This Is What Happens When You Write a “Best Books Ever” List That Tries to Please Everyone


Far be it from us to take cracks at an outlet for writing a list telling us what that publication thinks are the books we must read, but there’s something about the Entertainment Weekly list of the 100 greatest books of all time that just smacks of somebody running a finger up and down a few Goodreads lists and naming 100 novels that sounded good.

Of course, 100 books is a lot of books, and even though the folks at EW tried to give us a window into how and why they picked those books and why they ranked them the way they did, that came complete with a somewhat awkward photo of books burning, it kinda feels like Entertainment Weekly just felt the need to please everybody by putting everything on there.

But they failed with us for five reasons:

1. How is Ulysses not on this list? I understand this is Entertainment Weekly, and Joyce’s greatest books isn’t exactly “entertaining,” but Cold Mountain? That’s better than Ulysses?

2. All political affiliations aside, when did we start attaching tags like “greatest” to Ayn Rand’s work? Say what you want about the philosophy, but Atlas Shrugged is a really terrible book that doesn’t really deserve to be talked of in the context of greatest books ever.

3. While Charlotte’s Web is a really good book for kids, is it really a better book than Madame Bovary? I mean, really?

4. Isn’t it a bit lazy to put two entire collections in one “Best Books Ever” list? Do all of Updike’s Rabbit books really need to be considered as one entity? That’s like saying you can’t talk about the first two Godfather films unless you consider Godfather 3.

5. Lists like these are meant to stir up conversation or, at the very least, keep people clicking. Have some context: you might as well put Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be A Redneck If… and the Babylonian Talmud on a list that is as diverse as the EW one.