Are these the best 75 books of the past 75 years?

Author Ann Patchett and her bookshop staff have chosen their favourite 75 books from the 1940s onwards – and it’s a cracking list. What do you think? And which titles would you add?

Open book to illustrated a post on the best 75 books of the past 75 yearsPhotograph by Caio Resende

It’s a super quick post today as I have a proper-work deadline looming! But I wanted to share this wonderful list of books with you. I’ve not heard of all of them by any means (let alone read them all), but if you’re looking for an engrossing holiday read there are some brilliant titles here.

To celebrate its 75th anniversary, “Parade” magazine asked US author Ann Patchett (“Bel Canto”, “The Magician’s Assistant”) to choose the best 75 books from the past 75 years. Together with staff at Parnassus Books, the Nashville bookstore that she co-owns, she came up with the list below. To make it more manageable they were originally going to stick to books written by North Americans – until they realised that that would mean excluding Harry Potter! So they went with books written in English, instead, although most of them are in fact US books.

It’s particularly fascinating for me because, as I mentioned in this post, I organise my books in chronological order until I get to 1945 – at which point I consider all literature to be “modern” (partly a hang-up from my English literature degree, which used a similar system, and partly sheer laziness). It’s fascinating to look at books ordered within their decades, with Toni Morrison sitting next to Douglas Adams, for instance!

The full list is below, but see Ann’s original blog post here and download a printable PDF version of the list here.

I’m also thrilled to see Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air” on the list. Read my review of that book here.

As usual, I’d love to know what you think. What would you add to this list? Comment below or on The Wordy House page on Facebook.

1940s
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

1950s
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
The Civil War, Volumes 1–3, by Shelby Foote
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

1960s
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Rabbit Angstrom novels by John Updike
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Alex Haley
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Double Helix by James D. Watson
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

1970s
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Burr by Gore Vidal
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

1980s
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty  by Eudora Welty
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Maus by Art Spiegelman
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

1990s
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
The Color of Water by James McBride
The Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Writing by Stephen King
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

2000s
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

2010s
New Selected Stories by Alice Munro
Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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