Friday, 9 October 2009


Today's Times carries a feature that reveals the results of a readers' poll to nominate the sixty 'greatest novels of the last sixty years'.

To get the trivial reaction out of the way, a quick survey around my nearest office colleagues revealed we had read 12,17, 17 and 27 of the 60. No-one has yet resigned their position through the shame.

As for the slightly less trivial reaction which these lists inevitably provoke, i.e. a criticism of the inclusions and omissions, I will restrain myself to observing with scornfully raised eyebrows that the first Harry Potter book is (a) in the list at all and (b) placed above the far superior Northern Lights, (which would be a strong contender in my book for the number 2 position) and that the best novel ever written, The Third Policeman, is entirely absent. Flann O'Brien's masterpiece, although written too early for this poll, was not published until the 1960's. I make no apology whatsoever for shamelessly promoting this book again.

I wonder how different a poll of, say, Guardian readers would be. Would they, for example, choose a higher number of women writers than the 10 represented here?


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