Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crowdsourcing the Best Books for Christmas; the Most Chosen Books of the Year

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crowdsourcing the Best Books for Christmas; the Most Chosen Books of the Year

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

IF YOU want to be fancy, you could call it "crowdsourcing" -- a term invented by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired magazine article for the process of allocating tasks usually performed by individuals to a group of people, thus calling upon communal intelligence. I've always thought of it more as "composting down", making something consistent and salubrious out of disparate waste matter.

Whichever term you prefer, it is a fact that Books of the Year choices are best weighed en masse, rather than credited individually. Dr Johnson generously allowed that a man is not under oath in lapidary inscriptions. Reviewers feel just the same when invited to choose their books of the year.

That's why so many freely testify to old friendships and longstanding loyalties of one sort or another (sapphism, Wales, postcolonialism).

That's how so many reviewers, including such bastions of probity as A S Byatt and the Archbishop of Canterbury, manage to make their "choice" several times over for the year: some of them divertingly different, some stoutly the same.

No embarrassment need be felt, for these selections are not to be understood as any kind of eternal testament. Many are little more than a stamp-saving literary Christmas card -- or not even that, just a cheery little wave across a crowded room.

Nevertheless, the wisdom of crowds prevails. Taken together, books of the year choices do reliably reveal the most highly rated titles, so here, by way of a last-minute Christmas shopping list, is a conspectus.

In fiction, the clear winner was Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child (Picador, [pounds sterling]20), chosen some 16 times in the newspapers and magazines I've contrived to collate, followed by Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair, [pounds sterling]16.99), named more than a dozen times. Edward St Aubyn's At Last (Picador, [pounds sterling]16. …

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