What Cheer, Iowa, or Lone Tree, you’re living in “the lonely city.”