I added a Top 100 List published by the Harvard Bookstore. One might expect a venerable list of the classics with those fluffy modern entertainments that mar so many other lists being relegated to the BC Bookstore. But when you review the list, surprisingly it appears to have more fluff than the average Top 100 list. I believe part of this is because the list is a compilation of favorites, possibly wiggled around a bit by sales data with a decided undergraduate slant. How else do you explain some of the entries?
The first question I had was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but since I was one of the few that considered Murakami’s novel severely lacking, I’ll let it stand as a matter of difference of opinion. For the most part we’re rolling along with Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Charlotte Brontë, Dante Alighieri, Homer, Dostoevsky, and all the usual suspects but tucked in between the safe titles are some real clunkers.
Anna Karenina is in the 26th position but A Prayer for Owen Meany is number 20 … John Irving: the world’s most overrated author with his most despicable novel even being included on a list with Tolstoy is an insult. Anna Karenina even is forced to give way for Harry Potter. We may be seeing the end of civilization starting at the Harvard Bookstore.
There are many titles on this list that do not belong and certainly cannot be considered Top 100 literature: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, Little, Big by John Crowley, etc. But then as you scan the list realize that there is no Ulysses, no Remembrance of Past Things, no Man without Qualities, no Brothers Karamozov, … far too many excellent titles missing and certainly not made up for by including Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The only Shakespeare on the list is Hamlet; where is King Lear or The Tempest?
A sad list for some but others might be interested in the recommendations of the venerable Harvard Bookstore.