“Best of 2014” lists neglect to recognize beloved classics


Marie Lu's "The Young Elites" is among Amazon's list of the best young adult novels of 2014. (Photo by Emily Schulz)

With 2014 coming to a close, America wants to know the best highlights of this year. The best movies, video games, celebrity scandals; if it happened in 2014 you can find it on Buzzfeed. In addition to these “bests,” websites like Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble make their own lists of best-sellers and best books. I thought these two categories to be near identical but they’re not. On a best-seller list I see the books that everyone’s buying: books published this year, and books published fifty years ago. On a top book list, I see books already appraised by editors and respected readers. Readers hoping to find a new book should consider both these lists while making an educated decision for the purpose of their end-of-the-year reading.

Best book lists, like Amazon’s Best Books of 2014, allow readers the ability to give trustworthy and honest reviews of high interest reading. Amazon’s Best Books of 2014 for Teen and Young Adult Books include: “We Were Liars,” by E. Lockhart; “Belzhar,” by Meg Wolizter; “Hollow City,” by Ransom Riggs and “The Young Elites,” by Marie Lu. These four books were specifically chosen by Amazon editors as the top young adult books of this year and not one is on the best-seller list. If I were to look for a reading suggestion on Amazon’s best-sellers, I would be reading Disney’s “Frozen Little Golden Book,” or “The Official SAT Study Guide Second Edition.” When I’m stuck on a four-hour flight during winter break I don’t want to crack open my brand new book from the best-seller list of 2014 only to find out twenty pages later that it’s a flop. If I looked at the best books of 2014, I could have a book with me that would make my trip a lot more bearable.

Best books of 2014 lists, while having critically acclaimed picks, only offer books from this year, and can’t include great classics. The book that I chose from Amazon editor’s picks of 2014 may be a entertaining book that will sustain me on a long plane ride, but odds are it won’t be the greatest book on my bookshelf. I only suggest the great books I read and for an avid reader this book of moderate entertainment will not be one of them. Great literature needs to be shared, which is the intent of top pick lists, but it becomes limited. Best-sellers include every book that’s available on a website or store. The number one best-seller on Amazon is Tom Rath’s “Strength Finder 2.0,” a book that gives readers the tools to develop their strengths rather than focus on shortcomings. This book, which could be very beneficial to high school students trying to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives, was published in 2007. Out of the top one hundred, the thirteenth best-seller, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was published in 1960. If I’m a person who is only going to read during times of travel on the two vacations I take per year, I’m not going to get to every work of literature. I would rather the few books I read to be works of classical literature rather than the latest series everyone’s blogging about. In order to choose which great work of fiction to read, after sorting through the ACT prep and children’s books, I would find it in the best-sellers.

My pride as a reader wants to doubt the legitimacy of a book based on its popularity, but there has to be cause behind the three thousand five-star rated reviews on Amazon alone. The attention a certain sparkly vampire garners is enough cause for suspicion of popular opinion, but fortunately there are many readers out there who care for books beyond love triangles. As consumers, we have the ability to make our own mental lists of our “bests” of 2014 whether they be inspired by best-seller or editor picks lists or accumulated from our own experiences. As high school students, we constantly walk the line between independent thought and gaining from others’ wisdom. I can only hope to become as educated as possible from both popular opinion and specialist expertise before making my winter break book decisions.