Another reading list that annoys me.
16 April 2014
I have a complicated relationship with book lists.
On the one hand, who doesn't enjoy a good list of books? (Or should I say a list of good books?) As we continue to lose bricks-and-mortar bookstores*, book lists, which sometimes can make the task of finding and choosing interesting reading easier, will become more important as a way to narrow our reading choices.
So why am I usually more annoyed with book lists than not?
Well, for one thing, I hate book lists that are hazy in purpose. Two cases of such lazy listing are lists of "sure bet" books (books which everyone is sure to like, supposedly) and "nonfiction that reads like fiction." The former annoys me because I firmly believe that every book out there has its hater (which is usually me; the sort of innocuous, blandly positive, pollyanna-ish titles that inevitably show up on such lists are books that I usually hate) and the latter bugs me because it seems to assume that readers will only enjoy nonfiction if it provides the same reading experience as does fiction.
I know. I spend WAY too much time thinking about books and book lists. I am nerdy. We know this. Moving along.
So the latest book list to really chap my hide is the "LibraryReads" list. This new list has been widely touted in library circles--no surprise, as it is compiled by librarians. It's meant to give librarians a chance to become book "tastemakers," and to drive word-of-mouth recommendations for new books. (You can read more about the list, and how it's created, at the LibraryReads website.) So what is my problem?
Well, each month for the last three months, the list has included only one nonfiction title.** And that is not really surprising; the list (according to the site's FAQ) is compiled in a straightforward manner, with librarians nominating their favorite new books and the ten books getting the most nominations being included. And, I may be wrong about this, but I think librarians are known for preferring to read fiction over nonfiction, so it's actually a bit surprising that ANY nonfiction is represented.
And in the end, that's what I find really disappointing about these lists. You know that image that people have of librarians, that they are all middle-aged ladies with a shushing complex and knitting habits who love nothing more than a soothing cup of tea and a nice gentle read? Well, for the most part, these lists look a lot like they were chosen by readers who fit that stereotype. I'm sure they're very nice readers, and even better librarians, but they just haven't come up with anything very noteworthy in the way of book lists.
*The rise of ebooks will make book lists more important too. Browsing actual physical collections of books can be the easiest way to find something to read, but that doesn't really work when searching for ebooks.
**And, frankly? The fiction recommendations on the list haven't been setting me on fire either.