It happens more often than either of us would like to admit. I write a list of books — diverse westerns, perhaps, or authors like Shirley Jackson — and you, my most devoted reader, find the list’s fatal flaw: I left off your favorite book, one that you feel absolutely certain deserved not only inclusion but reverence, a place of honor among other, inferior books that might also fit the parameters.
Allow me, please, to get this out of the way before I say anything further:
What’s that? You feel that I ought to elaborate on this not-really-an-apology? Very well. But you may not like it.
Here’s the truth: I didn’t forget your favorite book. I didn’t overlook it. I chose to leave it off the list, for reasons varied and wholly uncomplicated. Here are a few of them; please choose whichever is most accurate to the situation at hand, and don’t worry! There will be plenty of opportunities to use the others in the future, when I will continue to not include your favorite book on my book lists.
I’ve never heard of it.
Yes, this is a possibility! Believe it or not, I do not know every book on earth. Unfortunately, I have probably heard of your favorite, because…
It’s too basic.
This is not in any way a value judgment! I listen to Taylor Swift and drink pumpkin spice lattes. Liking things other people like is not a problem! BUT…I wouldn’t put Taylor Swift on a list of music artists you might not be aware of, or PSLs on a list of the best under-the-radar Starbucks drinks. Likewise, I am not putting The Old Man and the Sea on my list of oceanic adventure stories!
It doesn’t actually fit the list.
Reread the description for “It’s too basic,” but apply it to your non-basic book, too. Sometimes your fave is just not applicable! Sorry to be the one to tell you!
It’s by a white cis het man. Probably a dead one.
Listen. There’s nothing wrong with being a white cis het man, and there’s nothing wrong with being dead (it’s kind of inevitable). But. If you look at 90% of book lists, they are made up of authors who fit most, if not all, of those parameters. I’m not like the other girls and my lists aren’t like the other lists. Deal with it.
I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t read it.
I include books I haven’t read on lists all the time, but I try really, really hard to make sure they fit the subject and are peer-approved, usually by a fellow Rioter. I do a lot of research into whether the books are problematic, what the writing style is, etc., etc. Sometimes I simply cannot figure out if a book would make the grade after I read it, and I don’t have time to read everything (ALAS), so I skip it.
I’ve heard of it, I read it, I hated it.
I should have asked you to sit down. Are you sitting down? You probably ought to be sitting down. Here goes. SOMETIMES PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT TASTE IN BOOKS THAN YOU. Sorry.
It’s by [insert author name here].
There are some authors I will never, ever include on a list. Maybe they are/were racist, homophobic, transphobic, antisemitic, etc. Maybe they’ve been credibly accused of sexual assault. Maybe they are William Faulkner. Maybe they once said something that irritated me on Twitter. Perhaps they ranted about how “real” writers major in English, or don’t major in English, or have an MFA, or a day job, or no day job, or write for precisely four hours and seventeen minutes every day, or some other terrible advice. Maybe I don’t like their prose.
Whatever they did, they are on my no-no list forever and nothing you say will change my mind.
I must seem pretty difficult to please, huh? But think about this: why are you so insistent on my inclusion of your fave? Why are you so difficult to please? Why don’t you talk to a nice cup of tea about that, and we’ll meet back here on my next book list and see if it meets your standards.