I have a ways to go on the Fifty Books for Our Times

Newsweek is out with a variation of the “books you should read” list. Rather than simply a best of list, the magazine says its Fifty Books for Our Times “open a window on the times we live in.” I’m still struggling with how a couple of the choices, particularly the first, made the list — but since I haven’t read them I can’t say the description supporting the selection in the magazine is wrong.

Here’s the list, with the ones I’ve read in bold:

  1. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope
  2. The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright
  3. Prisoner of the State, Zhao Ziyang
  4. The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr
  5. The Bear, William Faulkner
  6. Winchell, Neal Gabler
  7. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  8. Night Draws Near, Anthony Shadid
  9. Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
  10. God: A Biography, Jack Miles
  11. The Unsettling Of America, Wendell Berry
  12. A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor
  13. Underground, Haruki Murakami
  14. Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen
  15. Air Guitar, Dave Hickey
  16. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
  17. The Trouble with Physics, Lee Smolin
  18. City: Rediscovering The Center, William H. Whyte
  19. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  20. Benjamin Franklin, Edmund S. Morgan
  21. The Mississippi Books, Mark Twain
  22. Among the Thugs, Bill Buford
  23. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
  24. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  25. Bad Mother, Ayelet Waldman
  26. Guests of the Ayatollah, Mark Bowden
  27. Whittaker Chambers, Sam Tanenhaus
  28. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
  29. American Prometheus, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
  30. The Lost, Daniel Mendelsohn
  31. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  32. Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris
  33. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
  34. Walking With the Wind, John Lewis
  35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst
  36. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper
  37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  38. Underworld, Don DeLillo
  39. Why Evolution is True, Jerry A. Coyne
  40. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
  41. The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
  42. The Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker
  43. Senator Joe McCarthy, Richard H. Rovere
  44. Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
  45. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  46. Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child
  47. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  48. American Journeys, Don Watson
  49. Cotton Comes To Harlem, Chester Himes
  50. The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time in which to read them.

Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Art of Literature

8 comments to I have a ways to go on the Fifty Books for Our Times

  • Gilead and Among the Thugs. Two down, 48 to go.

  • I thought I was pretty well read–I have read only one on this list–American Pastoral. I've never even heard of some of these. Have I been wasting my time reading schlock?!?

  • Actually, looking at the list again, I've also read Things Fall Apart-Both this and American Pastoral were powerful books.

  • I've seen American Pastoral on several "best of" lists and your mention of it yesterday led me to reserve it at the library. That way, I'll have it for the long weekend.

  • In just the pst few days, I've seen several references to an author Philip Dick. Have you read any of his stuff? What's it like?

  • PKD is a SF writer from the late '50s into the '70s. I enjoy much of his work, particularly his short stories, although several of his last few novels are more than a bit confusing (he had a series of "visions" in 1974). His books and short stories have been the basis for the movies Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and Paycheck. His worlds are somewhat dystopian and often explore what is "reality",If you like SF, you'dl probably like him. If not a huge fan, I'd suggest one of the collections of his short stories. Otherwise, the Library of America has published three collections of his novels or you might try The Man in the High Castle, which won the Hugo Award, or Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.

  • I've seen all those movies and liked them — especially Blade Runner. I think I will have to read something of his! Thanks so much for the info!

  • Yes. Thank god for Twain and Trollope, else I’d never understand the modern world. (blink. blink.)

    That’s definitely a list of fifty good books (from what I can tell), but the selection criteria is a bit woolly.