Wednesday, October 19, 2005

National Review's Non-Fiction 100

Apparently, 'tis the season for book lists. National Review came up with their list of the top 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century.

Much of what is there, particularly at the top, is politically selected; for example, Hayek comes up twice in the top 10, as does Orwell (though Orwell may well deserve it). But Anne Frank as number 20? The comments attempting to justify her inclusion suggest that the compilers know full well it doesn't belong. Tom Wolfe, in my opinion, belongs on neither the fiction nor non-fiction lists.

Then there is God & Man at Yale ... it helps to have founded the magazine doing the rating. The Elements of Style would not have even come up on my radar screen, since I tend to ignore reference books, but it seems a good choice. What the heck is Silent Spring doing there ... one would think even The Nation would laugh that one off. And the Starr Report at number 100? That one just seems like an ironic joke.

Much better is the Random House list that inspired NR's, which makes NR's list even more inexplicable. After reading the Random House list, how could they have left off Henry Adams? Or T.S. Eliot? Or Lewis Thomas?

Ah, well, that is the fun of these lists -- grousing about what is missing.

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