Saturday, August 13, 2016

What Are The Books Of The Century?

What really were the best books of the 20th century? 

As part of the 100th anniversary celebration of The New York Public Library, the NYPL sought to list the books that shaped and defined a 100-year period, from 1895-1995.  The selected pivotal works were put on display 20 years ago and captured in a thought-provoking book.

Over 150 books were selected, based on 11 categories of genre. A few others were added to the display based on selections by a poll of patrons.  A 1996 book, The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century edited by Elizabeth Diefendorf, reveals a list of these selected titles but notes that it was an imperfect list.

The book identified there were many challenges in putting their selection together, including these:

“Several visitors commented on the issue of standards. “The choices are arbitrary and no criteria are given for them,” wrote one anonymous individual, who apparently supposed that we could define an objective, quantifiable set of tests that only great books could pass.  In truth, we worked with only two limits, neither of them a rule pertaining to intrinsic merit.  First because we were celebrating the Library’s Centennial, a book’s first appearance in print had to have fallen between 1895 and 1995 (hence no Communist Manifesto, The Origin of Species, or any book by Mark Twain).  Second, we decided that an author could be represented by only one title (since James Joyce’s Ulysses was in the show, his Finnegans Wake was not.)…

“We also chose to exhibit some books that had, we believed, exerted a profound or lasting influence even when they were poorly written or when that influence was almost wholly evil, such as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Mao Zedong’s Quotations from Chairman Mao.”

Here are the books of a century:

Landmarks of Modern Literature
The Three Sisters by Anton P. Checkhou
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Wild Swans at Cook by William B. Yeats
Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Gypsy Ballads by Frederico Gilorca
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Portable Faulkner by William Faulkner
The Age of Anxiety by W.H. Auden
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Ficciones and Augmented Edition by Jorge Luis Borges
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Nature’s Realm
The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck
Treatrise on Radioactivity by Marie Curie
The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein
A Field Wide in Birds by Roger T. Peterson
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
King Solomon’s Ring by Konrad Z. Lorenz
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Smoking and Health (The Surgeon General’s Report)
The Double Helix by James D. Watson
The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson

Protest & Progress
The Battle with the Shum by Jacob Riis
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E. DuBois
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Twenty Years at Full House by Jane Addams
The House on Henry Street by Lillian Wald
The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens by Lincoln Steffens
U.S.A by John Dos Rassos
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans
Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith
Growing Up Abused by Paul Goodman
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Autography of Malcom X by Malcom X
And the Band Played On by Randy Shultz
There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

Colonialism & Its Aftermath
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad and Konrad Korzeniowski
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Non-violent Resistance by Mohandas Gandhi
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Stanger by Albert Camus
United Nations Charter
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Pator
The Family of Man: The Photographic Exhibition created by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fannon
Wide Sargass Sea by Jean Rhys
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb El-Salih
Guerillas by V.S. Naipaul
The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski
I, Rigoberta Menchu by Rigoberta Menchu
The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Mind & Spirit
Suicide: A Study in Sociology by Emile Durkheim
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Studies and he Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis
The Variety of Religious Experience by Williams James
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock
The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version
The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesy
The Politics of Ecstacy by Timothy Leary
Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
The Use of Enchantment by Bruno Bettenheim

Pop Culture & Mass Entertainment
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur C. Doyle
Tarzan of the Ape by Edgar R. Burroughs
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Stanger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Carrie by Stephen King
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Women Rise
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Women Suffrage and Politics by Carrie C. Catt
My Fight for Birth Control by Margaret Sanger
Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora N. Hurston
The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvour
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writers from the Women’s Liberation Movement by Robin Morgan, Editor
Against Our Will:  Men, Women and Rape by Susan Brownmiller
The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Economics & Technology
The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions by Thorstein Veblen
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynar Keyms
The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A von Hayer
A Theory of the Consumption Function by Milton Friedman
The Affluent Society by John K. Galbraith
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Superhighway-Super Hoax by Helen Leavitt
Small is Beautiful:  A Study of Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher
The Whole Internet:  User’s Guide and Catalog by Ed Krol

Utopias & Dystopias
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
The Jewish State by Theodore Hurzl
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Peter Ranin Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie
Herland by Charlotte P. Gilman
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Walden Two by B.F. Skinner
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Jr.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

War, Holocaust & Totalitarianism
American Atrocities: The Murder of a Nation by Arnold Toynbee
Ten Days That Shook the World by John Rees
The War Poems by Siegfried Sassoon
The Good Soldier Svejk by Jarolau Hasek
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich M. Remarque
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Hiroshima by John Hersey
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill
Night by Elie Wiesel
Quotations form Chairman Mao by Mao Zedong
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee A. Brown
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, An Experiment in Literary Investigation by Aleksander I Solzhenitsyn
Dispatches by Michael Herr
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spigelman

Optimism, Joy, Centility
The Country of the Pointed Furs by Sarah O. Jewett
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
Platero and Ijan Andahusian Elegy by Juan R. Jimenez
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home by Emily Post
The Inimitable Series by P.G. Wodehouse
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
Goodnight Moon by Margaret W. Brown
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes
The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop

Favorites of Childhood and Youth
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Polter
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Snowy Day by Ezra J. Keats
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Telling a story can change our world or one’s world. Will you read the books identified as significant from a 100-year period? What will be identified as important in the century to be?

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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