Greatest Books of All Time - Again

Why is it that I cannot resist a list? Anything that's touted as "the top," "the greatest," or "the best" will have me hooked. I want to jump in to see if I agree, or if there is a need to protest loudly (one of my favorite things to do).
The Atlantic recently started up the debate again with the greatest books of all time (click here). This is the type of list that really gets me because I contend that people always list books that they think they should say they love, rather than the books that they secretly hold dear.
The list is based on a new book titled The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. In the introduction, David Orr says that the idea of "great" is a very fluid thing. And #2 is the sticking point for me: "'Great' means 'books that would be considered great by the most people over time.'"
So that explains why Ulysses is always near the top of the "best books" and also at the top of the "worst books of all time." Because it is, in my opinion, completely overrated, but everyone feels that they should list it. They don't want to admit that they were bored by the story or didn't understand it.
This list is probably one in which "noted authors" were trying to out-do each other in the intellectual stakes, selecting books by esteemed authors that were forced on them in school, while at home those same authors are secretly reading Tom Clancy, Agatha Christie, or Dick Francis.
I'd like to see what they would really list if they thought their answers would be anonymous. Would Anna Karenina still end up on top?


  1. 100% agree! I read ALL the way through Ulysses, it was long and torturous. By the time I finished it, researched everything I didn't understand and read commentary I understood how it was important as part of the evolution of contemporary fiction - but it is boring!I am certain that everyone votes for it because they are afraid to admit they couldn't get through a book every intelligent person should have read!

  2. O so true. "Greatest TV of all time. None. I own no stinkin' TVs. ~ Greatest films of all time. All the foreign ones. Especially the Japanese ones. Or whatever. ~ Greatest books of all time. The ones by authors who committed suicide. Or inspired others to commit suicide."

    It's taken me, an English major for pete's sake, almost 30 years to gather the guts to announce, here, on your blog, Cheminne: I detest Ernest Hemingway's books. Some sentences, some thoughts, brilliant beyond measure. But the books, no. Fishing, bullfighting, drinking or any other testosterone-driven competition of deathly bloody measure.... Eechh. No.

    Now Shakespeare, there's a guy that rocks everything ~ the human condition in all it's bloody funny absurd fullness, with inventive language yet equaled and still influencing human connection and communication.

    O dear, I've done it again. Engaged in intellectual tete a tete when I'm supposed to be working at something profitable. Profit ~ there's a topic worthy of social conversation. Full circle, exit Stage Left :o)