The new classic novels

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Entertainment Weekly’sThe New Classics” issue.

Basically, “The New Classics” issue is a list of the 1,000 best movies, television shows, albums, books and more of the last 25 years, and it is — quite frankly — exceptional. Sandwiched between the lists are little tidbits that will make you smile, like: the movie with the most number of kisses? Brokeback Mountain and Pretty Woman, tied with 27 kisses each. The movie with the most F-bombs? Pulp Fiction with 269, followed by Good Fellas with 265, followed by South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut with 140, followed by that night Bette Porter read Jenny Schecter’s Lez Girls for the first time. (Just kidding, I made up that last one.)

My favorite list is New Classic Books, and because I love nothing more than talking about books and making lists, I am going to give you Entertainment Weekly’s top 5, then my top 5, then you can give me your top 5, OK? OK.

Entertainment Weekly’s New Classic Books:

1) The Road, Cormac McCarthy

2) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

3) Beloved, Toni Morrison

4) The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr

5) American Pastoral, Phillip Roth

Not bad, Entertainment Weekly. I mean, if you think people will be reading The Road over Harry Potter in 20 years, you’ve lost your mind. But it’s a good start.

StuntDouble’s New Classic Books:

1) Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

My therapist once told me you’re not a lesbian until you are — which was exactly my experience with Harry Potter: I wasn’t a fan(atic) until I was. I’d seen the first movie and was nonplussed about all the hype, until I got snowed in one day and my best friend shoved a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban into my hand. Next thing I know I’m standing in line at midnight release parties, and shouting Avada Kedavra! in traffic. C.S. Lewis kicked Susan out of Narnia when she discovered makeup; J.K. Rowling took her characters from naivety to teenage angst to full-blown grownup heroism. She gave us strong, fallible, hilarious, well-rounded characters in a world saturated with magic. I’ll never grow out of it.

2) Naked, David Sedaris

Ira Glass recently said we are living in the Golden Age of Nonfiction, and I’ve gotta believe David Sedaris is at least half-responsible for ushering us here. Naked redefines the essay, moving us from sidesplitting laughter to disbelief to a deeper understanding of the human condition. No one is spared from his affectionate mocking, not even himself. Naked is Sedaris’s most honest work about his coming to terms with being gay. At summer camp in Greece, his bunkmate pinned him with a piece of paper that said, “I like guys.” If someone had given me a similar note at basketball camp I might have figured out that I Liked Girls a lot sooner.

3) Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding

Recipe for a New Classic: Take the classic, Pride and Prejudice, and give the plot a few new twists. Add fresh dialogue. Add an honest look at the life of a thirty-something woman in London. Whip together a family of Singletons we can all relate to. Beat in Smug Marrieds. Mix career with romance. Put in a few pinches of neuroses. Bind with Penguin Classics. Laugh until done.

4) Holes, Louis Sachar

My old college lit professor is going to have a kitten when I type this sentence, but I think Holes could compete with The Great Gatsby for the title of Great American Novel. It is a perfectly plotted book, a brilliantly told story. The difference between the two is that the characters in Holes take journeys that end in some sort of redemption. Whereas in Gatsby the lucky ones get rent in twain by a speeding yellow car, or take a bullet in the back while swimming. Holes starts and ends with the curse of Stanley Yelnats’s great-great-grandfather, and everything in between is every reason I love to read.

5) His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman

I’ve heard it said that if you grow up reading The Chronicles of Narnia and then realize in adulthood that it’s a Christian allegory, you feel betrayed. No chance with that in His Dark Materials; even my nephew could see that Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy is a treatise against the church. In between his ranting, though, Pullman manages to create a richly-textured fantastical world with characters you can’t help but cheer and mourn for. Of all the fantasy imitations that have been published in the last 25 years, I think His Dark Materials will be one of the only ones to stand the test of time.

In an Entertainment Weekly survey, J.K. Rowling topped the list of favorite authors, capturing 46% of the vote. Stephen King came in next with 30%. Then John Grisham with 10%, Cormac McCarthy with 8%, and Toni Morrison with 6%.

Your turn! What are your top 5 New Classic books of the last 25 years, and who is your favorite author?

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