Monday, December 11, 2006


You know, I just get so peeved at the New York Times Book Review. I can't help it, I suppose. In this past Sunday's edition, they listed their "10 Best Books of 2006": five works of fiction, five works on nonfiction. (They are so kind as to include poetry on their 100 Notable Books of the Year.) Here's what bugs me:
  • Of the ten books, all were published by major presses. Oh, and of the publishers included, several are owned under the same subsidiaries (Penguin Group, Random House), and one (Henry Holt) also publishes the imprint Times Books, a joint venture with the New York Times. God Bless 'em.
  • Of the ten writers, seven have contributed their writing to the Times within the past year.
  • Several received multiple reviews by the Times (including Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, which received not only two reviews, but also an odd piece by Charles McGrath about riding through New Jersey with Ford).
  • The NYTBR devotes its cover to the list but only one page and capsule reviews for the books.
  • And speaking of the cover, it's a vending machine with the books in it. I suppose next year they'll have an iPod with the books listed as songs.
The books aren't ranked, but the usual problems of "Best Books" lists are apparent, in addition to the problems I listed above. Why not ask prominent writers to contribute essays about this year's books that they loved or that intrigued them. I'd be interested in, say, Marisha Pessl (one of the Times fawnees, both on the list and in their coverage of the book throughout the year; oh, and she sometimes writes for them, too) tying together disparate books, fiction and nonfiction, that she read, or dealing with a novel that she can't stop thinking about.

Besides, any "Best Books" list that doesn't include Grisham is just plain shallow. I mean, come on--do Times reviewers not travel in airports?

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