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Photo by Colleen Durkin (colleendurkin.com). Trophy by Best of Chicago winner I Am Home.

The most incisive—or dare I say best—analysis I’ve heard of contemporary culture’s preoccupation with getting the best of anything and everything comes from Aziz Ansari:

“We always want the best. Whatever we’re doing, we want to do the best, funnest thing. Whatever we’re buying, we want the best,” the comedian says in his latest stand-up special, Live at Madison Square Garden. “The other day I had to get a toothbrush, and before even thinking about it, I googled ‘best toothbrush.’”

His regard for oral hygiene aside, Ansari makes a larger point about today’s “debilitating” information overload: “Now it’s gotten to the point where before I make any choice or decision in my life, I have to google something to make sure I’m not fucking it up.”

Taking note of the epidemic cream-of-the-crop complex Ansari describes might not seem like most harmonious—and certainly not the best—lead-in to the Reader’s big annual Best of Chicago issue. After all, we could be tempted to feel as if we’re merely piling on, further afflicting those bedeviled by listomania.

And yet we are guiltless. As other publications heap on easy superlatives, our critics have dug deeper, sometimes into ungoogleable territory. How else (until now) could you get information on the city’s Best Postconfessional Tacos, the Best Secret Microcinema, or the Best Lasers at an Underground Rave?

On other more search-friendly subjects, you weighed in—in droves: during this year’s readers’ poll, more than 175,000 votes were cast in 140 categories such as Best Pizza, Best Sex Toy Shop, and Best Dance Party. And in a first for the Reader, 20 of the most hotly contested races were settled by a runoff—just like Chicago’s mayoral election!

Ultimately, this issue calls attention to everything from the Best Hot Doug’s Stand-In to the Best Hidden Bookstore, the Best Punk-Rock LGBTQ Night to the Best New Tech Development to Make Your Mouth Water. One thing it does not do is impart advice on purchasing a toothbrush. Sorry, Aziz, but we think that’s for the best.

Jake Malooley