Column: KCLS unveils selections for best books of 2017

  • Tuesday, December 5, 2017 6:37pm
  • Opinion
Interim KCLS Director Stephen Smith

Interim KCLS Director Stephen Smith

And the envelope, please…

Continuing an end-of- year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Each year, librarians in the KCLS Selection Department compile a list of their favorite books in each of four categories, fiction, nonfiction, teens and children’s. Starting with nearly 400 titles, it takes a lot of reading to whittle the list down to 100, but no one is complaining.

The Best Books list is something we bibliophiles look forward to each year. Everyone is curious about what books make the list and enjoy comparing notes on each other’s favorites.

As the library system’s collection has grown over the years, so too has the Best Books list. In 2017, it features 25 titles in each category (at one time, there were only eight per category) and incorporates a balance of topics and genres to appeal to our broad audience of readers.

So how do our librarians choose the Best Books? There are many factors. Surprisingly, circulation is not necessarily one of them. For instance, books that may be lesser known but cause children and parents to light up, can and do, make the list.

According to the library system’s Readers’ Services Specialist, Emily Calkins, “best” means something that patrons enjoy. Librarians also consider professional reviews from sources such as “Library Journal,” “Publishers Weekly,” “Kirkus” and “Booklist,” and whether a book has been long-listed for the National Book Award, Carnegie Medal or others.

While only librarians nominate books, for the first time this year, all staff were given the opportunity to vote for their favorites, and more than 150 responded. I personally enjoyed Elizabeth Strout’s “Anything is Possible,” one of this year’s fiction selections, and am on a waiting list for another, “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan.

Many “best books” from past years are remarkably relevant today. I’ve found it meaningful to revisit “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk, Raymond Chandler’s “The Little Sister,” and even those that once were banned, such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

As many patrons know, an award-winning book doesn’t mean it is, or will become, a favorite. But sometimes an author knocks it out of the park and our librarians know it. Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” which was published in 2014, was one of our Best Books for fiction that year and went on to win the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. It was a top-five circulated title in print for nearly three years and still ranks among the top five for downloadable or e-book titles.

I hope you enjoy perusing the Best Books of 2017 (www.kcls.org/bestbooks), sharing the list with family and friends, and finding many wonderful books to read – if you haven’t already!

More in Opinion

Diverging diamond interchange design won’t meet demands of area traffic | Letter

A diverging diamond intersection may look better, but is no substitute for the traffic-moving ability of ramps and fly-overs.

Holiday tradition requires a real tree

A perennial question we ask in December, for our Question of the… Continue reading

Subtle discrimination also needs to be addressed | Guest column

Many people are speaking out about inappropriate physical contact and remarks in… Continue reading

‘Tis the season for sustainability | Guest column

Ready or not, the holidays are here! That means it’s time for… Continue reading

Tax bill puts greed before all else, transfers wealth to those who have the most | Letter

Here’s what the Republican tax bill does: • Shovels a trillion dollars… Continue reading

New trade agreement must include public health, environmental protections | Letter

Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is underway. Imperative… Continue reading

Interim KCLS Director Stephen Smith
Column: KCLS unveils selections for best books of 2017

And the envelope, please… Continuing an end-of- year tradition that dates back… Continue reading

Drowsy driving is a national health and safety problem | Guest column

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that… Continue reading

Call your Congressman to stop Republican tax bill | Letter

I’m not sure what disturbs me more: Elected representatives who push a… Continue reading

Citizens’ quality of life has suffered with rapid development | Letter

The quality of life in Snoqualmie has decreased significantly in recent years… Continue reading

KCLS is committed to serving as cradle of democracy

King County Library System – A Cradle of Democracy On November 3,… Continue reading