I love lists. Not just any lists, but rankings–I love the idea that you can sit down and apply an objective classification system to a completely subjective medium. Most people can’t even name their top ten favorite movies, let alone put them in order, because questions like “Did I like Howard’s End more or less than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?” are impossible to answer–and yet the act of answering it, of forcing yourself to decide if thing A is better or worse than thing B, is fascinating. I recently read a Rolling Stone special issue about the hundred greatest Beatles songs, in order, and it was awesome and ridiculous and controversial and newsworthy and wrong and right, all at the same time.
The trouble with most “best of” lists is that they’re really just “my favorites from among the options I’m familiar with,” which just ends up cutting really good material out of the running because whoever put the list together missed something good. On the Travel Channel they have a show called Food Paradise, where they go all around the US and pick out, for example, the ten best burger places. Granted, all of these burger places are great, but it’s almost guaranteed that everyone watching the show will think of one or more burger places even better that didn’t make it on the list; the list is not “the ten best burger places ever,” it’s “the ten best burger places our producers were familiar with.” And while I trust the producers of a food show to be familiar with some really good burger places, there’s no way they can possibly be familiar with all of them.
Awards are the same way. Do the Hugo nominees, for example, really represent the best possible candidates for the best science fiction, or does it represent the best of the most visible science fiction as filtered by a particular group with particular tastes? Does the Stoker award really cover the full gamut of the year’s horror, or does it just cover that portion of the horror market that a subset of readers happened to read? In both cases the winners are still excellent books, worthy of the awards and the praise that comes with them, because the voters tend to be widely-read experts in their fields, but other worthy contenders are inevitably left out.
This is where Goodreads comes in. Every review site puts together a “best of” list, but Goodreads has a resource those sites don’t: a massive database of user ratings and site traffic that can calculate with much greater granularity the nebulous concepts of “popularity” and “approval.” This doesn’t make their lists “correct,” because that’s a meaningless term in a subjective medium like art, but it means that their lists are being compiled by hundreds of thousands of people instead of just one convention group, one editorial staff, or one lone reviewer. Yes, those hundreds of thousands of people are still self-selecting, and the results will still lean toward visibility over quality, but the huge sample size helps temper that a bit. If something gets nominated for a Goodreads award, it means that a lot of people read it, liked it, and said so without being asked, and that’s why it’s a huge honor for me to be nominated for the Goodreads 2010 Mystery and Thriller category.
Each category has 15 nominees, and I am completely humbled to be in the company of these 14 other authors: incredible thriller writers like Stieg Larson, James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and more. Seeing Mr. Monster on that page, nestled in among all that awesome, is a dream come true. Don’t even feel obligated to vote for me, just vote; you have to have a Goodreads membership, but honestly you should have one anyway, because the site is awesome and right up your alley.
While you’re there, you might consider voting for some other awesome books: Mira Grant’s Feed is in the science fiction category, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: The Wild Hunt is in the graphic novel category, and Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings is in both the fantasy category and the Goodreads Author category. These are the ones I really loved, but vote your own choices, not mine; these and the all of the other authors would love your vote, and the more votes we get, the more awesome the awards become–a truly populist recognition, by and for the people (but without the “flavor of the month” effect that plagues the user rankings on sites like IMDB–book readers, it seems, are more staid in their ratings and more reasonable in their love for the hot new thing).
As a final note I have to say that of course A Day in the Life is the best Beatles song, and no right-thinking individual would ever say otherwise. Rolling Stone’s list was overall pretty good, perhaps surprisingly so, but I took issue with a couple of the top ten. And I really pity whoever had to make a meaningful ranking decision between, say, number 84 and number 85.