It’s that time of year again: the time when Publishers Weekly puts out our Best Books list, the top ten of which—lucky you!—makes its debut in today’s Tip Sheet. Not coincidentally, it’s also the time when I discover that I’ve wasted my reading year on less-than-the-best, and subsequently tack 10 or 50 new titles onto my to-read list.
For most, I guess, the proliferation of official year-end Best lists is a great opportunity to expand your horizons as a reader with a sure-fire hit, especially as you see certain names crop up again and again (this year, those will likely include Ann Patchett, Jeffrey Eugenides, and possibly Tina Fey, all in PW’s top ten). For me, it’s more a chance to indulge in regret and guilt—regret over failing to have read something like 90 to 100 percent of the year’s best books, and guilt over spending hundreds of dollars to purchase most of them in one big, inevitable buying spree.
Still, I’ve hardly been lacking for good reads this year: I consider myself very lucky to have discovered the books I did, including Kevin Wilson’s hilarious The Family Fang (Ecco), Blake Butler’s disturbing There Is No Year (Harper Perennial), Mary Whyte’s gorgeous Working South: Paintings and Sketches (Univ. of South Carolina), Wayne Koestenbaum’s thought-provoking Humiliation (Picador), Francis Levy’s sex-drenched Seven Days in Rio (Two Dollar Radio), Rebecca Makkai’s cleverly conceived The Borrower, Josh Mack’s straight-faced The Hobo Handbook (Adams), and Binocular Vision (Lookout) by criminally-overlooked short story master Edith Pearlman. My guilt over book-buying would really be put to better use regarding the fact that I failed to push my own favorites on the list-makers of the book world (of whom I know just a few).
Though it makes me cry a little bit to realize I’ve yet to pick up the new ones from Patchett, Eugenides, Fey, and a dozen-plus authors from the long list (which bows in Monday’s print issue), I know from long experience that I’ll always have the problem of too many books to read—and also that it isn’t really something I should call a “problem.” Really, it’s more like a never-ending commitment to something that I love dearly, but which will always remain, in some significant way, just beyond my reach. It’s a bit like the endless mystery of family: how well can we really know another person, even/especially the ones we’ve devoted our lives to loving? Only this family has hundreds and hundreds of spouses and kids, each reader a beleaguered but quick-to-smile Bill Paxton trying his best to catch every important moment in the most complicated polygamous family imaginable.
So enjoy the list and, if you’re like me, try not to be too hard on yourself. Enjoy also our questions for Atlanta bookseller Jef Blocker; a reading list from thriller writer D.M. Annechino; and the Tip Sheet’s picks for next week, including the new Stephen King time-travel thriller 11/22/63 and Robert Massie’s highly-anticipated Catherine the Great, which we’re highlighting with reprints of PW editor Peter Cannon’s signature review of the King, and writer Penny Kaganoff’s conversation with Massie.
Oh, and allow me to introduce myself: I'm Marc Schultz, and I'll be your new Tip Sheet editor. This is my first time e-newslettering, so please: be gentle.