To our Community Bookstore and Terrace Books Family,
One might think that the raw data we collect in assembling these annual lists of gift-book recommendations would be invaluable to some sinister gatherer of personal data. After all, we ask each of our booksellers to name and defend her, his, or their favorite books of the year. And what gives away more about us than the books we read and love?
Ah, but it’s not so simple. Our staff favorites always include as many contrarian surprises as revelatory rorschachs. One obvious example is Milkman, by Anna Burns, far and away our in-store best-selling book of the year. What corporate algorithm could have predicted that, at last count, 12 of us would become raging fans of a teenager’s interior monologue about her quotidian life amidst the Troubles in Northern Ireland? Or take the Chinese martial arts actioner A Hero Born, by Jin Yong (“300 Million Copies Sold!” screams the cover), picked by two of us, one of whom claims ad nauseum to be a literary snob.
So take that, you commercial purveyors of algorithms. What each year’s list proves is that good writing will out. It will not be contained in easy categories or obvious genres. Much credit to our staff for going beyond the comfortable and obvious. Much credit to the authors who have given us another year’s worth of pleasure, stimulation, and knowledge, and that very much includes the kids books on this list. And, because we cannot ignore the angst edging toward terror that many of us feel about our country’s course, a special shout out to the many books on this list that remind us of our common humanity, of the perils of hubris, and of the enduring values of empathy, humility, and integrity.
Best wishes for the holiday season from all of us at Community Bookstore and Terrace Books.