Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The "essential" dilemma

No matter who you ask, everyone has a list of "essentials" for their bookshelves, as in the books that comprise the core collection - a handful of titles on display to demonstrate what a well-rounded reader you are. Today the Huffington Post published their list of essentials in the article 12 Books You NEED On Your Bookshelf.  It's an eclectic mix, and while I may not agree with their choice of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, I can certainly get on board with Toni Morrison's Beloved and Nobokov's Lolita.

If you've ever worked in a bookstore, then you may know that booksellers are frequently asked things like, "What books should I buy to make me look smart?" Wow. Ok. And I admit that while Les Miserables may still be sitting on my shelf making me look good, the bookmark is still holding my place on page 30 (I started it 10 years ago).  All I'm saying is that books are conversation pieces, so make sure your own "essentials" aren't just there to impress visitors, or you may find yourself in a not-so-sophisticated situation.

If I were to comprise my own list (which would never work because the list would change every day) it probably wouldn't be as diverse as The Huffington Post's, but that's because I mostly read fiction. Perhaps I could come up with a list of "My Favorite Fiction from the Last 10 Years," or "My Favorite 20th Century Women Poets," but I don't think I could ever come up with a short list to encompass all genres and dates.  That's why I love listmania lists.  They can be as specific or as broad as you want...I've even created a few of my own on Amazon.  I don't have trouble making day to day decisions, but let's just hope I never get invited to serve on the Pulitzer Board or anything.  I would lose all of my hair and scratch out my eyes with that kind of pressure.  That's why my opinions are better suited for blogging and listmania....because for me, the only thing that's essential for my lists is flexibility.