Magazine article American Libraries

Quick Bibs: 100 Books, 100 Years

Magazine article American Libraries

Quick Bibs: 100 Books, 100 Years

Article excerpt

As part of Booklist's 100th anniversary celebration, our staff has been compiling a fascinating list of books--one title for each year in what we're calling the Booklist Century. The idea has been to select not the best book published in each year but the book with the most impact or influence over time. We've considered everything--adult and children's books, highbrow and low--and we've tried to weigh one kind of impact against another. Take 1922: Do you pick The Waste Land or Ulysses, or do you go an altogether different route and pick Emily Post's Etiquette? You can see the final list in the June issue of Booklist.

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In that same list-making vein, I've also spent some time pondering my own quarter-century of Booklist reading. Which books of the thousands I've reviewed in 25 years at the magazine have had the most impact on me? And by impact I don't mean the books-that-changed-my-life kind of impact--no time for that; too much to read. No, what I mean is that moment of surprise, that shock of recognition, that comes when it dawns on you that this book you're reading, by this author you don't know, is not just another galley to plow through to beat a deadline. Here are four books that gave me that exhilarating shock.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. Ballantine, 1981, $7.99 (0-345-29834-9).

I was riding home on the el when I started reading this groundbreaking thriller by an unfamiliar author who, according to the blurb, had written a handful of paperback originals, including a horror novel about vampire bats. All it took was the opening scene--bodies buried in the snow in Moscow's Gorky Park--to know that Smith had left vampire bats behind. I've followed the Arkady Renko series ever since Gorky Park, and while the later books are superb, I'll never forget my first introduction to the detective who redefined the meaning of world-weary in a genre whose heroes have always had more than enough reason to slump their shoulders.

The Ivory Swing by Janette Turner Hospital. Dutton, 1982, o.p.

My colleagues at Booklist know to save for me any new books by this woefully underappreciated writer who has produced a string of absolutely compelling fictions--often combining elements of the literary thriller with the techniques of experimental novel. …

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