If you think of literature and film as an ecosystem, a forest (as I do), you need biodiversity. You need a wide, deep range of life in the biome. This is why I so dislike best-of lists, I think. Especially those that claim, ‘This is it, these are THE best books of the year.’ Maybe it’s understood that this only really means ‘These are my/our favorites of what I/we actually read during the year’—but I don’t think it is.
What happens if you only support the biggest, best-fertilized (read: invested in by the publishing industry and taken up by reviewers) ‘star’ trees? You make the forest sick. I get that ‘my favorite’ or ‘the books that were best in my mind’ doesn’t have the attention-grabbing power of ‘This is it, look no further, these are the best, the crème de la crème.’ But, ugh. I find that sort of headline actively aversive. I’ve never liked it. I’m glad those lists are getting more diverse—ecstatic, really—but I wish we weren’t a culture that promulgated them at all.
Such lists are useful for tools, appliances, items with measurable objective performance and functions. That rubric shouldn’t be applied to art. So, dear media outlets and reviewers, say our or my favorites, please? It’s a small thing, on the surface, but I think it goes deep into the roots and ultimate health of our ecosystem.