By Jack Engelhard
So here we go again. News organizations and what-not trot out the best of the year – also the worst. The worst is easy for anyone who makes these lists.
But I hate these lists. Please don’t tell me what books I should have read, movies I should have seen, or music I should have listened to; I only listened to Beethoven anyway.
So far as world events all I remember is war, right up to this minute. Pick the spot, and there was war or some kind of disturbance. People just don’t get along.
On the domestic front, there was politics, that, and nothing else. I remember something about an election. Right, Barack Obama beat good old what’s his name. I understand, by the way, that Tina Fey, who impersonated Sarah Palin, has been awarded a six million dollar contract to write some kind of book. If you’re not Tina Fey, good luck getting published in that same publishing house. The money’s all gone.
In sports, the Phillies won the World Series for the first time in a thousand years. I forget the team they beat. I only know it was some team from the American League. But I nominate that as THE BEST IN SPORTS, and I do that under duress since my wife, son and daughter are all from Philly.
The Cincinnati Reds are still number one, well, at least in my book. Let’s not forget Michael Phelps at the summer Olympics that were held in China, I think. Great kid, Phelps! A quick word on Jason Lezak, yes, Jason Lezak. Without him, this 32-year-old OLD-TIMER, who so courageously swam the final lap in the 4×100 freestyle relay, Phelps would have been denied his eighth gold medal. No million dollar endorsements for Lezak. That’s life.
My list of the 10 Best Movies of 2008? THE GODFATHER and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. That’s all I watched.
Now we come to what really annoys me – THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2008. Can’t open a newspaper or a website without tripping over some such list, and a few of them even list the ONE HUNDRED BEST BOOKS of 2008. Really? There were a hundred good books written and published this year?
I resent being told what I should have read, what I should have liked. So much of this depends on what the literati deem as the genius of the month, or the year. Usually, in fact, when someone says MUST SEE or MUST READ – those I avoid. Once in a while I get sucked into a MUST READ and am always disappointed.
First of all, every list is different, names different books and different writers. Is reading a subjective activity or what? Actually, everything is subjective. You like vanilla. I like chocolate. Nobody is right about this and nobody is wrong, and sometimes I prefer vanilla; depends on the mood I’m in. As we all know – something these list-makers don’t know – there is no accounting for taste. Also, reading is the most private business we do, along with sex, and I don’t see any respectable newspaper listing THE BEST SEX OF 2008. (If you come across anything like this, let me know.)
But since you asked, my favorite books of 2008 are: John W. Cassell’s CROSSROADS, 1969; Franz Kafka’s THE TRIAL; Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND; Lee Server’s AVA GARDNER, LOVE IS NOTHING; Ernest Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST; Judah Halevi’s THE KUZARI; James M. Cain’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE; any short story by Linda Shelnutt about Coal Country – but topping it all is, of course, King David’s Psalms and Ecclesiastes, written by David son, King Solomon. The best of all, naturally, is the Bible. That’s number one. After that, every kind of writing is commentary. Yes, the Bible is the best book written this year, as it was the best book written more than 3,000 years ago.
Isn’t this ridiculous? This list? All lists? Who am I to tell you what’s good and who are you to tell me? There are no experts! In anything!
Remember those “experts” who ran our Economy and were supposed to keep our money safe? They were experts all right.
Okay, I forgot the Economy as perhaps the top event of 2008, meaning, of course, the collapse of our Economy by our TOP 10 ECONOMISTS.
I resent making this list. I resent your making me do this. I resent 2008.
About the author: Jack Engelhard’s latest novel, THE BATHSHEBA DEADLINE, now in paperback, places journalism at the center of our war on terror. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel INDECENT PROPOSAL that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His can be reached at his website www.jackengelhard.com.