Every time I come across a list of this kind I read it and my opinion is always the same: Yes, BUT… Clearly a list is just a list, and it cannot be perfect. Incidentally, it can depict a good portrait of the literature in general, and most of them underrate some literature instead of defend it. Sometimes, literature for them is just a part of it. I’ve gathered the main reasons why I never rely on this kind of lists:
- Only Western literature: They hardly ever include an Asian book, but it is almost a miracle to list a traditional Arabic or African book, not to speak about Ancient Scandinavian or Ancient Middle East works. Probably, the main absence is Journey to the West, which is largely considered as the great masterpiece of the Chinese literature.
- Novels instead of literature: The list makers forget quite often that the word “literature” spans across many different works. How many lists include scientific works, for instance? If we decide to focus on fiction, at the very least we’d have to consider theater works and poetry, wouldn’t we?
- English literature on the top: If we examine carefully ten lists, we’ll see that nine each ten have got over 80% books written in English originally. Seriously, is English literature so important? Clearly not so good, although it is indeed important. Alright, let’s focus just on Western literature. Come on, seriously, what about Latin American Literature, both Spanish and Portuguese. What about French literature. What about German literature. What about Spanish literature. What about Polish literature. For some reason Russian and Italian authors are well considered in English lists, rule of thumb, so I’ll stop here.
- There’re only new works: It’s usual to find two or three medieval works in every best literature lists, but that’s clearly insufficient. Sometimes they even list an ancient work as Gilgamesh. But it seems that books are more important if they’re new. Ok, I agree that since there’re more written pieces of work nowadays, odds say there will be more new good books, but lists are foolishly new.
- Many different qualities: I can even accept a list with 80/100 English books if it’s got good titles. What is different is to boost new popular bestsellers atop remarkable well-known historic marvels.
And that’s it. Yes, I enjoy reading…