Let's do this thing

I have read none of the books on the recently released New York Times list of the 'best works of American literature published in the last 25 years'. This makes me feel inadequate, so naturally I seek for alternative explanations that will place the blame squarely on the list, as opposed to on myself.

After a little digging, I find one. Via The Elegant Variation I found this mediabistro rant. The New York Times surveyed a list of a couple hundred a couple of hundred prominent "writers, critics, editors". But those judges are entirely old media. No bloggers! We have been snubbed!

I nominate myself as the conductor of a similar survey among authorities of the blogosphere. I will be emailing prominent literary weblog owners and asking them to nominate "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." Criteria for inclusion: you must have a blog that writes about books.

Or, since this is an inclusive era, you can add a comment or email me at mapletree spam @geocities.com. Identify yourself by your online screenname and 'site' of residence and I will include your vote.

May the best book win!


Maxine said...

I think The Color Purple just about makes it under the wire for the 25-year deadline?
Is it OK to vote for that? I loved it when I read it, but it was ages ago. It made me cry, which is a pretty good indicator of an excellent book, I think.
I suppose people would say it isn't very literary, but, as we say over here, I am a bit of a pleb!

Thanks for asking my opinion.
all best

mapletree7 said...

Hun, as far as I'm concerned you can vote for Alan Dean Foster's novelixzation of Star Wars if you want!

Maxine said...

But you draw the line at Da Vinci, right? ;-)

Have just posted at Petrona, by the way, so I hope my many readers (about 10 of them) will be over to vote too.

I also see that Frank Wilson has posted a link on Books, Inq, which should bring you about 1000 times more voters than Petrona!

Looking forward to your result.

mapletree7 said...


And yes. Since I am making the rules, no-one is allowed to vote for The Da Vinci Code. Good catch there.

Kate R said...

Along those lines, if I vote for anything by RJ Waller you really won't throw me? I'm not going to vote for him--I'm just checking.

mapletree7 said...

Cross my heart and hope to die.

bookstore girl said...

I cannot pick my favourite, but I am a big fan of Paul Auster's stuff. I was actually surprised that he didn't get on the list, considering he met the criteria of being a middle aged white man.

Janelle Martin said...

Tough choice but if I can only vote for one, then it has to be Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

Kate R said...

for some reason...I have to spend days and days on this. I'll do it in my blog.

mapletree7 said...

Take your time, everybody - I'm going to need several days to make a good pick myself. And I'll announce a deadline before summarizing the responses I've gotten.

SAND STORM said...

Thanks for the e-mail.
My choice may be a bit older Winds of War and War and Rememberance by Herman Wouk.
WofW was early to mid seventies I think, but WandR was 78-79 if I remember correctly.

Richard Mason said...

A popular/populist shortlist:
The Cider House Rules, John Irving
The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow
Neuromancer, William Gibson

My personal choice:
Soldier of the Mists, Gene Wolfe

Richard Mason said...

Wait, I'm tempted to change my vote to Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry.

Joe said...

Morrison and McCarthy are worthy choices for the top of the list, but I'd go with Infinite Jest, which is as devastating as it is daunting.

Richard Mason said...

I got a copy of All the Pretty Horses to see what the fuss was about. It is okay so far. It is set in a parallel-universe version of 1949 Texas, similar to our own reality except that the comma, apostrophe, and quotation mark have not been invented.

Quillhill said...

Well, I just checked the list, and I have not read any of those novels either. Oh well, I emailed my choices. I look forward to the results.

~brb said...

What Richard Mason said. That's a good shortlist.

"Best" is such an elusive quality. In the past 25 years there have probably been ten thousand brilliant novels by gifted writers that have, for one reason or another, sold just 300 copies and then vanished forever into Remainder Hell. "Best" isn't a good enough criteria; it also must have been a successful and influential book.

With that in mind, I'd like to nominate John Grisham's The Firm and Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October for the shortlist. Neither are particularly scintillating writing, but Dear God, were they ever influential!

Anonymous said...

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
An absolute modern day classic.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, how could I forget This Present Darkness, Piercing The Darkness, and The Oath?
Almost anything Peretti.

Sam Pakan said...

Best thing I've read in a very long time: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Second choice would be Snow Falling on Cedars by what's his name? Oh yeah, Dan Guterson, I think.

gin-h said...

This is a hard assignment. There are so many choices.

I have to place my vote with:
Leif Enger - Peace Like A River (a popular choice, I see)
Jacqueline Guidry - The Year The Colored Sisters Came To Town (fewer people have read this one, but it's quite wonderful)

I, too, felt completely inadequate when perusing the list of the critics top 100. Not only had I not read most of them, I don't want to. But I suppose I eventuall will, since I, too, live to read!!

Anthony said...

Top Five:

Erica Jong Fanny
Samuel Delany Hogg
Annie Prolux Close Range
Toni Morrison Beloved
Ishmael Reed Mumbo Jumbo

bookdelle said...

I found you from blog bibliophilebullpen.
My votes:
A Prayer For Owen Meany (actually the works of John Irving as NYT did for John Updike)

New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber

Susan Boyer said...

My votes:

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen

Susan Boyer said...


...and The Evening Star by Larry McMurtry

Jessica said...

Okay, I'm Canadian, but I'm going to weight in with my opinion as well. My top pick is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Runners up: Annie Proulx's The Shipping News,
Alice Walker's The Colour Purple and John Irving's A Widow for One Year.

When I was giving this some thought and scanning my bookshelves for the books with the most worn spines (a measure of my affection), I noticed that I really read very little current American fiction. I seem to read more "classic" American stuff (Faulkner, Cather). I'll definitely have to check out some of the books other readers have suggested in their comments.

Linera Lucas said...


I have a litblog http://lineralucas.blogspot.com/

and would like to vote for the best American novel of the past 25 years, as I too read the NYTimes article and disagreed fiercely with the results.

My vote is for THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Please refer to me as Linera Lucas at blog.

thank you for doing this,

Linera Lucas

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