Entertainment Weekly is running their “EW1000” feature, celebrating what they call the “new classics” — the best that the various fields of entertainment have had to offer since 1983. Now, normally I don’t think EW is someplace I would turn for literary recommendations, but since they have gone ahead and included a list of their Top 100 favorite books of the last 25 years, I figured, why not take a look and see what they came up with?
OK, so let’s see … best read of the last 25 years?
1.) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.
OK, well, 25 years makes for an awfully crowded field, but I did enjoy this book thoroughly. Off to a decent start. Let’s see what else they’ve got, shall we? Just a few picks, at random…
2.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
Ah yes, another literary triumph. Not quite as good as The Road, mind you, but almost. And clearly, someone’s thought carefully about this. Note that they didn’t just drone on and on, naming all the Harry Potter books one after the other. No, they chose to focus on the one book in the series that’s actually any good. Which happens to be the fourth one (the one in the middle).
16.) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
17.) Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
Hmmm, these rankings aren’t that good. But what could they really expect? They were competing against Harry Potter. And The Watchmen, which has pictures. Bonus points for Handmaid, though; at least they made a movie out of that.
21.) On Writing, Stephen King
Shame on Stephen King. Since 1983 he’s written Christine, Pet Sematary, It, Misery, most of the Dark Tower series, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis, and countless others, but damn him, not one of those books can compare to a 288-page memoir he wrote about what it’s like to be a fiction writer. In fact, I’m surprised he even claims to know what it’s like. And even this book, in the end, lost out to Bridget Jones’s Diary.
40.) His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
Because, let’s face it, Martin Amis is just too potty-mouthed to take the #40 spot. And The Kite Runner is about Afghanistan, and you know how we feel about those people.
71.) The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman
A book about the American healthcare system and a culture clash between Western doctors and an ethnic minority that fled the aftermath of the Vietnam War? Interesting choice. Frankly I’m surprised that frivolous stuff like this even made the list. You can see why it rates 25 lower than Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
80.) Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
Take that, Bret Easton Ellis! McInerney rates, but you get zip.
87.) The Ruins, Scott Smith
Now there’s real talent for you! Who else but Scott Smith could publish his second book ever — a short horror novel about bloodsucking plants — get it made into a B-movie, then still make the list above Annie Proulx (who won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1994)? Way to go, Scott!
96.) The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
Boo, Dan Brown! See how we hate you? We’re so tired of hearing your name — and reading and re-reading all your books on airplane flights — that we only rated you #96 on the list of the greatest classics of our age. That, and Tom Hanks’s hair looked really weird in the movie.
For the sarcasm impaired: Get yourself a library card and go read some real books, already.
BTW, for the record, I’ve read 18 out of the 100. Looks like I’ve got some culturin’ to do.