Tuesday, December 18, 2007

January Magazine’s Best Books of 2007

Most of us love lists. Sometimes we even love looking at lists when they don’t make a lot of sense to us and their methodology has not been explained. Here’s a list of the best places to live. The hottest spots to vacation. The best schools. The top breeds of dog. The best restaurants. The hippest place to get a fish taco. The... well, you get the idea.

Most of us love lists.

I’m not immune. I love them too. Yet sometimes, I find myself looking at them and wondering... why? Because, let’s face it, when all is said and done, this too is subjective. The best compared to what? How can you even have a best of without a worst of? And just because someone loves garlic pistachio ice cream does not make that the best flavor. Honestly, even if a whole lot of people loved garlic pistachio, you would not be able to convince me it was the best. Just saying so; just putting it in a list does not make it the best.

So all of this -- more -- and yet, here we are: I find myself once again proud and delighted to present to you the books the editors of January Magazine liked best in 2007.

This annual feature has gotten to be my favorite. Not just because we spend a lot of time making all these lists, though that’s a part of it. But the larger picture, in a way, is that all this busy list making, all of this looking back at the literary year that was, represents a very real celebration of reading and of books.

And because every publication seems to have their own method of selecting their annual bests, it seems useful to tell you about ours.

Here’s what we do: all of our contributors are asked to put together a short list of the books they liked best published in the calendar year under discussion. They write about them briefly. And then we tell you.

Collectively, January Magazine’s editors and contributors read thousands of books in 2007. We reported on quite a few of them. We review from almost all branches of the book industry and, as a result, our choices run the gamut.

The January Best of the Year list is not a popularity contest. Our choices reflect what our writers and editors liked best of the books they read and enjoyed throughout the year. They don’t need to qualify their choices. There is no board or panel. No quotas from certain publishers, no authors that had to be included. And though some of the books mentioned here were reviewed for January Magazine in 2007, that’s not part of the criterion. These are, quite simply, the books that our well read eyes and hearts liked best, listed in alphabetical order within the loose category in which they fall.

Because this year we had so much fun rolling out our Holiday Gift Guide over a number of days, we’re going to do the same with the Best of 2007. Starting here with the children’s books we liked best and working our way through the week through fiction, non-fiction, art & culture and crime fiction in two segments, A-I, by title, here and J-Z here.

We hope you enjoy our selections. Even more than that, we hope they inspire you to spend a little more time reading and enjoying books, this week and always.



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