I just got done skimming EW’s list of the best 100 books of the last 25 years. I’ll admit that I haven’t read all 100 of the books they’ve got on there, but I do have some thoughts on a few of them.
96. The Da Vinci Code
I was all set to start ragging on this book for all of its fakery and patches of really sloppy writing. I’ve seen DVC so frequently criticised from so many circles I hang out in–church people, avid readers, writers–that the bad parts are fairly well-known to me. (Starting with how the title is strange because “da Vinci” wasn’t the dude’s last name.) Then I remembered how much fun I had reading it. I did, you know. The puzzles were interesting and if you just accepted that we were living in Brown’s (or his wife’s) fictionalised framework, then it was a good way to spend the afternoon. And while so much of the writing was clunky-patchy, the fact was that whichever Brown was responsible for the plot finally wove together the general story of Christ’s lost bloodline and the vast conspiracy to cover it up in an entertaining way. That’s something that the dozens of other books on the subject which came before could never do.
93. A Thousand Acres
After reading this book I vowed to never read anything else by Jane Smiley ever again. Despite the conceit of reworking King Lear into the modern setting of an American farm, this book just fails miserably in its attempt be original. In fact, if it were not for that brush-up-your-Shakespeare setting, this story would have been a great Lifetime movie. Hey, wait. Now that I think about it, EW actually criticised the movie based on the book as being “Lifetime”ish. They blamed the makers of the movie, but honestly I think the whole molestation twist corrupted the source material.
87. The Ruins
No. I don’t care what Stephen King says, this was a bloody, gory, awful thing with no redeeming qualities at all.
86. And The Band Played On
It’s a shame this was published in 1987. It should be higher on the list, because it was a much more important book. This single book changed the way publishers allowed authors to represent gay people in fiction. Prior to Randy Shilts’ groundbreaking work, gay people in mass market fiction were generally cautionary tells or cardboard characterisations.
73. A Prayer For Owen Meany
This should have been ranked higher. In my own personal list this book usually vies with To Kill A Mockingbird for Best Book Ever. I won’t presume that in the scope of things it really was the best book of the last 25 years, but it certainly was better than many which are listed above it. (Waiting To Exhale is at number 52? For reals?)
40. His Dark Materials
How come Rowling only gets one book (Goblet Of Fire) on the list, while Pullman’s entire series is considered worthy of inclusion as a whole? I realise that there are three times the number of pages in Rowling’s infinitely better works, but believe me when I say that they are really thematically one epic book. And a better epic book than Pullman’s.
1. The Road
I suppose I just ought to read this. I normally love dystopian post-apocalyptic fiction. I just can’t get past my prejudiced view that this particular book is just a sexed-up reworking of A Canticle For Leibowitz. I wonder why EW put it at number one. There are at least a dozen other books farther down the list (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; Bel Canto ) which seem like worthy candidates of the top spot. I suppose I should get my hands on this to check it out. Hey. Maybe that’s it. They wanted a more front-list title to top the list for sales reasons.