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I really wish

there were a site like this and theyshootpictures for literature.

I know that it would be much harder because the history of literature goes back further, while many genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, and thriller, would be overlooked. However, maybe the hypothetical site could get around that by allowing us to browse particular genres, just like acclaimedmusic let's us browse by year/decade. Or maybe it could make separate lists for sci-fi, mystery, etc by using genre-specific all-time lists.

Anyway, just a thought that occurred to me. We have a few of these for music, a few for movies, but the web is missing one important art form: books. And there are thousands of all-time lists out there for literature.

I'm writing this in the hopes that something like this does exist and someone will let me know. Or maybe some bored person out there with spreadsheet skills will see this and make one.

Re: I really wish

Stumbled across this site: http://creativevisionbooks.com/blog/2007/11/04/best-books-of-all-time/

Re: I really wish

some of the lists used to compile this list are restricted (and there's only 6 of them), so it's heavily skewed toward 20th century English/American lit (as you can see)

Re: I really wish

eh, i only liked the great gatsby so-so, which makes me sad. and i pretty strongly dislike brave new world, and i'm not really one to dislike things easily.

but i love 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and others on this list.

Re: I really wish

Thanks for the link! That's actually a good start because 5 of those 6 are some of the more prestigious, if controversial, lists that have been made. Time's and Random House Boards' are especially (in)famous.

However, one caveat. It uses a couple of popular-vote lists. I know that the Random House Readers in particular allowed people to vote multiple times and was badly executed. Exclude popular-vote lists and add in more literary lists in their places, and it would definitely be a great guide.

Re: I really wish

there's also this: http://www.listology.com/content_show.cfm/content_id.22845/Books

it's formidably huge and has some inexplicable omission/exclusion statistics (something like 13 novels by coetzee and not 1 by mccarthy?), but still it's fairly exhaustive

Re: I really wish

hi sean, just try www.librarything.com ! It should be pretty close to what you're looking for!

Re: I really wish

I ran across this once:


It's based on reader's lists, but is the least annoying list I've found (especially cause On The Road is nowhere near the top). However, it also tends to be very European/American with the exception of Marquez.

Re: I really wish

Michael opines:
"eh, i only liked the great gatsby so-so, which makes me sad. and i pretty strongly dislike brave new world, and i'm not really one to dislike things easily."

Gatsby wasn't for me either. Fitzgerald has a gift for prose but the phrase "a snail's pace" was practically invented for the plotline. Can't say I share your opinion on the Huxley book though.

Re: I really wish

I'd definitely like to see more sites like this one for books. I tend to get through books really slowly, so I want to go straight for the ones I'd really enjoy.

I wonder if there's lists exclusive to newer literature. I really enjoyed The Human Stain, White Noise, and Sophie's Choice, but I don't see any Roth, Delillo, or Styron on these lists.

Re: I really wish

That's also an issue, that books are more hit and miss for more people. The same person who recommended me the three I mentioned also recommended Hundred Years Of Solitude. My reaction to that was "Are any of the characters NOT rapists?"

Re: I really wish

My life has revolved around books and literature as much as it’s revolved around anything. But I don’t see much point in an AM-style list for books. For several reasons:

1. The oldest song on AM is 107 years old (as is the oldest movie on TSPDT). The oldest literature in the canon is about 40 times as old as that…perhaps it (barely) makes sense to compare Scott Joplin to M.I.A. or Meliés to Fincher, but it’s absolutely vertigo-inducing to try to compare Gilgamesh to Philip K. Dick. (Most of the lists cited so far lean heavily towards the modern, which is one way around that, although I personally think too much context is missing if most of the forty centuries of literary tradition are omitted from the discussion.)

2. Arguments about the merits of mass media usually take place in front of a mass audience—in magazines, books, TV shows and online. The reading/viewing/websurfing public is implicitly invited to participate. Contrast this with literary discussion, which more often takes place in the academy—and, by the way, academics are generally much less interested in making lists than paid public critics, so you’re gonna have a harder time finding lists, anyway.

3. As BillAdama noted, I think people’s reactions to books vary much more than their reactions to music (I love both Fitzgerald and García Marquez, for instance). I bring much more of myself to books than I do to music (or film). It’s a much more active participation, or maybe just a more solitary one—whereas film and music are both radically communal experiences (the age of iPods and BluRay may change this eventually, but it hasn’t yet). Reading is so personal that I’m not sure creating a consensus list would actually prove anything worth knowing.

With all that negative caviling, I will say that I understand the desire for a really good reading list (just as many of us use AM as a really good “must-listen” list). There are so many great books that one sometimes despairs about what to read next—and books take a lot longer to consume than songs or albums or (most) movies. Still, I’ll stick with wandering randomly through the literary realm.

Re: I really wish

I think most people now a days are just so used to being stimulated and entertained 24/7 that the quiet patience it takes to read a book is almost unheard of.

Re: I really wish

I guess I agree with schleuse.
Reading is so personal and literature is so vast in time and space that a collective list would make no sense.
I believe in individual lists when it comes to books.
That is something we could do. But making a meta-list would prove useless.

Re: I really wish

I agree with Schleuse to a point, but it'd still be nice to have a list of the agreed upon most essential books. I could start with the lists and then ask around to find which ones have the qualities that make me relate to them.

People who read through a book every week or so don't need lists, because they have the time to spend on things they won't like. People like me who read books more at a pace of twenty to thirty pages a day could use a little more direction.

While it may be true that music lists tend to only go back a hundred years, I'm sure if phonographs and means of mass production existed more than a hundred years ago, there'd be more than just classical from those periods to discuss. All the indie of today would just be the talented guy at the local tavern back then.

Re: I really wish

“All the indie of today would just be the talented guy at the local tavern back then.”

Well said, Mr. Bill…that’s a great image.

I wasn’t even going to get into the whole classical/pop, highbrow/lowbrow distinction in music, but that question is almost as vexing in literature. On the one hand, you’ve got your Milton, your Dostoevsky, your Mann—the “classical” stuff. On the other hand, there’s the pop stuff—Tolkien, Lovecraft, Doyle, and so on. How you reconcile those two groups, I don’t know.

(Of course, a lot writers now considered “classic,” especially in the English tradition, were writing for a mass audience, not just for the overeducated—Shakespeare and Dickens, most obviously.)

Re: I really wish

I don't see any trouble in mixing "pop" with "classical" in literature. As you said, a lot of classics were pop in their times, because books were the only cultural products available at the time.
These barreers between classical, academic stuff (littérature blanche, in France, because the covers are always immaculate) are artificials and were raised by snobbish intellectuals.
Like Dan Simmons (SF author) said once, people who spend their time raising those walls end up living in some sort of East Berlin where they live in a hopeless and grey world while there are lights and great music on the other side..