Elizabeth Seton Library


25 Years of the Best American Fiction

"Early this year, the New York Times Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify 'the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.' See a list of the judges. Following are the results."

Essay In Search of the Best

By A. O. Scott

More than a century ago, Frank Norris wrote that "the Great American Novel is not extinct like the dodo, but mythical like the hippogriff," an observation that Philip Roth later used as the epigraph for a spoofy 1973 baseball fantasia called, naturally, "The Great American Novel." It pointedly isn't - no one counts it among Roth's best novels, though what books people do place in that category will turn out to be relevant to our purpose here, which has to do with the eternal hunt for Norris's legendary beast. The hippogriff, a monstrous hybrid of griffin and horse, is often taken as the very symbol of fantastical impossibility, a unicorn's unicorn.



Toni Morrison

Review    CMSV availability


But the Great American Novel, while also a hybrid (crossbred of romance and reportage, high philosophy and low gossip, wishful thinking and hard-nosed skepticism), may be more like the yeti or the Loch Ness monster - or sasquatch, if we want to keep things homegrown. It is, in other words, a creature that quite a few people - not all of them certifiably crazy, some of them bearing impressive documentation - claim to have seen. The Times Book Review, ever wary of hoaxes but always eager to test the boundary between empirical science and folk superstition, has commissioned a survey of recent sightings. Read more...

Don DeLillo

Review  CMSV availability

Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy

Review  CMSV On Order

Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels
John Updike


'Rabbit at Rest' CMSV availability
'Rabbit Is Rich' CMSV availability
'Rabbit Redux'  CMSV availability
'Rabbit, Run'     CMSV availability

American Pastoral
Philip Roth

Review  CMSV availability



The following books also received multiple votes:

A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole (1980)


Marilynne Robinson (1980)

Winter's Tale

Mark Helprin (1983)

White Noise

Don DeLillo (1985)

The Counterlife

Philip Roth (1986)


Don DeLillo (1988)

Where I'm Calling From

Raymond Carver (1988)

The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien (1990)


Norman Rush (1991)

Jesus' Son

Denis Johnson (1992)

Operation Shylock

Philip Roth (1993)

Independence Day

Richard Ford (1995)

Sabbath's Theater

Philip Roth (1995)


Border Trilogy

Cormac McCarthy (1999)

The Human Stain

Philip Roth (2000)


The Plot Against America

Philip Roth (2004)


The Known World

Edward Jones (2003)


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