Reading is a personal endeavor. It’s not a competition; when I engage with a story, I want it to somehow illuminate the dark corners of my world. I want it to shine a light or reveal a path, give me something that pertains to my struggles and everyday ennui. I want it to educate me, to make me feel as though I understand the world slightly more than I did before.
Plenty of sites attempt this with their best-of currations. And while I get the need for those types of list, many of those books always seem dated, past their relevance; the usual “greatest books of all-time” lists (whatever that means anyways) always includes the likes of The Great Gatsby, Ulysses, Lolita, et. al. but they always seems daunting and impersonal. A little too samey.
“The fact is, no one needs another best-of list telling you how great The Great Gatsby is,” Newsweek says in their just published Fifty Books for Our Times. “What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books — new or old, fiction or nonfiction — open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways.”
Among the selected books are Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, William Faulkner’s The Bear, Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live, Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Don DeLillo’s Underworld.
The list is an intriguing mix of fiction and non-fiction and don’t hew to any particular time frame. The common themes running throughout seem to be that of terrorism and war in the Middle East, financial uncertainty, environmentalism and food, social change, and science vs. religion.
It’s an extremely thoughtful and well-thought out list. Many of these books, I haven’t read but I feel as though I must to have a clearer understanding of the world around me.