22.4.07

Paper Trail

Over at Our Lists of Books, Sherri posted a link to USA Today's Books that leave a legacy. I thought of books that had deep, life-changing properties; turns out, they mean books that changed publishing. I've only read four of them and would consider reading another two. Guess I'm not the "average" reader or the target audience for the other 19.

This type of list always intrigues me, and it came out just as I'd read about The 101 Most Influential People That Never Lived (usually I give credit where credit's due, but I don't remember where I read about this book). Of course, I bought it and read it almost immediately. While I might disagree with their ranking - the Marlboro Man is #1?! - on the whole I agree with the list. The tone could use some work, but overall, it's a good introduction to a sort of cultural literacy we expect from people.

The next book off Mt. Bookpile was The Book of Lost Books, a listing of authors whose works are now "lost" to us - Shakespeare's Love's Labors Won, Sappho's poetry, or parts of Gogol's Dead Souls, for example.

Comparing the two books and the USA Today list gives one pause. Why (per these authors) are these people, these books, so important and enduring? Why do we wish we could read Confucious' thoughts on music? Some (the mythic figures, Scrooge) have stood the test of time, and many of the authors are so critical that we reference them often. Yet most of the Books The Changed Publishing probably won't make some future, broader list. Does this mean that Best Selling does not equal Important? I'd argue that Beloved is both.

Lists are fun because they give you meat for conversation and argument. I'd hate to think people consider them anything more than a snapshot, or one person's opinion.

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