The other week, I introduced my ‘Bookish Hall of Fame’ and the considerations that went into shaping my list. Today I’d like to provide a bird’s eye view of the list of what are, for me, of the books I’d read by the end of 2022, the ‘best’ 100 novels.
It should come as no surprise that a lot of the biases within the English-language publishing industry show up in my list. British and North American authors account for 94 of the 100 books, and only one book was in translation (from Russian). This was a bit of a disappointment to me, as I do make a point of reading as diversely as possible. On a more positive side for diversity, Nigerian authors account for four books on the list. Also, female authors accounted for 58 of the 100. BIPOC authors accounted for 24 books (including 13 Black/African, 6 East Asian Heritage, and 3 Indigenous), which is not great but is exactly representative of the current demographics of English-language publishing. (The most recent statistics I could find showed that 76% of English-language books were published by White/Caucasian authors. Historically, of course, this would have been much much higher.) To my surprise, twenty-two books were written by authors who publicly identify somewhere under the broad ‘queer’ / LGBTQ2S+ umbrella.
In terms of favourite authors, fourteen authors make multiple appearances on the list, including five with three books making the cut (Amor Towles, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Michael Chabon, and SA Chakraborty). Of these, Towles, Ishiguro, and Chabon are impressive because the three books are all very different from one another. The Mantel and Chakraborty books are all trilogies, which is equally impressive in a different way, since it means they were able to consistently maintain a level of excellence across the whole series.
In terms of genre, I was pleasantly surprised how much ‘genre’ fiction made my top 100, including thirteen Science-Fiction books, ten Fantasy, eight myth/legend retellings, and three Romance titles.
Finally, there was definitely a recency bias at play, both in terms of publication date and in terms of when I read the books. Books published since 2000 account for 78 of the 100 titles in the list, with 24 coming from the first three years of the 2020s alone. All but eight were written after the Second World War. I’ll be interested to see how this might change when I revisit the list next year, since I’m intentionally focusing on reading more Classics in 2023. The recency bias in terms of when I read the books can be mostly explained by three factors: Most importantly, my reading life has exploded since 2017 (and again in 2020 when I started listening to audiobooks as well as reading in print), so there are a lot of recent reads on the list because I simply am reading a lot more than I used to. Secondly, I’ve become better at discerning what books are more likely to work for me, so I’m enjoying more of the books I read than I did before 2018 or so. And third, there is recency bias in the most obvious sense of the term: The books I’ve read recently are simply more top-of-mind than books I read in my twenties. Since I’m probably having my favorite reading year ever so far in 2023, I’d be shocked if this trend towards recent reading slows down next year.
This post was a bit of a tease, but I thought it was interesting to look at the overall composition of the list before I get into it. Next week, I’ll start in on the list itself.
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