I was updating my GoodReads & was checking out some of their newer features. Apparently, one new item is your own new “favorite” shelf, which takes all the books you’ve given 4 or more stars to & groups them together by default. I decided to take a quick inventory, just to see what was there. When you have 400+ books listed, you tend to lose track of what got the highest ratings.
Nothing pops up in the top ranks that I feel like going back on, but I realized that with the books taken out of my personal shelving system, there are a few oddities. For example, The F Word shares space with The Brothers Karamazov & Maria Irene Fornes’ plays. Sacrament & Blood and Chocolate are next to Sacred Games & Mystery and Manners. An excellent how-to guide for bloggers hangs with the Greek tragedies & (God help me) Anne Rice’s Belinda.
I stand by what I said, I wouldn’t re-rank any of these books. But clearly they don’t stand equal to one another. For me, at least, there are different tiers of favorites, which is what I ham-fistedly tried to say in a previous post. This is why I love the GoodReads personalized shelving system so much. I can give The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle 4 stars because it’s going on my YA shelf & I can indulge in memories of my 10-year-old self. (A time when my biggest heroes/obsessions were Nancy Drew & Virginia Dare. *happy sigh*)
The same with genre works like Sacrament or Belinda or A Rage in Harlem. I can appreciate them for what they are. The books aren’t high literature, but the authors are intensely committed to the story they are telling & the conventions of the mode they’re working in. But, to borrow a metaphor from Anne Fadiman, I wouldn’t expect them to have much to say to Infinite Jest or Sacred Games.
Of course, I’m not trapped by GoodReads default setting; I can create a “favorites” shelf of my own. Perhaps I will, but at the same time, I do have to say this. Although seeing my highest ranked books corralled together is jarring & a bit embarrassing, I might just let them be. Like love, all favorites are not equal, but they are personal landmarks & deserve their place. Who wants to waste the energy putting together an “acceptable” list of favorites? There’s a reason you “play” favorites: sometimes you win the cool prize & sometimes you look like a dork, like the rest of us.