Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of lists so the idea of The New York Times Book Review choosing “100 Notable Books” published in the past year didn’t exactly float my boat. But to my mind, there is one notable thing about this list — the incredible variety of books that came out over the last twelve months, both fiction and nonfiction. The publishing industry may be suffering the slings of technology and economic woe, but even so, editors are still betting on books on a wild world of subjects.
The list of “100 Notable Books” included fresh new biographies of everyone from Clarence Darrow and Catherine the Great to Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X, and even the immortal Rin Tin Tin. Also making the list were an ambitious array of sweeping looks at everything from The Beginning of Infinity and The Origins of Political Order to The Better Angels of Our Nature, a study of decline of violence in human society.
On the fiction front, there is a smorgasbord of selections, including The Last Werewolf, the story of a conflicted werewolf thinking of packing it all in; The London Train, about two former lovers revisiting their affair; The Tiger’s Wife, a tale which uses fable and allegory to explore Balkan history.
Looking at the range of themes and publishers represented here gives me lots of hope. It’s clear that just about anything goes: However wild an idea you or I may have, there’s a strong likelihood that somewhere out there is an editor who might just go for it. And if so, then there’s also an agent who sold the project. How well written are these books? Who knows? Can we do every bit as well or even better? Why not? So take heart and write on!