By Jacob Carter, Staff Writer
Amazon recently released a list compiled by the website’s book editors entitled 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. According to the editor, they wanted it to encompass “all stages of a life” and provide a guide to a reader’s most essential literary endeavors. Their effort is admirable — I just have one question: Whose lifetime are they referring to?
The list is meant to cover the most vital books to read from childhood to maturity, and it is true that the editors are successful in balancing the list with everything from children’s classics such as “Charlotte’s Web” to indelible masterworks such as “Pride and Prejudice.” But what strikes me most as I peruse the selections is the sheer amount of recent bestsellers that are on display.
If I am meant to take this list to my grave, should there be so many titles that solely represent today’s cultural climate?
My specific issue is directed at the books meant to represent the category of young adult fiction. Such inclusions compromise both Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” and the “Sorcerer’s Stone.” While it is true that these books ignited an immense cultural phenomenon, it is not unfounded to think that their popularity will decrease in a matter of a few years.
Youth culture is always driven by a desire for the new and innovative. With each new generation, adolescents strive for their own cultural identity. While the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione may have enraptured their parents, it is safe to assume that children of the future will take hold of a new literary outlet.
To a lesser degree, I am also skeptical toward the presence of such selections as Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City.”
I will fully admit that I have never read either of these books. However, I single them out because their existence on the list is due to the fact that they are recent bestsellers. Before decade’s end, they will most likely fade from the public consciousness, replaced by another slew of acclaimed prose.
Popular culture is in a constant state of fluctuation. Attempting to bring any sort of definitive representation is impossible. Perhaps “100 Books to Read At This Moment” would be a more accurate description of the list they’ve compiled.
Of course, you can’t count out the real reason they assembled the list: to spread the love of reading to all generations. I admire them for that.
And who knows? Perhaps 60 years from now children will still hold Katniss and Harry dear to their hearts.