Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Best Books of the Past 25 Years

Recently, in an intriguing and controversial article, the New York Times, surveyed critics, authors and editors in an effort to determine the best American fiction of the past 25 years.

It was largely a futile effort, but interesting for all that.

The honor of best American fiction in the past 25 years was bestowed on Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, John Updike’s four Rabbit Angstrom novels and Philip Roth’s American Pastoral were runners up.

Underworld would receive a vote from me. I’d also include McCarthy, but I prefer All The Pretty Horses, the first book in his Border Trilogy. I didn’t especially like Beloved and I’m a not a huge fan of either Updike or Roth.

So, in no particular order, I’ve listed a few books that I consider to be among the very best I’ve read in the past 25 years.

  • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Morgan’s Passing, Anne Tyler
  • The Sea Runners, English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, Ivan Doig
  • The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler
  • All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
  • Billy Bathgate, E.L. Doctorow
  • The Sportswriter, Richard Ford
  • Mohawk and Empire Falls, Richard Russo
  • The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich
  • Ship Fever and Other Stories, Andrea Barrett
  • Underworld, Don DeLillo
  • Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
  • Girls and The Night Inspector, Frederick Busch
  • The Hours, Michael Cunningham
  • Charming Billy, Alice McDermott
  • The Shipping New, Annie Proulx
  • Plainsong and Eventide, Kent Haruf
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Roscoe, William Kennedy
  • Drop City, T.C. Boyle
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.

I’d also add the works of Laurie Colwin and Jim Harrison to the list, although I have no particular titles to suggest. I prefer the short stories of both authors to their novels.

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