Novel-tea: my love-hate relationship with best book lists

Credit: Soomin Kong/ Credit: Soomin Kong/
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If you spend any time on BookTok, or decided to read the many, many, many, many “best books of 2022” roundups (see: The New York Times, The Guardian, Time Magazine, Esquire, NPR), you may have been intrigued or excited to see what people had to say about books of the year. Or, if you’re anything like me and have an overflowing TBR (To Be Read) list, you were incredibly overwhelmed. This is my dilemma: there are just so many books.

On the one hand, this is a really good thing! People have interesting things to say, and others have comments about those things. It encourages discussion and new thoughts about the world around us. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to read everything you want to read. At this point, I’m surprised my Goodreads hasn’t crashed from me frantically clicking “want to read” 20 times with every best books list I come across.

These lists are fun when you’re looking for gifts for someone or just perusing for a new read. But, with every recommendation, my “to-do list” of books gets longer and longer, and it can take the fun out of just walking into a bookstore or library and picking something out of my own volition. Because, at least for me, it feels wrong to start reading a whole different book when I have fifty other books waiting on my TBR.
Additionally, my other issue with “best” book lists is the many exceptional books that aren’t included because even the people who write these lists couldn’t possibly read every book that comes out that year, some are bound to be left in the dust. There are inevitably books that are great, but just not published by a major company and not advertised as heavily as others.

However, these lists can be super helpful and interesting to read, particularly when you see a book you loved getting featured. It is such a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that others loved the same book you loved.

So, yeah, on the whole, I don’t want these book round-up lists to stop, I’m just expressing my urge to read way more books than I conceivably have time for. But, I am super grateful we live in world where books are not simply words on a page but ways to reflect and connect with one another. There is something sweet and kind of intimate about sharing book favorites with others or gifting someone a book they end up loving. Thus, while these book lists can make me feel overwhelmed, overall, they are a fun, warm addition to the book world.