Thursday, February 26, 2009

25 Most Influential Books of the Last 25 Years

So, a someone on a listserv I'm on posted to us all about an article in the most recent Mental Floss magazine about the 25 most influential books of the last 25 years. The list is...interesting. I thought you guys would want to see it and possibly to discuss. Here's the list:
  1. And The Band Played On - Randy Shilts
  2. Maus - Art Spiegelman
  3. Listening To Prozac - Peter D. Kramer
  4. Thinking In Pictures - Temple Grandin
  5. Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich
  6. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
  7. The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
  8. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
  9. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
  10. The Easy Way To Stop Smoking - Allen Carr
  11. A Perfect Spy - John le Carre
  12. What Is The What - Dave Eggers
  13. On Writing - Stephen King
  14. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
  15. The Known World - Edward P. Jones
  16. Harry Potter and The Sorceror's (Philosopher's) Stone - J.K. Rowling
  17. How Proust Can Change Your Life - Alain de Botton
  18. The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe
  19. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
  20. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
  21. Beloved - Toni Morrison
  22. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  23. Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
  24. Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynne Truss
  25. The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
I've read five of these, which is way fewer than I would have thought. For the curious, I've read Middlesex, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Beloved and Eats, Shoots & Leaves. And while I adore the Harry Potter books...really? Most influential of the last 25 years? I guess it inspired a lot of kids to read, and it's a long time since anything did that...and now all of those kids who cut their reading teeth on Harry Potter when it came out are obssessed with Twilight! And I've never met anyone else who's ever read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, so I'm not sure how powerful that one was either. It would be awesome if it had been though; maybe then I could go to a chain restaurant without seeing the heading "Wine's" on the wine list.

I guess I'm also sort of wondering what is meant by "influential." Influential on what? Popular culture? Academics? Other writers? I'm not sure. Some that I'm surprised are not on the list include Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan), Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay (Michael Chabon), Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), The Giver (Lois Lowry), The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)...I could keep going. I would replace several of the books on the list above with these.

How many on the list have you guys read? Do you agree with the list? Are there others you would have included or any you'd remove? Remember, they have to have been published in the last 25 years, so from 1984 on!

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