Comparing the New York Times and Washington Post’s Best of 2012 Lists

Back in December, I find myself wondering what the difference between all these lists were. The New York Times, Washington Post, Amazon, EW, everyone and their mother was putting out “Best of” lists. I know this happens every year. But this year, I got to thinking “What is the difference between all these lists?” I started with just comparing ten lists and compiling which fiction and non-fiction works appeared most frequently across lists.

I also wanted to see what the difference was between the New York Times’ best 100 books and the Washington Post‘s top 50 fiction and top 50 non-fiction books was.  And * drum roll * there wasn’t much agreement in the non-fiction lists. Five books appeared on both lists (in non-alphabetical order).

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan (Rajiv Chandrasekaran)

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan (Rajiv Chandrasekaran)

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines - and Future (Karen Elliot House)

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future (Karen Elliot House)

The Passage of Power (Robert A. Caro)

The Passage of Power (Robert A. Caro)

The Social Conquest of the Earth (Edward O. Wilson)

The Social Conquest of the Earth (Edward O. Wilson)

Thomas Jefferson - The Art of Power (Jon Meacham)

Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power (Jon Meacham)

There was more agreement among fiction books – 15 books appeared on both papers’ “Best of” lists. This included (also in non-alphabetical order):

Alif the Unseen (G. Willow Wilson)

Alif the Unseen (G. Willow Wilson)

Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter)

Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter)

Dear Life (Alice Munro)

Dear Life (Alice Munro)

Home (Toni Morrison)

Home (Toni Morrison)

NW (Zadie Smith)

NW (Zadie Smith)

The Round House (Louise Erdrich)

The Round House (Louise Erdrich)

The Yellow Birds (Kevin Powers)

The Yellow Birds (Kevin Powers)

Watergate A Novel (Thomas Mallon)

Watergate A Novel (Thomas Mallon)

The Devil in Silver (Victor LaValle)

The Devil in Silver (Victor LaValle)

Gods Without Men (Hari Kunzru)

Gods Without Men (Hari Kunzru)

Gathering of Waters (Bernice McFadden)

Gathering of Waters (Bernice McFadden)

Flight Behavior (Barbara Kingsolver)

Flight Behavior (Barbara Kingsolver)

This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz)

This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz)

Telegraph Avenue (Michael Chabon)

Telegraph Avenue (Michael Chabon)

I guess intuitively it makes sense. The range of non-fiction books is a lot bigger than the range of fiction books which means that there is more competition for audiences/markets. This then eats into the overall readership #s (for non fiction books). This seems to be true too if I factor in the other book lists as well – there as a lot more agreement regarding core fiction books that were considered generally the best vs. core non fiction books. Practically, this is interesting for me anyway because I’m still trying to figure out what I want to read this year. 🙂

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