Before The Book of Lists and before Internet listicles, people argued what was the best in just about any category. And that was the concept behind The Best, a book that entertainingly lays out what the authors think is the best in dozens of categories – and the reason for it.
I don’t know where the idea or the authors came from, but it was an inspired idea. Covering topics like “The Best Science Fiction Novel” (Arthur Bester’s The Stars My Destination). the best Pepperidge Farm Cookie (Geneva), the Best Television Show (The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show), the Best Vice President (which shows that snark existed even back then: William Wheeler, who only lasted a month in office) and many other categories.
It’s really the sort of thing that places like Cracked is doing now, though they didn’t always go for the laughs. But the book was a big enough success to spawn a sequel in 1977, The Best, Encore,* with topics like The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie (Mrs. A’s Choco-Crunch),** the Best Roller Coaster (Thunderbolt in Pittsburgh), and the Best Way to Skin a Cat (dermestid beetles).
The series ended there. The books are extremely dated by now – not only have prices for items gone up, but many of the names are obscure nowadays. Still, it was an nice entertainment that was ahead of its time.
*by Passell only.
**This was one of their few actual tests comparing what they were talking about. It’s a bogus taste taste, though, since it didn’t include Freihofer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.