I was reviewing the old Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century roster that was put out way back at the turn of the century by the Modern Library board. (Some people waste time searching for videos on Youtube... I surf for book lists.) Anyhow, to review: Modern Library, a publishing subsidiary of Random House which reprints "classics," came up with this list back in 1998 which created quite a stir among the masses of unwashed readers, who were then allowed to vote on their own favorites. The differences between the two lists are significant. In fact, in the top 10, there is no overlap. While the Board selected fairly predictably, with such titles as Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Brave New World, and The Grapes of Wrath; the readers' put four books by Ayn Rand and three by L. Ron Hubbard in their top ten ranks. Should I be proud that I have read eight out of the top 10 of the board's picks, or ashamed (as a librarian) that I have only read three of the "readers" selections? (The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984)
Ayn Rand, mighty popular author and her popular book
I confess to the world that I have not read Ayn Rand. Nope, not Atlas Shrugged (#1), The Fountainhead (#2), Anthem (#7), nor We the Living (#8). Where have I been all these years? Too busy off in a corner, re-reading Gatsby for the tenth time, I guess.
A young L. Ron
Nor have I cracked open a book by L. Ron Hubbard, although I remember seeing a paperback copy of his Dianetics book floating around the house when I was a wee child in the 70s. I am not a big fan of science fiction, so something tells me I probably won't be thumbing through one of his any time soon.
The readers' list also contained three books by an author I had never even heard of: Nevil Shute. After some investigation, I found that he was a very popular author of commercial fiction in the 1950s and 60s and the author of On the Beach (yes, the one that was made into a 1959 film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner). I am guessing that many of the readers who cast votes for the Modern Library list must be "of a certain age." Meaning, quite a bit older than me. But with post-apocolyptic novels in vogue today, it might be u
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