One-Minute Book Reviews

June 26, 2008

Ten Books That Should Have Been on Entertainment Weekly’s List of the ‘The 100 Best Reads’ of the Past 25 Years But Weren’t

I love Entertainment Weekly‘s annual list of the year’s worst books, which is usually right on the money. But the magazine’s list of “The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads From 1983 to 2008”,,20207076_20207387_20207349,00.html falls a bit wider of mark.

Here, off the top of my head, are 10 books that didn’t make the EW list. These titles appear in random order (and I hope to say more about some of them later):

1. Liar’s Poker (1989) Michael Lewis
2. The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg
3. Heartburn (1986) by Nora Ephron
4. Barbarians at the Gate (1990) by Brian Burrough
5. Collected Poems: Philip Larkin (1989) by Philip Larkin and Anthony Thwaite
6. A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2003) by Samantha Power
7. Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943–2004 (2004) by Richard Wilbur
8. Late Wife: Poems (2005) by Claudia Emerson
9. Jane Austen’s Letters: New Edition (1997) by Jane Austen. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye.
10. Hotel du Lac (1984) by Anita Brookner

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Liar’s Poker, really? Not sure about that one.

    Comment by Daniel — June 26, 2008 @ 7:48 am | Reply

  2. Absolutely Liar’s Poker. It would make my list of one of the best business books of the century.

    I didn’t read all of the The Predators’ Ball, the book about business that EW chose instead. But of what I did read of it, Liar’s Poker is much better written and was, at the time, more influential.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 26, 2008 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  3. I’m happy to say I’ve read a whopping 8 of the EW List!

    Comment by heykat — June 26, 2008 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  4. I’ve only read 22 of them. Yikes. Although in my defense I’ve read several of the chosen authors’ other books, and I’m now wondering why “Cloud Atlas” was chosen over “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell…

    Interesting list of the ones that were left out and shouldn’t have been, Janice. Thanks for including poetry collections. I don’t read much poetry but this gives me a starting point to look for.

    Comment by sarahsk — June 26, 2008 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  5. The Larkin – yes, yes, definitely yes.

    Comment by draabe — June 26, 2008 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  6. Hey, Kat —
    About what “whopping 8”: Some critics might say that that’s a sign of your excellent taste.

    I haven’t run the numbers. But just by eyeballing the list, I’d guess that most working critics would say that at least half of the books on the list don’t belong there. You’d probably find strong agreement among them on, for example, Love in the Time of Cholera and even (among the more offbeat choices) Bridget Jones’s Diary. But Eat, Pray, Love? C’mon.

    Sarah —
    I’d love to read David Mitchell, and among my friends who are critics, the book they recommend most often is your choice, Black Swan Green, not Cloud Atlas. So I’m glad you raised that point. When I get to him, I’m going to start with Black Swan Green on the strength of recommendations from critics whose taste I’ve learned to trust …

    Draabe —
    Thanks so much. I haven’t by any means read all of the important books of poetry of the past quarter century.

    But of those I have read, Larkin’s Collected Poems is the one I would choose if I could keep only one. It’s such a good book that it caused me also to start reading the poetry of Anthony Thwaite (his literary executor), including his A Move in the Weather (Enitharmon, 2003). A Move in the Weather is so hard to find in the U.S. that I’ve mentioned it only in passing on this site, but I’d love to do more with Thwaite’s work at some point.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 26, 2008 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

  7. Re: David Mitchell. I personally find him rather unpredictable. Black Swan Green was one of the best books I read last year, but I couldn’t even get half way through Number 9 Dream.

    Good discussion…

    Comment by sarahsk — June 26, 2008 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  8. I have similar views on many authors. Shakespeare might be the least unpredictable writer who has ever lived. Whenever I see them, Hamlet and King Lear are among the highlights of my literary year. But I must admit that if I never see Titus Andronicus again, I would see this as no great loss …

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 26, 2008 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  9. Thanks, Jan, for yet another great effort that serves to entice me to leave that which I should be doing and come hang out here!

    I agree wholeheartedly with The Polar Express and Heartburn. And…Eat,Pray,Love? HUH? Seriously?

    By the way, this subject, and in fact your entire website, has inspired me to start a movement/crusade/effort (all of the above) to
    KEEP all of these wonderful, priceless REAL BOOKS around and in the hands of readers far into the future. Here’s my blog on the subject, for anyone who feels similarly to check out:

    Let’s get out the word: SAVE BOOKS!

    Comment by ggelliott — June 26, 2008 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  10. Everybody, I agree with GG that books on paper have an appeal that electronic books are unlikely every to match. They have lasted for thousands of years because they are an extraordinarily efficient medium for the delivery of text. And this subject deserves much more attention than I can give it right now, so I’m glad GG is giving space to it.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 26, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  11. Thanks, Jan. I will add that I am at least familiar with all of the books on the list (as famiiliar as you can get by reading reviews of them). And there were a few that I started but didn’t finish, so to keep it honest I did not include those in my eight. The Lovely Bones, for example. I have a daughter the same age as the dead narrator, and I just could not stomach that book. I gave it up after a few chapters. You have definitely piqued my curiosity about Larkin’s poetry.

    Comment by heykat — June 27, 2008 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  12. The Lovely Bones was definitely one of the more bizarre choices on the EW list. Sebold’s more recent The Almost Moon was a finalist for a Delete Key Award this year. (It also made the worst-of-the-year lists in EW and New York magazine.) “Hard-to-stomach” would definitely apply to that one.

    What could have been the editors’ rationale for choosing The Lovely Bones as a “new classic” instead of The Polar Express?

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 27, 2008 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  13. Hmm… question… if you had the choice to add these 10 to the 100 Best Reads of the last 25 Years, then you’d have to remove 10 from their list. Which 10 would you remove?

    Comment by vajrakrishna — May 2, 2009 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

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