Hungry Mind Book Review's Best 100 of the 20th Century

Blog editor's note: I confess, I am cheating on this one. The only thing that's the same as the original Deborama's Book Review and Store's post is the title. There has been so much water under the bridge. The original post, which was just a link and a promise anyway, happened to appear just before the Ruminator Bookstore, successor to the Hungry Mind of fond memories, closed. The Ruminator Review, also previously known as Hungry Mind, ceased publication in 2005. And the link this goes to looks dodgy and impermanent, so I am copying to the whole list in the post to preserve it.
Back in 1998, when I left the Twin Cities, one of the cultural jewels of our fair towns was the Hungry Mind bookstore, located on the Macalester College campus and owned by David Unowsky. He also published The Hungry Mind Review. The bookstore and the review changed their names to Ruminator in 2000, when Unowsky sold the rights to the name Hungry Mind to Hungry Minds, Inc., publishers of the ... for Dummies books.
Here's another great website with some more information about the associated publishing company, also called Hungry Minds and then later Ruminator.
Some time in the free book review's heyday, when it was still called The Hungry Mind Review, they published this list of the 100 best books of the 20th Century. In a lot of ways that I cannot pinpoint or justify, this seems to me to be a very Minnesotan list. Not that it has too many Minnesota books on it, oh, no. Because Minnesotans are like Brits in that way, smug and self-satisfied, maybe, but they would never blow their own horns. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than most of these lists.

The Hungry Mind Review's 100 Best 20th Century Books

RankAuthor Novel and Year
1Henry AdamsThe Education of Henry Adams (1918)
2James Agee and Walker EvansLet Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941)
3Dorothy Allison Bastard out of Carolina (1992)
4Rudolfo Anaya Bless Me Ultima (1972)
5Sherwood AndersonWinesburg, Ohio (1919)
6Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970)
7Gloria AnzaldĂșa Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)
8James Baldwin Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
9James BaldwinThe Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction (1985)
10Edward BallSlaves in the Family (1998)
11Saul BellowHerzog (1964)
12Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky (1948)
13William BurroughsNaked Lunch (1959)
14Truman Capote In Cold Blood (1966)
15Raymond CarverCathedral (1983)
16Willa Cather O Pioneers! (1913)
17Willa CatherDeath Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
18John Cheever Collected Stories (1978)
19Sandra Cisneros House on Mango Street (1984)
20Don DeLilloWhite Noise (1985)
21Joan DidionSlouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
22Vine Deloria Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins (1983)
23John Dos Passos U.S.A. (1930)
24Theodore DreiserAn American Tragedy (1925)
25W.E.B. DuBoisThe Souls of Black Folk (1903)
26Ralph EllisonInvisible Man (1952)
27Louise ErdrichLove Medicine (1984)
28William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury (1926)
29William FaulknerAs I Lay Dying (1930)
30William FaulknerGo Down, Moses (1940)
31F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby (1925)
32M.F.K. FisherThe Art of Eating (1954)
33Francisco GoldmanThe Ordinary Seaman (1997)
34Alex HaleyRoots (1976)
35Joseph HellerCatch-22 (1961)
36Ernest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises (1926)
37Ernest Hemingway The Short Stories (1938)
38Michael HerrDispatches (1984)
39Chester HimesMy Life of Absurdity: The Autobiography (1976)
40Linda HoganMean Spirit (1990)
41bell hooks Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1982)
42Zora Neale HurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
43Henry JamesThe Wings of the Dove (1902)
44LeRoi Jones (Amira Baraka) Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963)
45Jack KerouacOn the Road (1957)
46Ken KeseyOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
47Jamaica KincaidAnnie John (1983)
48Maxine Hong KingstonWoman Warrior (1976)
49Jerzy Kosinski The Painted Bird (1976)
50Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
51Li-Young LeeThe Winged Seed (1995)
52Sinclair LewisBabbitt (1922)
53Cormac McCarthyThe Crossing (1994)
54Carson McCullers The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
55Norman MailerThe Naked and the Dead (1948)
56Bernard Malamud The Magic Barrel (1958)
57Malcolm X and Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
58Rollo May Love and Will (1969)
59Thomas MertonThe Seven Storey Mountain (1948)
60Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer (1934)
61N. Scott MomadayHouse Made of Dawn (1968)
62Wright MorrisField of Vision (1956)
63Toni MorrisonSula (1973)
64Toni MorrisonSong of Solomon (1977)
65Toni MorrisonBeloved (1987)
66Toni Morrison Jazz (1992)
67Vladimir NabokovLolita (1958)
68John G. NeihardtBlack Elk Speaks (1932)
69Flannery O'ConnorA Good Man is Hard to Find (1955)
70Charles Olson Call Me Ishmael (1947)
71Tillie Olson Tell Me a Riddle (1961)
72Jon OkadaNo-No Boy (1977)
73Grace PaleyCollected Stories (1994)
74Walker Percy The Moviegoer (1961)
75Katherine Anne PorterFlowering Judas and Other Stories (1930)
76Thomas Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
77Adrienne RichOn Lies, Secrets and Silence (1979)
78Philip Roth Portnoy's Complaint (1969)
79J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye (1951)
80May Sarton At Seventy (1984)
81Leslie Marmon Silko Ceremony (1977)
82Isaac B. SingerThe Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1982)
83Gertrude Stein The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1993)
84John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath (1937)
85William StyronSophie's Choice (1979)
86James ThurberA Thurber Carnival (1945)
87Jean Toomer Cane (1923)
88Mark Twain Letters from the Earth (1962)
89John Updike Rabbit, Run (1960)
90Gore VidalThe United States: Essays (1952-1992)
91Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five (1969)
92Alice Walker The Color Purple (1982)
93Robert Penn Warren All the Kings Men (1946)
94Nathanael WestThe Day of the Locust (1939)
95John Edgar Wideman Philadelphia Fire (1990)
96William Carlos WilliamsIn the American Grain (1925)
97Edmund Wilson To the Finland Station (1940)
98Thomas WolfeYou Can't Go Home Again (1941)
99Richard Wright Native Son (1940)
100Wakako Yamauchi Songs My Mother Taught Me (1994)

