THE 75 BEST BOOKS OF THE PAST 75 YEARS By Ann Patchett in PARADE MAGAZINE

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Diane called me attention to this list in the latest issue of Parade Magazine which gets delivered in our Sunday Buffalo News. It’s an eccentric list. I’ve read about 60 percent of the books. Some books, like When Breath Becomes Air and The Lion and the Mouse, I’d never heard of. You can find a downloadable list of these books here.  How many of these books have you read?  What titles did Ann Pratchett omit?

1940s:

# 1 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith
# 2 Brideshead Revisited-Evelyn Waugh
# 3 The Hero with a Thousand Faces-Joseph Campbell
# 4 All the King’s Men-Robert Penn Warren

1950s:
# 5 The End of the Affair-Graham Greene
# 6 Foundation-Isaac Asimov
# 7 Charlotte’s Web-E. B. White
# 8 Invisible Man-Ralph Ellison
# 9 The Old Man and the Sea-Ernest Hemingway
# 10 Fahrenheit 451-Ray Bradbury
# 11 The Long Goodbye-Raymond Chandler
# 12 A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
# 13 Lolita-Vladimir Nabokov
# 14 Giovanni’s Room-James Baldwin
# 15 The Civil War by Shelby Foote
# 16 The Once and Future King-T. H. White
# 17 Nine Stories-J. D. Salinger

1960s:
# 18 Night-Elie Wiesel
# 19 The Rabbit Quartet-John Updike
# 20 Mastering the Art of French Cooking-Julia Child
# 21 To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee
# 22 The Moviegoer-Walker Percy
# 23 The Bell Jar-Sylvia Plath
# 24 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-Ken Kesey
# 25 Silent Spring-Rachel Carson
# 26 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions-Thomas S. Kuhn
# 27 A Wrinkle in Time-Madeleine L’Engle
# 28 The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
# 29 Where The Wild Things Are-Maurice Sendak
# 30 The Autobiography of Malcolm X-Alex Haley
# 31 In Cold Blood-Truman Capote
# 32 The Double Helix-James D. Watson
# 33 Slaughterhouse-Five-Kurt Vonnegut

1970s:
# 34 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee-Dee Brown
# 35 Burr-Gore Vidal
# 36 Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison
# 37 Suttree-Cormac McCarthy
# 38 The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy-Douglas Adams

1980s:
# 39 Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
# 40 Housekeeping-Marilynne Robinson
# 41 Maus-Art Spiegelman
# 42 A People’s History of the United States-Hward Zinn
# 43 So Long, See You Tomorrow-William Maxwell
# 44 A Perfect Spy-John le Carre

1990s:
# 45 The Things They Carried-Tim O’Brien
# 46 All Over But the Shoutin’-Rick Bragg
# 47 The Secret History-Donna Tartt
# 48 The Stone Diaries-Carol Shields
# 49 The Collected Stories of Grace Paley
# 50 Last Train to Memphis-Peter Guralnick
# 51 The Color of Water-James McBride
# 52 Harry Potter Series-J.K. Rowling
# 53 American Pastoral-Philip Roth
# 54 Interpreter of Maladies-Jhumpa Lahiri
# 55 On Writing-Stephen King
# 56 Speak-Laurie Halse Anderson

2000s
# 57 The Blind Assassin-Margaret Atwood
# 58 Old Filth-Jane Gardam
# 59 Collected Poems-Jane Kenyon
# 60 Consider the Lobster-David Foster Wallace
# 61 Never Let Me Go-Kazun Ishiguro
# 62 Team of rivals-Doris Kearns Goodwin
# 63 We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live-Joan Didion
# 64 What Is the What-Dave Eggers
# 65 Brother, I’m Dying-Edwidge Danticat
# 66 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian-Sherman Alexie
# 67 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao-Junot Diaz
# 68 The Lion and the Mouse-Jerry Pinkney
# 69 Wolf Hall-Hilary Mantel

2010s
# 70 New Selected Stories-Alice Munro
# 71 Collected Poems-Jack Gilbert
# 72 The Patrick Melrose Novels-Edward St. Aubyn
# 73 My Name is Lucy Barton-Elizabeth Strout
# 74 When Breath Becomes Air-Paul Kalanithi
# 75 Brown Girl Dreaming-Jacqueline Woodson

24 thoughts on “THE 75 BEST BOOKS OF THE PAST 75 YEARS By Ann Patchett in PARADE MAGAZINE

  1. Deb

    I’ve read 27. But I notice that number is heavily weighted toward the older books: I’ve read almost everything she lists for the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, then there’s a drop-off. Also, I like how she intersperses fiction and nonfiction–although, much as I love Julia Child, can a cookbook really be “read”?

