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A Griping List, though

I object to the premise of this OUP blognote purporting to have The ultimate reading list, created by librarians. It isn’t.

What they appear to have done is ask a bunch of people at the UKSG conference (I have no idea what UKSG even stands for) which one book couldn’t you live without? They collated the results and call it the ultimate reading list. (I also dispute the librarians part—whatever the letters stand for, UKSG claims to include librarians, publishers, intermediaries and technology vendors. I do understand that the ultimate reading list, created by intermediaries, would have generated fewer clicks. I, for one, wouldn’t have bothered linking to it in querulous complaint.)

The list is fine. A quarter or so written by women, maybe an eighth not-originally-in-the-English-language, a bunch of children’s books, a bunch of Classics, a bunch of recent novels, a bunch of memoirs. It’s an interesting list as a document of what people at such a conference would tell Oxford University Press that they couldn’t live without. It isn’t a reading list.

I mean, what is a reading list? In some sense, I suppose, it’s just a list of books, so in that sense, it obviously is a reading list. In actual use, a reading list is a list of readings for a course on a particular subject, that the instructor expects the students to complete (or at least fake). More Recently, we use the phrase for a curated list of valuable readings either on a particular topic or for a particular purpose. A reading list of PoC specfic. A reading list for understanding what’s going on in Aleppo. A reading list for QUILTBAG teens, a reading list for climate change deniers, a reading list for the contemporary drama. A summer reading list is about as vague and undefined as such a list can usefully be. What’s I’m on about for my purposes, though, is that it’s a list for other people to read.

That’s not what this is. If I were to be asked Vardibidian, which one book couldn’t you live without? my answers would be personal. Scripture, of course, although if I had to name a single book, it would probably be the Avot, and then we have the question of if I consider the Mishnah to be Scripture. If I had to live without The Curse of Chalion or The Mask of Apollo or The Hobbit or my other comfort books, that would stink. I would have been very unhappy trying to raise a child without Hop on Pop or Where the Wild Things Are. I have the OED at home and use it, although mostly I use the on-line version (since I have access through my employer). My Tanach is the Heinz/JPS, my siddur is Mishkan T’filah. My preferred road map was Rand-McNally, back before the pocket computer took care of all that.

That’s great information for y’all to know about me. It’s interesting information to know about lots of people. It’s not a reading list.

And if, as the blognote says, many participants took the question seriously, it’s an even worse reading list. There’s no point in reading a whole bunch of books because a lot of quite varied individuals each picked one. That doesn’t make a list at all. If twenty people each picked a song, it wouldn’t make a playlist—I’d be surprised if it was a listenable hour of music.

Or perhaps I’m just grouchy.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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