New York Times Notable Books of 2015

The list is out. As subjective as any such lists are, though I am sure there are many overlaps.

Have you read any of these? I have. One. I read Rachel Cusk’s Outline. I wasn’t impressed. You can read my review of it here if you like.

It was actually a surprise to me that I had read any on such a list. I had forgotten about the Cusk book, and when I saw it on the list, I thought I had read it in 2014 anyway. Obviously I was wrong about that.

Why am I surprised by having read something on this list? A few reasons.

One, like I said, si that such lists are subjective. The literati falls into patterns that are predictable eventually, and many, as I said, will include the same books among their own lists of notable titles for the year. That’s just the way it is. Yes, it is partially about the quality and the impact of the book, of course, but I feel bold enough to say there is some amount of peer pressure involved, if you will.

All this by way of saying I don’t often seek out such lists to assist me in choosing my next read. There happen to be a handful of titles on this year’s list that I think I’d like to read someday, but not because they are on the list. one of them I heard about last month on the radio, not knowing of course it would be on this list.

Yet, I never have had a great need to read the “in” book, the one everyone is talking about. So, I often don’t think to look at such lists, and in turn, I don’t become acquainted with most titles on said lists until later, once the lists are obsolete. When I do end up reading one of the “hot books,” it’s usually after the buzz, (whether deserved or undeserved) has faded somewhat. When I come across a title physically, at the library, or I hear someone speak of having enjoyed it. Or, on the radio or whatever.

This isn’t a grand indictment of what is popular and/or will dissected academically. I’d read a current bestseller or today’s darling of the intelligentsia, no problem, if it otherwise appealed to me. About half of the time it doesn’t, but when it does, I’ll read it right off the press if I am in the mood. But a book is forever, even if hype is not. I will be no more or less likely to enjoy a book from this list in 2017 than I am in the waning days of 2015.

Maybe if I met more often with people who discussed books, I’d put in more of a specific effort to pick up some of the latest topics of literary discussion among readers. But I simply don’t travel in such groups very often. There is no water cooler near which I can gather with other readers to dig into a trending title. So I usually wait until it’s easily available, and discuss it with myself.

Plus, I’m a slow reader anyway; by the time I finished one notable book on such a list, others have probably moved on to the next two.

I’ll never chase a trend with all of my energy as some will do, but I might start paying attention to these lists a bit more often, just as a source for something else to read…in three years.


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