Best American fiction of past 25 years

I think some people here like Cormac McCarthy. It was interesting to see his name on the “runner-ups” list of best American fiction of the past 25 years as published in the New York Times Book Review.

This is the list:

A.O. Scott’s essay is here:

I’ve only read about half the books listed, but I was surprised to see Don DeLillo on there.

That is one New York-centric list right there. That is also one grey old list. Phillip Roth? Come on.

Notably absent:

TC Boyle, John Barth, David Foster Wallace, Barry Hannah, Michael Chabon, Harry Crews, Rick Moody, et al.

DeLillo’s inclusion doesn’t surprise me at all. UNDERWORLD is practically a love poem to New York; too bad one of the great pieces of prose of our lifetimes falls completely apart after the 75-page preface.

You mean, “Philip Roth…Philip Roth…Philip Roth…”

Gotta admit, though - that is one great opening. Actually, with the exception of White Noise, I find most of DeLillo’s books fall apart. I can’t even remember if I made it all the way through Underworld.

But, yes, that list is pretty much what you’d expect from the New York Times - Updike, Roth, Carver. I assume that if the NYT ever made a list of the Twenty-Five Greatest Films, the top eight or so would be Woody Allen.

The opening preface of UNDERWORLD is maybe my favorite single piece of American fiction. It is dizzyingly good; about page three you can just feel the hairs standing up on your neck, and they stay that way through to the end. “Electric” is about the best way I can describe it.

It is so good, in fact, that DeLillo and his publishers re-released it as a standalone novella/short story a few years ago called “Pafko At The Wall”.


I don’t get it.

You don’t like Beloved? I might not have put it at the top of my list, but it’s not like it’s crap.

I’m glad Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried made the list.

This reminds me of the bias in movie reviews towards films dealing with either writers, movies, or movie writers. And musicals, though I don’t really understand that one unless all movie reviewers are gay.

And even though it loses cachet because it was incredibly popular, Cold Mountain was one of the most moving, powerful books I’ve ever read. Sumbitch needs to go back up the mountain and crank out an other book.


Beloved is really good, but I don’t think it’s the best among the competition they’ve got listed there. I’d vote for Blood Meridian - wonderful prose throughout, incredibly powerful symbolism, and possibly one of the strongest yet still ambiguous endings I’ve ever read. Though I haven’t read Roth or Updike, so take the grain of salt there. I also agree that Underworld’s opening was goddamn amazing and that the rest of it left me cold.

If nothing else, this top-25 list gives me some things to add to my “to-do” list.

Notably absent:


That’s the best of the last 25 years? That list kind of sucks (when you compare it to the previous 25 years and/or 50 years). And Underworld is like the most pretentious and annoying of Delillo’s work (imo). I’d put Libra as his best.

And Raymond Carver is possibly the only author deserving of the best of the last 25 years, imo. I mean his stories don’t seem so obsessed with the writing of ‘THE american experiencel’ as much as those others are … which in my book, is more true to the American realist tradition. Slice of life and all that shit.

And I’d say Blood Meriridian is the only ‘major’ work I’d say is a given… its epic American, its bloody and symbolic of American brutality and beauty… whatever… I dont read much ‘contemp’ these days so I really am not one to judge!


I’m not saying the authors on that list suck, but that list sucks.

Wow, I thought I was pretty well read, but I’ve only read one book on that list: Confederacy of Dunces (which I loved). A bunch of stuff just got added to my wishlist.

Yeah, I’ve only read Dunces, White Noise and Libra out of the listed books.

I was selfishly hoping that Kavalier & Clay or Infinite Jest would be mentioned, but yeah, it’s strikingly devoid of younger writers.

Underworld is sitting on my bookshelf … guess I have to at least read the preface now.

Fuckin’ baby boomer squares. Jesus’ Son is great, though, as are Denis Johnson’s other novels.

Toni Morrison won!

I meant from triggercut’s list. :)

anything written by ray bradbury

I would’ve mentioned Toni Morrison but she was already atop the times list. Unless you’re an Annie Proulx or Carol Shields fan, the pickins get pretty slim past that.

I think Philip Roth deserves all the accolades he received there, IMHO. Maybe it’s just cuz I’m part of his tribe.

Never finished Underworld either, but Libra and White Noise are two of my fave books EVAR.

And if they really wanted to honor “American writing” and weren’t so snooty about genre fiction, they shoulda put at least one James Ellroy book on there.