Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Bible and other Missing books

I have been asked why many of the most important books in history have been omitted from this list.  Some have asked why the Bible is not included, others have asked about Pilgrim's Progress (the second best selling book of all time) and others have asked about other books.  I can't answer for those who made the list but I will give my best guess.

First, this list is exclusive for novels.  That removes the books such as the Bible (which is a collection of letters and documents).  It also excludes books that are poetry by definition such as Homer's Odessy or Iliad.  Other great books are also left off because of language barriers and translation issues.  This list is specific to an English audience.  We as 21st century Americans probably would find little meaning in works such as I Ching or Tao Te Ching

Secondly, any list created automatically carries with it the bias of those who are selecting.  It also carries with it the bias of the culture at large.  Sadly the modern English speaking culture has lost its respect for classic religious texts and this list brings light to this situation.  Almost all religious books have been removed from this list, from all faiths.  Not only is Christian literature missing, but also are books of Catholic importance and others. 

No thinking person (whether religious or not) can doubt the impact that these books have had on the world. 

Lastly, this list contains mostly recent novels.  There are very few books listed that are more than 150 years old.  These books were written for our audience and we can immediately relate to them because we live in (or near in time) to the context of the book.

Regardless of whether one agrees 100% with the list or not it cannot be missed that these are all great novels.  Perhaps when this is over in 8 years we can start reading the others.  Start looking now for your copy of I Ching


  1. I would have to agree with your analysis of why books like the Bible were left off the list.

  2. I think any list of just a hundred would surely leave off some my favorites. There are just too many great books to include them all. I really like Tbe Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird because of the historical insights they offer. And I really like the way A Passage to India captures the "off-kilter" feeling you have trying to fit into the culture from a western background.

  3. Jacob, thanks for your insight into why various books do and do not make different lists. While the Bible should be "required" reading for any educated person, it is not surprising that it would not be on a list focused on novels!