Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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The 75 Best Books of the Past 75 Years

All these lists are fairly ridiculous, obviously. And yet oddly interesting to scan through. This one is even more ridiculous than most, since it’s the best 75 books in English rather than the best 75 SFF novels (or anything else that would help narrow the category down a bit more tightly). And yet, as I say, interesting to scan through.

One little kid’s book: Where the Wild Things Are.

One MG title: Charlotte’s Web. Well, and the first some-odd titles in the Harry Potter series were MG, pretty much. And there may be a couple others I just didn’t recognize as MG because I haven’t read them.

A couple poetry collections, a handful of short story collections, a couple nonfiction titles, some narrative nonfiction, and of course a lot of novels. So: waaaay too broad, though I expect the compilers had fun arguing about what to include and now people are no doubt arguing about what they should have included, which is the whole point of lists like this, after all.

Total I’d read: Fourteen.

Of those, the ones I would enjoy re-reading: Maybe two: Charlotte’s Web and Steven King’s On Writing

The ones I totally hated: Only one. That’s not bad for a list of this kind. (The Invisible Man by Ellison, if you’re curious.)

Total I have on my TBR pile: One. The Things They Carried. I keep meaning to read that.

Total number of SFF titles included: A good handful, including Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Fahrenheit 451.

Resemblance to the list I’d put together if it were me: Virtually none, obviously. I’m sure that’s true for practically everyone. For me the crowning failure of this list: The Lord of the Rings isn’t on it. I can’t imagine leaving that off.

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4 Comments The 75 Best Books of the Past 75 Years

  1. Elaine T

    A Wrinkle in Time is there, which is MG, I think. I bounced hard a few years back when I tried to reread it, but I won’t argue with it appearing on such a list. Total I’ve at least started reading: 15. (Bounced off Wolf Hall about halfway through.) Maybe a couple others I didn’t recognize as I skimmed the list. What titles (of fiction) I did recognize seemed to lean ‘important/depressing’.

    I hadn’t heard of the Things They Carried, it does look interesting.
    Lots more I’d argue with as the list comes up to today. And no Tolkien?

  2. Rachel

    Yeah, I don’t think I will ever re-read A Wrinkle in Time again. There were things about it I still loved last time, but as a whole it isn’t something that appeals to me much anymore.

  3. David H.

    Yeah, I’ve only read 15 of the ones on the list (counting the Harry Potter entry as one).

    I always find these types of lists annoying, but at least it includes some SF/F.

    You didn’t list all the ones you have read, but if you haven’t, I definitely recommend Maus by Spiegelman… it’s the story of a man’s Holocaust experience, but as a comic book style where the Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats. So good.

    Sherman Alexie is hilarious, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is semi-autobiographical, but it’s pretty much a YA novel–also a wonderful book (one of the newest entries to perennially-challenged books, too).

    The Things They Carried is a common book assigned in some history classes, being a good Vietnam War-related book, though I ended up reading The Ugly American during that part of the course instead.

  4. Pete Mack

    Huh. My favorite MG book is Picts and Martyrs, which is a comedy of manners (yea really!) in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. It works very well as a read-aloud book, entertaining the adults as much as the children. Ransome had a keen sense of what it was like to be a child. It still rings true 60-80 years later.

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