The Temptation of “Best of the Year” Lists

During December, “best of the year” lists pop up all over the place. The best books of the year. The best albums of the year. The best movies of the year. They’re already cropping up and, by the end of the month, you’ll find it difficult to throw a rock without hitting one.

(If you want a prime example, here’s NPR’s selection of 200 of the best books of 2013.)

As an avid reader and a fan of many types of music, I tend to enjoy reading these lists, but there’s a pretty big catch.

They pretty much exist only to create temptation.

Take, for example, that NPR list I linked to above. When I look at it, I notice several books that I’ve read this year, and then I’m immediately curious about the other books that they identify as being on the same level as those books.

When other sites have a top ten or a top fifty or a top one hundred list of the best books or movies or albums or board games of the year, I quickly become curious about the items near the top of those lists.

Unsurprisingly, I find myself learning more about those top books and movies and music and games of the year and, unsurprisingly, that can easily be followed by temptation to buy.

It’s pretty easy to understand why book publishers and film producers and music companies love these kinds of lists. They provide a great opportunity for more people to get exposure to their products – and if people know about their products, they’re more likely to buy them.

In years past, I would follow these kinds of lists and often find myself loading up an online shopping cart with the items or writing them down for my next trip to the store.

Now? I still read the lists and I still have interest in recommended books.

Instead of buying them, though, I turn to my library’s website. I go on their site, add books to my reserve list, and then wait. Since I always have a few books to read, I don’t mind waiting for a few weeks or a few months for a copy of the book to become available. When it’s there, I just stop by the library and pick it up – for free. I do the same thing with DVDs.

I still find these kinds of lists interesting, but I no longer find them to simply be an excuse to buy things.

If you struggle with temptation and haven’t found an outlet for it (as I’ve found in my local library), I strongly encourage you to avoid these types of lists. They’re simply pure temptation.

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