A family friend pointed me to Newsweek's Top 100 Books, which is a mashup of several different Top 100 lists. The results are utterly bizarre:
- War and Peace clocks in at number one, making it (apparently) "the best book ever written." Poor Shakespeare, though, is stuck at 49-52. My line of work is a virtual wasteland: no Dickens, no Thackeray, no Bronte sisters, no Romantic or Victorian poets. Eighteenth-century England is reduced to Swift (no Defoe, no Richardson, no Pope).
- I gather that poetry is anathema to those who compile Top 100 lists. There's Homer, Dante, Chaucer, Whitman, and Shakespeare...and that's it.
- So is drama, unless your name is Bill Shakespeare.
- Apparently, people who compile Top 100 lists also don't read anything that isn't part of "Western Civilization" (except for Chinua Achebe and Chairman Mao). If we're just sticking to recognizable classics, where's The Tale of Genji? The Ramayana? The Mahabharata? One Thousand and One Nights?
- I count over seventy books published in the twentieth century. That seems a trifle...foreshortened.
- No Don Quixote?!
- Bizarre assortment of Great Literature, Pop Bestsellers, and Random Political Works, with the occasional nod to Religion.
- I see only fifteen books originally published in some language other than English. (Including the Bible.) Even as a Greatest Hits of Western Civilization (Plus Achebe and Mao), this is weird.
- One could go on. "Debating" this list seems impossible--on what terms could you possibly debate it, given that the mashup has no obvious relation to logic, taste, literary-intellectual history, or any other organizational principle? I can point out all the bonkers omissions (and inclusions, for that matter), but that's not the same thing as debating...