Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Modern Library v. Radcliffe

I adopted both the Modern Library and Radcliffe Publishing lists of Top 100 novels of the 20th Century. Having finished all the books on the M.L. list, I am still working on the Radcliffe list. Both include very good books and there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the two. That said, if I had to chose which list really represented the "best" 100 novels of the 20th Century, I would pick the M.L. list for a couple of reasons. First, I think the Radcliffe list leans in general to books that are more popular (Gone with the Wind, for example), while the M.L. list includes books that are more literary. For example, the M.L. list includes An American Tragedy, which I thought was heavy sledding, but as it was a groundbreaking work, it should be on the list. Second, but along the same lines, the Radcliffe list includes a number of children's books, such as Charlotte's Wed and Winnie-the-Pooh. They are good children's books, but I would have chosen only from books for adults. Finally, while I understand that the M.L. list is often criticized for not having "enough" books by women, I think the Radcliffe list overcompensates. I really do not think the list needs three books by Tony Morrison or even three by Virginia Wolf, especially at the expense of some of my favorites from the M.L. list like A Dance to the Music of Time and The Alexandria Quartet.

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