Which book best represents you this year?

Hemingway - bookIf a book could represent your year, this year, what would it be?

Every year, like Christmas, booklists appear like neatly wrapped gifts in heritage and new media outlets. They announce the top ten books published during the calendar year. You are familiar with the practice. A year ago I was employed at an international publishing house and had learned that the one of the best things to happen to a book title is to be on one of those lists.

Last year, during a particularly awful time, I was sitting at the Pack Library in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was a December afternoon and I was working on a book design project. And I was thinking about work and life and money and decisions that required answers — and I had just finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. Why haven’t I read this book sooner? I asked myself.

In a dismal mood, I wrote a blog post about the best books I should have read before 2013. Later, I thought of the books that stayed with me that year. Like friends. And wrote another blog post featuring the best books I read during during that year.

Today, I am sitting in another library hundreds and hundreds of miles from that place a year ago — both physically and metaphorically. Which books have befriended me this year? How about you? If you could sum up your year as a book, which book — or books — might it be?

The best books I should have read before 2013

Hemingway - book

The 2013 lists are in. From The Seattle Times[1] to The Economist,[2] from NPR[3] to Publisher’s Weekly[4] to The Paris Review[5] and even Bianca Stone’s Poetry Picks[6], everyone seems to be sharing the best books to read of the year.

In some unknown manner, I feel obligated as a reader, and a dabbler in spilled ink and exploded pens, that I should offer a list of best reads of 2013. However, when I look back at the last twelve months of reading material only a few of them were published in the last calendar year.

It is true that as a practice my family congregates at the public library at least once a week, sometimes more. And, since I am an agnostic[7] as far booksellers go, at least a couple nights a week myself and some family members can be observed wandering through the aisles of a Barnes & Noble or a used bookstore. Often I am disappointed in bookstores and libraries because they tend to focus on the bestsellers and popular trends rather than the well-written and perennial books.

So, maybe I should title the list, “the best books I should have read before 2013”. Next week I will share some of the best books I read in 2013 (that may or may not have been published during the calendar).

UPDATE: Here is my list best reads of 2013.

[1] The Seattle Times, 31 of the best titles of 2013
[2] The Economist, A bountiful offering
[3] Our Guide To 2013’s Great Reads
[4] Publisher’s Weekly, Best 20 Books of 2013
[5] The Paris Review, Best of the “Best”
[6] My Poetry Picks for 2013
[7] By agnostic, I refer to the lesser used denotation of the word meaning unwilling to commit to an opinion. This is my quiet response to local matters. Bumper stickers and posters decorate the downtown area declaring “Local is the new black” or “Choose Independents, Buy Local”. This is all well and good, but I am not dogmatic on the point. To demonize corporate retail outlets is a moral pretense that I disagree with on the grounds that the people of Asheville need work. In these economic hard times, any work is good work. Why should I shame one hard worker who is employed at Barnes & Noble and not also shame one hard worker who is employed at a local independent bookseller? Seems like undeserved discrimination to me. My preference is to visit corporate and independent bookstores alike and maintain a bookseller agnosticism in the hopes that neither employees of Barnes and Noble or Malaprop’s loss their jobs as they try to support their families and communities. And no, I am not running for city council.