It’s that time of year again, when the media are full of lists and opinions extolling the very best of everything. As a literary columnist, it’s my job to contribute to the conversation. After careful consideration and many sleepless afternoons, I’ve concluded that the best book of the year is the one I wrote.
I don’t make this pronouncement lightly. As I mentioned, I considered nearly every work of fiction and nonfiction that came out this year. I read day and evening for days on end before begrudgingly arriving at the ultimately inevitable conclusion that nothing else published in 2017 matched the lofty ideal established by me.
Objectively speaking, There Goes My Ego: Confessions of an Arrogant Mind, by yours truly, is a well-written and confident memoir. It is brutally honest; the title says it’s about confessions and arrogance, and it clearly is. Erudite yet accessible. Imaginative yet tangible. It surprises and delights me every time I reread it each month—and I wrote it. Can Jennifer Egan say the same?
Full disclosure: In doing my due diligence, I didn’t manage to finish every other book that came out this year. But c’mon, that’s a ridiculous standard. You think Kakutani could do it? No way. She probably gets through a thousand, eleven-hundred books per year, tops.
But I swear to you, I tried. I read so hard and so fast, especially these past few weeks, when I realized I was way behind schedule. I went alphabetically through all the volumes released this year and made it to Lincoln in the Bardo. I stalled there for a while, for obvious reasons.
I’m just going to say it: I wrote a darn good book. The nation’s best, many literary columnists might agree. Don’t think so? Read my blurbs. They are some pretty complimentary blurbs. You see them and you just know you’re about to feast on some really great words. See the headline just above the blurbs? It says “Advance Praise.” They don’t just give that stuff away.
About my process. To determine which was the best book of the year, I first created a longlist of 10, which I narrowed to a shortlist of three, then pared to a microlist of two. Then things got really tough. I made a list of pros and cons about each book, mine and the other one, and added up the pros and subtracted the cons. Unfortunately I can’t reveal the name of the book that came second. Let’s just say it was by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I am proud that I didn’t let emotion or bias get in the way of honoring myself with my coveted “best book” selection. Weaker reviewers may have been swayed by embarrassment or timidity, but not me. I put those feelings aside and let truth prevail. I’m not going to sacrifice my ideals just to avoid the spotlight and accusations that I favored myself for the title of the year’s best writing.
When I realized I was about to declare my own book the greatest of 2017, I was briefly humbled. I blushed, but that was likely from the champagne I poured for me and my friends who had gathered, at my invitation, to toast me.
I encourage you to pick up the best book of the year, which I previously called “a modern classic,” wherever books are sold. It makes a great stocking stuffer or, even better, the main feature of your gift offering.
Next week I will reveal my selection for the year’s best literary columnist. I have it narrowed down to a shortlist of three, but I think I know who’s going to take it.
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