The Deep Dive

What Books Are Being Called the Best of the Year….So Far?

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Jeff O'Neal

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Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

The mid-year round-up of books of the year is a relatively new phenomenon, or at least the volume and timing of them is new. It’s not yet mid-June and there are many high-profile lists out there, and I expect several more (Amazon, LitHub, Book Riot’s own) by the end of July.

I find each of the list browsable in their own right, but what I really am interested in is any consensus. What books are appearing across multiple lists? And how often? What are the surprises and disappointments?

To that end, I went through a bunch of lists, spreadsheeted for a solid afternoon, and now present my findings.

I included the Best Books of 2024 So Far lists from the following places:

In all, there were 386 spots across the lists with list sizes ranging from just over a dozen to almost a hundred. Only 37 titles appeared on more than one list, meaning that there are, at this moment, 349 books out there that could truthfully call themselves one of the “best books of the year…so far.” Given that the average American reads about 12 books a year, it is no wonder that it is hard for much mainstream interest to coalesce around any of these titles. There are just too many and the curatorial attention too diffuse.

Twenty titles appear on two lists, which means that only 17 appear on three or more lists. Here they are, in ascending order of number of appearances:

Some assorted observations on these 17:

  • James was my guess to have the most mentions before starting on this. I think it will be a surprise if it does not also lead the way on end-of-year lists.
  • Only six titles were included five times or more. Five of those are published by PRH. Splinters by Leslie Jamison is published by Little, Brown (Hachette).
  • The three most cited books are by people of color.
  • Twelve of the seventeen are by women.
  • Four of the titles are non-fiction: Grief is For People, Splinters, The Rebel’s Clinic, and Knife. I have read all by The Rebel’s Clinic, and they are all excellent. I am going to have to pick the Shatz up and complete the quartet.
  • Outside of The Rebel’s Clinic, I think the biggest surprises here are Annie Bot by Sierra Greer and Worry by Alexander Tanner. These were sort of on my radar coming into 2024, but just barely. I have had Sierra Bot recommended to me in good-old word-of-mouth ways a few times recently, so am glad to see that can still happen.
  • Only Funny Story could really be called a genre book, but as is common now, several of the literary fiction titles have meaningful speculative elements.

I have read half of these and mostly thought they were strong. (I was mixed on Come and Get It and The Book of Love did not work for me). James has the chance to be an all-timer, and any year you get one of those is a good year. So far. ___________________________________

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