The lists have already begun to appear...best novels of 2007, best books of 2007, favorite books, most notable, best selling books... These lists make me a little crazy. There's rarely any context for them and they don't usually say very much about the books themselves. The one list I get excited about is Steve Evans Notes to Poetry. Why? Well, because of the collectivity involved, the diversity. Evans doesn't rely on the media darlings to create the list, the list is built from practitioners and out of those lists Evans is able to create a varied list that reflects which texts are lingering, which texts are influencing thinking, and in effect, writing. Those are usually the kind of books I'm interested in reading...so no surprise.
While I'm not necessarily a fan of the "best of" anything, there are occasionally compilations that excite me. James Tate's 1997 Best American Poetry was the last of that series that really excited me, though I have to confess, I no longer read them. Perhaps the Tate selection was exciting because I was younger and more excitable, or because all the voices were so new to me, but I think it's actually because it was quite diverse and Tate must have read beyond his comfort zones. Diversity must necessarily include risks and the thing that usually surprises me about these lists (or anthologies for that matter!) is their lack of surprises, which means the lack of risk taking in general. Pick your friends, proven commodities, etc.
So I'm thinking of compiling a list of the year's most exciting, risk-taking writing. Writing that went somewhere you didn't anticipate. Writing that went against the grain, or that surprised either in terms of content, or formally. Writing that was uppity, unique, daring to reach for its fullest itself. Any genre of writing, be it blog, or newspaper, or magazine, or novel, or collection of poetry or essay...academic, dense, or simply a list. Even a failed attempt, whatever, I don't care. What excited you?
Sorry all, I've had to turn off comments entirely...backtrack those choices.