I don’t post my year-end reading list until the end of the year, but I definitely start working on it this early. (This year’s biggest problem: I’m devouring Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, and if I keep up at this pace, I’ll have to bump something from the list above.)
Last year I wrote about rethinking making lists entirely, and this year in August I posted a list of favorite reads (so far) of 2018, but I’m still loathe to finish this year’s final list. Reading has become more and more of a private thing for me as the online universe has disintegrated: The page is where I go to not be judged, but to be understood (a book is a mirror, etc.). The minute you make some kind of public list you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of judgments and scrutiny about your habits.
Overall, I think the best move (as a non-critic, at least) is to go with an unranked list. Music writer Ted Gioia, for example, switched to an alphabetical ordering for his Best of 2018 list. “I am doing this because each of these albums deserves recognition and the sequential ranking tended to focus too much attention on just a few recordings.”
I also like Gioia’s explanation for why he still makes lists:
Like any music lover, I enjoy sharing my favorite music with others. But in the last few years, a different motivation has spurred me. I believe that the system of music discovery is broken in the current day. There is more music recorded than ever before, but it is almost impossible for listeners to find the best new recordings….
I have nothing so noble for a cause, but let’s face it: I’ll suck it up and make this year’s, if for no other reason than because I’m a list junkie and a completist.