Top Tens: Their Silliness, Their Allure

March 27, 2007 | 14 books mentioned

Longtime Millions reader Laurie sent in her reaction to all these “top ten” book lists that have been floating around in recent months, while also, of course, sharing her own:

coverIn the wake of the release of The Top Ten, [there is also a Web site] a collection of top ten books chosen by 125 British and American writers, the Washington Post is soliciting readers’ top ten picks.

These exercises are fun, but I hope no one takes them seriously. The lists they receive (like mine) will lean toward American/British books, with a smattering of European titles, partly because American schools emphasize Western literature. Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber should be as well known as War and Peace, but most Americans have never heard of it. Even when we have read the non-Western classics, we tend to favor the familiar — my list included The Old Man & the Sea and To Kill A Mockingbird, but Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji and Abolqasem Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh are probably greater works.

What do you want to bet, though, that like the Modern Library a few years ago, they get inundated with a lot of lists that include Battlefield Earth?!

My top ten (not set in stone, except for Heart of Darkness):

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain
  2. The Old Man and the SeaErnest Hemingway
  3. Heart of DarknessJoseph Conrad
  4. Portrait of the Artist As a Young ManJames Joyce
  5. To Kill A MockingbirdHarper Lee
  6. Don QuixoteCervantes
  7. The Iliad & The OdysseyHomer
  8. The Dream of the Red Chamber – Cao Xueqin
  9. War & PeaceLeo Tolstoy
  10. Oedipus the KingSophocles

Thanks Laurie!

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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