24 September 2009

Best of the Millennium!

The Millions polled a bunch of writers to come up with a fun list of really good books:
It’s a bit early, of course, to pass definitive judgment on the literary legacy of the ’00s, or how it stacks up against that of the 1930s, or 1850s. Who knows what will be read 50 years from now? But, with the end of the decade just a few months away, it seemed to us at The Millions a good time to pause and take stock, to call your attention to books worthy of it, and perhaps to begin a conversation.
As of this writing, they haven't revealed the top two, but numbers 3-20 are there, and it's a good list -- I'm amazed, actually, at how many of them I've read all or part of. There's not a book on there I would fight vociferously against including, even if novels like Gilead aren't really to my taste (though I've used that book in a couple of classes, so I wouldn't say I hate it ... I just don't see what it seems everybody else on Earth sees in Marilynne Robinson's writing). I wouldn't arrange the books in the order arranged in the list, and actually would probably not put them in any order other than alphabetical, but that's probably true of all the contributors as well -- it's a survey. I'd also probably choose Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners over Stranger Things Happen only because "Lull" and "Stone Animals" are my favorite of Kelly's stories.

Scott Esposito has posted some interesting thoughts on the choices, and I'm sure other people have as well.

I usually can't resist lists, but if I had been asked to "name up to five books available in English with an original-language publication date no earlier than Jan. 1, 2000", I have no sure idea what I would have named. I probably would have tried for some that might otherwise not get much mention because of the various voters' lack of familiarity with them -- books, for instance, by guys named Jeff (Shriek, The Empire of Ice Cream).

Or maybe I would have gone with books that always come to my mind when I think of recent fiction that has particularly impressed me (Oh Pure & Radiant Heart, People of Paper, Octavian Nothing 1, Dark Reflections [this latter book being one that is more impressive every time I return to it -- true of the others, as well, but Dark Reflections is one that it really took me multiple reads to fully appreciate]).

Or, well, I don't know.

I just looked up M. John Harrison's Light and Things That Never Happen, the publication dates of which I couldn't remember, and they do qualify (both 2002), so one of them at least should certainly be on the list. And probably a few things I've forgotten but will remember seconds after publishing this post.

But if you're looking for some good, serious reading, you could do a lot worse than to try out the books on The Millions list.

Update (9/26/09): And the winner is ... The Corrections. Huh. Well, it's a survey, and inevitably the item most common to various lists will be safe, solid, and underwhelming.

2 comments:

  1. I too thought the Millions list was interesting and far from awful. At a glance, it seems lacking in translated titles, although I don't know offhand which I'd include. I immediately thought of M. John Harrison's absence, but I probably wouldn't have remembered Octavian Nothing if you hadn't reminded me. Definitely worth a spot somewhere on there, I'd say.

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  2. When I got to no. W I looked ledt looked right breathed out and said uhhh

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