Source: The Hungry Mind Review. I am actually embarrassed to say how many of these I have read. I have bolded the author and title of those I have read, and just the author if I have read other works by her/him.


Jennifer Government, by Max Barry

Editor's note: This is one future dystopia that has really stood the test of time. I am still recommending it to people. In fact, I need to get a copy from the library and read it again myself.

I am finally getting around to reviewing Jennifer Government, and what excellent timing, coming on the heels of the latest atrocity wrought by the US use of privatized paramilitaries (also known as mercenaries). It is the complete privatization of all "services" that could possibly be performed by the government that drives the plot of this small, frantically-paced, quirky SF novel, set in the usual near-future dystopia. But as near-future dystopias go, this one is the most believable yet, and the real likely result of current neo-con trends. Jennifer works for the government, true, just as Buy Mitsui works for Mitsui and Hack Nike works for Nike and Billy NRA - well, one of them does work for the NRA and the other one is pretending to, hence the confusion. But even though Jennifer's job with the government is tracking down and apprehending criminals (not that there's much one can do anymore that is criminal) she can only go to work if she gets funding, and that may have to come from the grief-stricken parents of a murder victim. Funding once acquired, she goes to work to uncover a brilliant new marketing strategy at Nike - mass murders of youths who have just purchased their $2,500 trainers (to raise the street cred, you see.) Jennifer thinks the style of this sounds familiar - sounds like her ex-husband, as a matter of fact. And so it is! John Nike, he is known as now. But it turns out that the killing was assigned to a soft little pleb named Hack Nike who contracted it out to The Police (TM) (who, in one of the novel's many comic touches, play "Every Breath You Take" constantly at their headquarters, because it's their corporate anthem.) They in turn contract it out to the NRA, who are essentially the best funded and most profitable of all the private armies on the planet.
I have a mixed reaction to this book. The premise is spot-on, and some of the wise-ass comedy is absolutely brilliant. On the down-side, and this is not necessary in a black-comic SF novel but it is often the case, the characters are very cartoon-y. I think Barry is trying to humanize Jennifer by giving her a child (the reason she is no longer married to evil John) and the usual single-parent struggle, and a beginnings of a love-life, but all it does is detract from her integrity as a character (rather than as a person) because he is not quite a good enough writer to pull that off. It might have been better to centre her character around devotion to the job and make her lonely and introspective. Also, I am not a big fan of slapstick, even in visual forms, and I find most attempts to write slapstick vaguely irritating. (The one exception being Thomas Pynchon, which is why I admire him so much.) But in all, the good outweighs the bad, and I would give this book an 8.5 out of 10 as SF and a 5 out of 10 as "Literature".