You love lists. We love lists. Everyone loves lists. And in the past five years, NPR has brought you more than 80 year-end book lists — the best book club books, the best cookbooks, the best gift books, the best guilty pleasures. We listed. You clicked. Everyone was happy.
But as the holidays loomed this year, we were all suffering from a little list fatigue, and we started imagining new ways to approach our year-end best books coverage. And though
Buzzfeed the Internet may be determined to prove otherwise, we wholeheartedly believe that human beings are capable of absorbing new information in formats that are 1) not sequentially ordered and 2) wait … dammit! and 3) never mind.
Anyway. At NPR Books we’re all about book discovery. Helping you find your next great read — the mystery you can’t put down, the memoir you recommend to all your friends. And we started to think about a site that would be more Venn diagram-y than list-y — a site that could help you seek out the best biographies that were also love stories, or the best mysteries that were also set in the past. An opportunity for staffers to share their favorite titles of 2013. So we went to the NPR NewsApps team (you may remember them as the folks who charted every recurring joke in Arrested Development and the people who made a superhandy — read: lifesaving — tool for tracking forest fires) and asked if they could help. Turns out, they could.
So, in November we reached out to our critics and staff to ask which books they absolutely loved in 2013. We got more than a total of 200 titles in response from trusted names such as NPR’s go-to librarian Nancy Pearl, Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan, Morning Edition host David Greene, and even Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! limericist Philipp Goedicke. Then the members of the NPR Books team locked ourselves in a small room for several hours to hash out how exactly to categorize titles ranging from Mr. Wuffles! and Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great to an 832-page biography of Woodrow Wilson.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth we emerged with a taxonomy that allowed users to filter the list of our 200-plus favorite 2013 books in ways that felt both functional (i.e., Science Fiction & Fantasy or Children’s Books) and fun (i.e., It’s All Geek To Me and Let’s Talk About Sex). Meanwhile, the NewsApps team was busy figuring out how this whole thing should look and work. After a couple of weeks of designing and coding and testing and editing, our books concierge was born.
So, here it is. Stick around. Play awhile. We hope this feels like a more serendipitous approach to a year-end best books list. Want fiction that is also funny? Or nonfiction that would be a good fit for your book club? Or a YA novel that’s a little on the dark side? Play with different combinations of tags and choose your own adventure. Browse. Discover. Make your own
Oh, wait. The headline of this post promises you a list, and that’s probably the only reason you clicked on it, right? Fine. Here are the top five reasons why we decided to not do another straight-up best book list this year:
1. In 2008 we published 13 year-end lists
2. In 2009 we published 15 year-end lists
3. In 2010 we published 18 year-end lists
4. In 2011 we published 19 year-end lists
5. In 2012 we published 20 year-end lists
… and for 2013 we decided it was time to try something new. We hope you enjoy!
— Beth Novey, Nicole Cohen, Camila Domonoske, Rose Friedman and Petra Mayer
The producers and editors at NPR Books