SERIOUSLY, GUYS, YOU LEFT OFF A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER
November 29, 2016 By Emily Temple
Just before Thanksgiving, The New York Times Book Review published its list of the 100 Notable Books of 2016. This happens every year, of course, and usually, the choices aren’t particularly surprising. After all, 100 is a lot, and so the list is basically a series of nods. Nod nod nod. No real fanfare until the list of 10 comes out. But I have to say that this year’s list is a little perplexing—which is not to say it’s all bad. It’s lovely, for instance, to see great books from smaller presses—like Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathersand Melanie Finn’s The Gloaming—on there. But there are quite a few surprising exclusions—a few great books that somehow didn’t make the cut, and a few that were hyped so much that it just feels a little weird to see a list without them.
This all leads me to ask the obvious question: what does “notable” mean? The Book Review gives no hint. The scant information on the Notable Books page suggests that all books reviewed since December 6, 2015—which probably means that only books actually covered in the Book Review as opposed to the books section of the Times (but I’ll just roll my complaints about that into this other complaint)—are eligible, but past that it seems to be a matter of opinion and wizardry. Of course, I’ve nothing against opinion and wizardry; it’s how I live. But still—I have questions. A few notable exclusions from the list follow.
Elena Ferrante, Frantumaglia
Turns out Ferrante can do wrong—but even if this book is no good, surely the avid and far-reaching conversation it inadvertently sparked in the literary world renders it notable?