    Reply
    1. Deb

      As for omissions, I think she should have found a place for a 1940s or 1950s Agatha Christie. And where is CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES?

      Reply
      1. george Post author

        Deb, yes, there should be a Christie on that list from the 1940s when she was at the top of her game. CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES and THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG should be on this list.

    2. george Post author

      Deb, the inclusion of a cookbook makes this list “eccentric” to me. And, like you, I’ve read many of the older titles. Some of the newer books I’ve never heard of.

      Reply
  2. Bill Crider

    I’ve read quite a few of them, but there are several I haven’t heard of and several I don’t think I’d ever want to read.

    Reply
  3. Jeff Meyerson

    Jackie read me the list yesterday. I also read a bunch of them 33 – especially the older ones. Titles I expected to see there include CATCH-22 and LONESOME DOVE.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you’re right about CATCH-22. It’s an iconic title! And I’d include LONESOME DOVE, too. But what to remove to make room…

      Reply
  4. Jerry House

    I’m not too much of a “best books” kind of guy and more of a “musty paperback” kind of guy. That said, I’m surprised she didn’t include Tom Robbins. Asimov and Bradbury are here (and perhaps a better selection could have been made for each), but where are Clarke and Heinlein, or Bester, or Leiber, or Tiptree? A passing nod to mysteries and a complete shutout for westerns (SHANE, The OX-BOW INCIDENT, McMurtry, Kelton…). When are they going to stop calling these lists “Best” and change them to “Things I Really Liked”?

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you’re right about the dangers of labeling anything (even books) “The Best.” Westerns didn’t get a lot of love from Ann Patchett and her crew. Science fiction is underrepresented, too.

      Reply
  5. Wolf Böhrendt

    I’ve read almost half (or tried to read some, which I put away again quickly …) – but of course this list is only for Anglophiles (or USA-philes even …).

    Is this typical again – ignore the rest of the world?

    We Europeans on the other hand look up sometimes to the USA – too much imho!

    Reply
    1. Jeff Meyerson

      Wolf, you’re right. It is very typical of most US-based lists. But since it was in the All-American (or Middle American, depending how you look at it) Parade Magazine it really isn’t surprising.

      Reply
    2. george Post author

      Wolf, many American readers lack the translations of European and Asian works. Most publishers don’t see them as money-makers.

      Reply
  6. Patti Abbott

    38. And I could name 75 just as worthy. Too subjective. And it is way too anglo-centric. I read the most from the middle year picks.

    Reply
  7. maggie

    One mystery on the list? SF had much better representation. ( I don’t consider wolf hall or the donna tartt a mystery, do you?) I find the Alex Haley choice interesting, surely Roots was more deserving, at least for the impact it had. Also felt that way about Dave Eggers & his “staggering work” and David Foster Wallace and Infinite jest. I’m guessing the Julia Child was in there for impact. Can’t remember the title of the Tim O’Brian book I would have expected to see there. Agree about the missing westerns. Agatha Christie – my choice would have been Murder of Roger Ackroyd, still remember my jaw dropping at the end. And no PG Wodehouse?? though that would be hard to pick a “best”. I don’t recognize anything from the 2010’s, at least by name, though the covers may be familiar.

    Reply
      1. george Post author

        Maggie, Simenon has written many novels in different styles. You just haven’t found the one that appeals to you yet. I have over 100 Simenons still to read.

  8. Richard R.

    I saw the list yesterday, and am unimpressed, but one person’s “best” is another person’s “meh”. I certainly think DEATH OF A SALESMAN should have been on a list like this.

    Reply
  9. steve oerkfitz

    No Lonesome Done, Blood Meridian, Catch 22, Executioners Song, Cats Cradle, Stars My Destination, Left Hand of Darkness? Love Simenon hate Christie.
    Everybodys list is going to be different. This list-esp in the later years-seems geared to books read in book clubs.

    Reply

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