A breakdown

Before I launch into the Time 100 list, I thought I’d take a closer look and see what can be gleamed from it.

The first thing is that it’s actually more than 100 books. A Dance to the Music of Time is a 12-book cycle, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories is two novels assembled in one volume, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is, obviously, three books. I would presume the list’s creators intend for completists to read each and every one of those added books (thanks, guys!).

Beyond that:

  • 80 were written by men, 20 by women (which is still more equitable than the Modern Library’s infamous 92/8 split)
  • 9 authors appear twice (Bellow, Faulkner, Greene, Nabokov, Orwell, Pynchon, P. Roth, Waugh, Woolf)
  • A breakdown of the books selected by decade: 1920s (10); 1930s (15); 1940s (12); 1950s (15); 1960s (21); 1970s (7); 1980s (9); 1990s (3); 2000s (5).  Isherwood’s two novels came out in the 1930s; Tolkien’s trilogy was published in the ’50s. Anthony Powell’s 12 books are spread out over 25 years, from 1951 to 1975.

Looks like the distribution is fairly even until we get to the ’60s, when it spikes with 21, before plummeting and then flatlining for the rest of the century.  What happened there?  Maybe the list’s creators felt we weren’t sufficiently far enough away from the last 30 years to assess what books would endure.  (This is still an improvement of the Modern Library 100, which included as its most recent title 1981’s Midnight’s Children.)

I had wanted to break the list down to publication locations (how many American authors, British, Australian, etc.), but I couldn’t find a source that tallied them up.  As I work through the list, I’ll keep track myself.

Anyway, enough analysis.  Time to get down to business.

Next entry, hopefully written this week, will be about the first book tackled from the list, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

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