The Alternative List: Explanation and FAQ

So, as regular readers will know, I am compiling an alternative list of best American fiction published within the last 25 years, because the recently released New York Times list was unsatisfactory for many reasons. The most relevant of which is that they surveyed a bunch of 'writers, reviewers, and critics' who are all OLD MEDIA!

Screw that.

My goal is to survey litbloggers and gather nominations for an alternative list, as I detailed in my original post.

I've received many responses, but not enough to rival the New York Times' 'couple of hundred' sources.

No clear leader has emerged.

I've just sent emails to another hundred-odd bloggers asking them for their nominations. And a lot of them are going to be at the BEA. So I'm going to extend the voting time until the end of May.

However you came across this post, I want your vote. Here's the FAQ.

1) Why did you email me?

Because you have a literary blog.

2) Do I know you?

Probably not. Vote anyhow.

3) But I'm not American!

That's OK by me as long as you have an opinion.

4) Can I nominate anything or does it have to be respectable?

You can nominate any book that is American, fiction, and was published within the past 25 years. Except for The Da Vinci Code.

5) Why can't I nominate The Da Vinci Code?

Because I hate it and I am making the rules.

6) I want to nominate something that was published 28 years ago. Can I?

Sure. But it won't win. And who wants to vote for a loser?

7) I want to vote for more than one book. Can I?


8) I already voted but you emailed me again!

Sorry about that. Maybe I lost your vote or made a mistake. I am trying to email everyone back to confirm their vote.

9) Can I ask other people to vote?

Yes, please do! Anyone who has a blog and blogs about books can vote. Please pass it along to as many people as possible.

10) I co-edit a blog that has more than one contributor. Can we all vote?


11) How are you keeping track of the votes?

With the magic of spreadsheets.

12) Why didn't you email me with an invitation to vote?

I tried to email everyone whose blog is listed on the Complete Review. But there were many blogs where I could not find an email for the author. And if the blog was very out of date, I did not send an email. Or maybe I just missed you. Sorry! Vote anyhow!

13) How can I vote?

Email me at mapletree antispam at Include your vote and any comments. Please also include the name of your blog and tell me how you would like to be referenced when I publish the whole list. Or just post in the comments thread in this post or this post.


LeVostreGC said...

Whyt Noyse, by Don Of Lillo

mapletree7 said...

Thanks, Geoff!

Rachel said...

I need to think about this a bit more, but in the meantime check out this other alternative list:

Katy said...

I can't believe no one's voted yet for Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. I thought it was the best, most amazing novel I'd ever read. Usually when I think something is the "best ever," I change my mind eventually. It's been a year, and I haven't changed my mind.

I'd give a close second place to Walter Wangerin Jr.'s Book of the Dun Cow, and its sequel, The Book of Sorrows.

And third place would be Leif Enger's Peace Like a River.

All wonderfully unique books that take you on a vacation through the minds of the authors, and send you home changed forever.

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I loved Robinson's Gilead, but I'm going to have vote for A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. Unfortunately, it places us right back in the category of old white male. Yet, in my own personal polls it comes up more often as the most influential novel anyone has read in the last 25 years.

jared said...

White Noise by Don DeLillo
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Moon Palace by Paul Auster
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

-- Jared Wilson, Mysterium Tremendum lit-blog

Matt Mikalatos said...

Carter Beats the Devilby Glen David Gold

mr. waggish said...

The Tunnel, William H. Gass

I don't think anything else comes close.

Debra Hamel said...

What come to mind are Richard Russo's NOBODY'S FOOL and STRAIGHT MAN. I suspect his other books are equally good, but those are the ones I've read.

Isabella said...

The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
Underworld, Don Delillo

I'm slightly less enthusiastic about this one, but want to vote for it anyway:
American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

I'm not sure I want to commit to voting for these ones, but I would love to see them show up one of these types of lists:
Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold (I loved that book! I didn't think anyone else in the world had read it)
House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson

Maureen said...

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

That's my list so far. I know I will think of more.

I just noticed Debra Hamel chose Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. I'll add that to my list too. I loved it just as much as Empire Falls.

Terry said...

The Bathhouse by Farnoosh Moshiri

Maxine said...

This is a link to yet more criticisms and articles about the published list.

François said...

music for torching, by am homes
the new york trilogy, by paul auster
erasure, by percival everett
gain, by richard powers

Zac said...

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, for it's suspense, typography and psychological tour de force

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis, mainly for the first half of the book -before we get lost- for it's atmosphere and style.

Music of chance by Paul Auster, for it's sober storytelling and description of the inevitable

Dorothy W. said...

I'm going to vote for Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I LOVE that book! Thanks for doing this.

Art Durkee said...

I can second "Snow Fallong on Cedars."
"Prodigal Summer," Barbara Kingsolver

Also, although I know this is confined to mainstream novel fiction (an assumption no one has mentioned, but it's there), but honestly, I think most of the great books of teh past 25 years that I've read have been "genre fiction"—and I am referring to good, literary writing, when I opine that. In the past year I've twice devoured Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife," which BTW wasn't published as genre fiction. One of the most memorable reads I've had, ever, was Samuel R. Delany's "Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand."

mapletree7 said...

F-Everyone's-I - I've received quite a few votes for so-called 'genre' books. So no-one should hesitate to cast their votes in that direction.

tambo said...

In no particular order (other than the eclectic arrangement of my bookshelves):

American Gods - Neil Gaiman
The Lovely Bones - Anne Sebold
A Time to Kill - John Grisham
What's Eating Gilbert Grape - Peter Hedges
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
The Cider House Rules - John Irving

Sherry said...

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Peace Like a RIver by Leif Enger
River Rising by Athol Dickson
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead
A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle

rachel said...

My vote goes to VAS by Steve Tomasula. Or maybe Wakenight Emporium by A.B. West. Had If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino been published just a year later, that would have been my pick. Some of Delaney's books deserve a place on the list, too.

DuneFan said...

My list would include:

* The Harry Potter novels. The literacy level of young people has steadily increased since the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
* Beach Music by Pat Conroy
* A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, and Clay’s Quilt by Silas House
* Jan Karon’s Mitford Series
* The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
* The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniBook of the Day
* Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
* A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
* The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
* The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
* Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

Go in peace…serve the Lord!

Book Nerd said...

Sorry to vote so late! Here are my picks:

THE TIME OF OUR SINGING by Richard Powers (unjustly neglected literary genius' book about race, family, music, science, and American history)

THE FEAST OF LOVE by Charles Baxter (just the most ingenious and lovely book ever)

Probably THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen should get a vote, though I haven't read it -- it's certainly been influential and important in recent cultural memory.

a.berg said...

I was glad to find this linked as it was from Ron Silliman's blog. I'd only just this morning read the New York Times list and found it insufficient, boring (aside from McCarthy's Blood Meridian), as in-your-face patriarchal. So...

I vote Mary Burger's "Sonny" (Leon Works). Easily the best experiemental work I read this year.

mass hysteria said...

"First Light" by Charles Baxter

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