Friday, January 23, 2015

Best Book Ever!?

Who is the greatest author?  What is the best book?

How can you begin to answer such questions?  It depends on one’s criteria for judging such things, and even then, there could be a wide disparity amongst gender, age, ethnicity and other demographic dividers.  Further, the answer is bound to change over time, not just because new books and talented authors come about, but because our needs and tastes change, and because the world changes.

Who or what body would be qualified to rank such things?

I think so many factors are at play in determining one’s all-time favorite list, including:
·         What exposure have you had to a variety of authors and genres?
·         How many books have you read?
·         What do you use as a filter to rate books?
·         Can you remember all that you’ve read?
·         What was going on in your life at the time you read it?
·         Can you remember all that you’ve read?
·         What stage of life and experience were you at the time you read each book?
·         How smart are you?  Can you fully appreciate the author’s talent?

Many writers copy the style of another, so do we properly acknowledge the pioneers of a style – or do we merely look to see who has perfected that style?

For my first 17 years – all through high school – I read only a handful of books cover to cover.  Yes, even though I love books now and valued the written word during my pre-English major years at college, I read more Cliff and Monarch Notes than actual books.  I read about books rather than reading them.

Some of it was due to time and convenience.  Other times, I couldn’t bear to read another Jane Austen book, and other times I needed help because the book was too complex.  However, I do recall enjoying the following books:

George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm
Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant
Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
James Roswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson

I liked Joyce Carol Oates and I also liked reading essays and short stories.  There was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and Kafka’s Metamorphosis.  Ah, good memories.

My adult years have been spent with many books, but largely contemporary works, much more non-fiction than fiction, primarily because of my job and interests.  I feel a lot of fiction can be experienced via television and movies, as both industries base a lot of stuff on books.  Then again, everyone always says “the book’s better than the movie.”

The place I would start to look at with ranking books is the following:

·         Separate by genre (fiction vs. non-fiction and subcategories)
·         Divide by era (generations, centuries)
·         Weigh critical reviews, sales data, awards won, peer responses and fan reactions
·         Would you read it again – and still feel enhanced by it?
·         Did a book make you feel, see or learn something? 
·         Do you feel enriched for having read it? 
·         Do you fondly recall it years later? 
·         Is the book significant on some level – did it influence policy, behavior, or a movement?  Was it far superior to its contemporaries? 

·         How has the book been imitated by others?

We are too obsessed with rankings, ratings, awards, and declarations of greatness.  Just read what you want and enjoy it and encourage others to read more.  The best book is the one in your hands right now.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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