Lists upon lists

It’s that time of year. Christmas music playing in coffee shops and department stores. Christmas trees are already for sale on the Upper West Side (and presumably, elsewhere.) And the best-of lists are coming at a rapid-fire clip with just as rapid-fire discussion and debate.

And just like years past, I’m ambivalent about the whole business. Awards are fun more for the judges’ politics and ego (see Wiggins, Marianne) or for playing dress-up, or for giving kudos to those who deserve it. But best-of lists? In what context? For what genre? Is there an equal playing field? And how do tastes and frequency of reading factor in? (Or, is my ambivalence unsurprising because I probably read more books per year than anyone else I know?)

I’ll admit, looking at the mystery-related “best of” lists last year was enlightening for me to compare which books found favor with so many while leaving me cold. Or vice versa. But I’d almost rather go back in time and see which books made such lists five, ten, twenty years ago. How do they hold up now? Which ones stand the test of time? And which books, anointed the best of 2006, will still be held in similar regard in 2016?