Goodreads “Best Books Ever”

I’m a big fan of goodreads. It’s my Go-To Place to fill my bucket list for my To Read List and has provided me some excellent suggestions for quite some time now. Currently I have 82 books on that list, nearly all of which I added as a result of reviews and suggestions on goodreads based on my past reading habits.

Recently on the site I saw that someone had posted a thread titled simply “Best Books Ever” that apparently was started in 2008. When I last checked, more than 107,000 people had voted and more than 3,300 people had left comments. Out of curiosity I checked out the voting…the results were nothing less than shocking. Before discussing the specifics of the 10 books that topped that list, I want to articulate what for me represents a Best Books Ever list.

Ever is a long time and certainly works going back thousands of years like Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey come to mind as likely candidates for such a list. Writers like Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Rousseau, Voltaire, Dickens, Darwin, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Twain, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Proust, Shaw, Joyce, Steinbeck, Faulkner are the sort of names I would expect to see on such a list. There are way too many authors of similar stature and my not mentioning them by name does not mean their works would not be serious candidates for such a list. I think you get the picture of what I’m suggesting. I will shamefully acknowledge that I have read a pitifully small percentage of works by the authors I have cited but I recognize that it is the words of writers like these that have left a significant mark on the civilized and literate world. Such a list is always subject to heated debate, and far greater minds than mine or dare I say that of anyone reading my blog have expressed strong opinions on the subject.

So getting back to the goodreads list: what were the 10 books to top the list? Six of the top nine were Harry Potter books. Really?  With all due respect to J.K. Rowling, I think even she would take strong exception to the absurdity of such results. Popular, entertaining, well-written – I will grant all that but give me a break. I doubt if she is going to be winning a Pulitzer or Nobel prize for her efforts. Top vote getter by a wide margin was…drum roll…The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Same comments I made about Ms. Rowling apply here as well. Most irritating on the list was # 3 rated Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. WTF???? I will refrain from any further comment. Oh and for the record before anyone starts accusing me of being misogynistic, mercifully the remaining two books rounding out the Top 10 were To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice, rated seven and ten respectively. I probably would not include them in my own Top Ten List but definitely can see a strong argument for their being there. Both easily dwarf the others in that upper tier.

The simple problem with this query was the originator’s posing it as a “Best Books Ever” List rather than “Books I Have Most Enjoyed” List, which is how I presume most people were responding when they entered their choices. In the latter case, all bets are off and anything goes. People are entitled to like what they like. There are many books I have enjoyed but would never dream of listing as Best Books Ever. The perfect examples of that for me are Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and the Vampire Lestat, probably my two favorite books of all time. I totally delighted in both and have read each several times but fully recognize neither deserves to be put on Mount Olympus. I’m in the process of compiling my own list of My Favorite Books I Read This Year which I’ll soon be posting here. The ones I will be including I totally loved and would enjoy reading again but except for perhaps one I would not consider putting any on a Best Books Ever list.

I realize any such list is very subjective. Some of the comments did make me chuckle. “This list is a joke!”  “This list has some of the same books as the worst books list. lol”  “Wow, some of these folks need to read more. Or age more. Or go to school, or something. I mean, really.” “I hope my novel doesn’t end up on this list.” The last was probably my favorite. I left a comment that I refused to vote and give any validity to such a preposterous list. Someone wrote back that I was being a snob. I really do not think that is the case but if that is what anyone wants to think just because I try to have high standards so be it. I was going to respond to her but saw no point in getting in a food fight. Instead I thought I would vent my feelings here. I’d love to hear back from you on the subject. And once I do get my own manuscript completed and published I will echo the earlier comment. “I hope my novel doesn’t end up on this list.”

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