I recently looked at the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list again, and noticed an addition that wasn’t there before. It’s the top 100 list as selected by “readers.” Just glancing at the top 10 gives us some insight into the nature of these readers:
1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
The readers, it seems, are mainly Objectivists and Scientologists (read: nutcases). The sci-fi selections get better farther down the list, but Ender’s Game makes a surprise appearance at number 59. I never read it in middle school, but I don’t think it really would have resonated with me then. Reading it when I was 22 was like listening to a Linkin Park song on repeat for 3 hours. Oh so painful.
The whole thing kind of resembles the reading list that the MIT Extropians sent to everyone in my entering class at MIT. Some juicy excerpts can be read in Geeta‘s Village Voice article on the Larry Summers debacle. Ah, those were the days.