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Friday, December 8, 2023

Attack of the Best Lists 2023: LitHub Staff's Best Books They Read in 2023 with an Important Reminder That Best Does Not Have an Expiration Date

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Attack of the Best Lists 2023" coverage [and more backlist best of the year options] you can click here.  

I am going to end the week with a great example of a staff best list, one that you can replicate at your library. It is LitHub's 38 Best Books We Read in 2023. From the page with the list:

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times, but at least the reading was good. Here are the Literary Hub staffers on the best books—both new and old, because why limit ourselves? Time is a flat circle, etc. etc.—that we read in 2023.

What follows is each person who works there taking a turn to pick the best book they read in 2023, full stop. Not the best book they read which came out in 2023. Just simply, the best book they read during this calendar year. Now of course many of them cover the newest books as their job so there are many 2023 titles, but not all, not by a long shot.

One that struck me was a title I read back when it came out in 1999. Again from the full list:

Melissa Bank, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Melissa Banks, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing (1999)

Does Girls’ Guide really need to be on another Lit Hub list? Sure, fine, if you know you know, but this is for those who don’t: pick up this book immediately, you won’t be sorry. And it’s the perfect time too, for Viking is reissuing the book as a Penguin Classic 25th Anniversary Edition next summer. Twenty-five years since the character of Jane Rosenthal was created, every bit as alive and witty, as convivial and charming company that any reader could hope for. Girls Guide is described as interconnected short stories, though all but one piece is about Jane, growing up and into herself. Jane as a young girl watching her brother fall in love for the first time, Jane moving to New York, working in publishing, Jane having a relationship with a man twice her age, Jane’s parents growing older, Jane growing older. I deeply loved having Jane’s voice in my ear and I missed her as soon as I reached the last page. Melissa Bank passed away this year, a loss for us all, but what a gift she left behind: a girl as droll, and searching, and recognizable and real as Jane, here for you whenever you choose to pick up this amaranthine gem, a truly lasting collection.  –Julia Hass, contributing editor 

I had forgotten Banks died this year, and I had no idea this book was getting a "classic" reprint. I also barely remember if it is a book that still resonates today. Clearly for Haas it did. Well, because Hass included it, because they were allowed to list a book from any publication year as the best book they read this year, now others may turn to it.

This is the magic of "Best" lists in action. When you ask readers what the best book they read in any year was, and don't force them to limit their options to books that also came out in that year, you make the entire "best" process less stressful.

Right now, and over the next few weeks is the time to make your full library conversation starter this question, "What is the best book you read this year?" Or, make it even more inclusive and ask patrons, "What is is the best thing you checked out from the library this year?" Here is the post where I explain how to have these whole library conversations and turn them into displays and lists.

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