Publisher Names Tops in Non-Fiction

The Florida Times Union, April 30, 1999 | Go to article overview

Publisher Names Tops in Non-Fiction


LOS ANGELES -- Choosing one of the most idiosyncratic of literary memoirs, the Modern Library pronounced The Education of Henry Adams this century's best English-language work of non-fiction.

William James' landmark study The Varieties of Religious Experience came in second on the publishing house's top 100 list. It was followed by Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery, a founding document for the philosophy of black self-help.

The Modern Library released its top 100 yesterday, the eve of BookExpo America, the industry's national convention.

After its top 100 fiction list was criticized for being overwhelmingly aging, white and male, the publisher expanded what had been an overwhelmingly aging, white and male selection committee. Two women, Elaine Pagels and Carolyn See, were added, as was a black author, Charles Johnson, and such younger writers as Jon Krakauer and Caleb Carr.

The non-fiction top 10 included one black, Washington, and two women: Virginia Woolf was ranked fourth for her feminist classic A Room of One's Own, and Rachel Carson was No. 5 for Silent Spring.

With only 100 getting in, there will be questions about those left out. Among the missing: Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, James Agee and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Leon Edel's biography of Henry James and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.

Another problem was deciding what qualified as "non-fiction." Truman Capote's novelistic In Cold Blood made the list. But Norman Mailer books such as The Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song didn't make it.

THE 100 BEST

The 100 best English-language non-fiction works of this century, according to the Modern Library.

1. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams.

2. The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

3. Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington.

4. A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf.

5. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson.

6. Selected Essays, 1917-1932, T.S. Eliot.

7. The Double Helix, James D. Watson.

8. Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov.

9. The American Language, H.L. Mencken.

10. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes.

11. The Lives of a Cell, Lewis Thomas.

12. The Frontier in American History, Frederick Jackson Turner.

13. Black Boy, Richard Wright.

14. Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster.

15. The Civil War, Shelby Foote.

16. The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman.

17. The Proper Study of Mankind, Isaiah Berlin.

18. The Nature and Destiny of Man, Reinhold Niebuhr.

19. Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin.

20. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein.

21. The Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White.

22. An American Dilemma, Gunnar Myrdal.

23. Principia Mathematica, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell.

24. The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould.

25. The Mirror and the Lamp, Meyer Howard Abrams.

26. The Art of the Soluble, Peter B. Medawar.

27. The Ants, Bert Hoelldobler and Edward O. Wilson.

28. A Theory of Justice, John Rawls.

29. Art and Illusion, Ernest H. Gombrich.

30. The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson.

31. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois.

32. Principia Ethica, G.E. Moore.

33. Philosophy and Civilization, John Dewey. …

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