Friday, May 13, 2011

The Top 100 Fantasy Books of all time … or not

Confession: I’m a top 10/top 100/top whatever list addict. If I find an article on a subject about which I’m even remotely interested, and written in the form of a numbered list, I’ll generally stop to read it. That chance increases when said list is arranged in ascending or descending order of quality.

I fully admit that many top 10/ top 100/top whatever lists are contrived hit count fodder (slugging something a “top 10” anything is guaranteed to increase the number of visits to your web site–you’re welcome Black Gate editors!), but occasionally these lists serve a worthy function. For example, if I’ve just finished The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich or Flags of Our Fathers and am looking for another good World War II title, I’ll Google “top 10 world war 2 histories.” This practice typically generates a good suggestion or two–and another “top 10″ article to read.

Top 10/top 100 lists are also flashpoints for debate, often stirring up vigorous agreement or righteous anger and indignity. I generated an angry response with my Top 10 Fantasy Fiction Battles of All-Time, in which former Cimmerian blogger Al Harron took me to task for excluding Robert E. Howard, and also for including some borderline “fantasy” choices. Hey Al, let’s still be friends, okay?

Which leads me to the point of this post. Have you ever typed “top 100 fantasy novels,” or “top 10 fantasy books,” into your search bar? If not, I’ll save you the work. You get this site, the “Top 100 Fantasy Books”.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.

8 comments:

David J. West said...

Slightly off subject Brian-for a humorous World War 2 look from a dog faces pov, check out- Up Front by Bill Maudlin.

And I LOVED - Patton's: War As I Knew It

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I think the problems many people have with a top 10 list is that 'best' is such a subjective term. What are the criteria for best? The most sold? The most talked about? Any attempt at a best list usually turns into a popularity contest, and often many of the winners are current public favorites. Whenever I compile a top 10 list (I just did one for Top 10 Private Eye novels) I'm always quick to point out that I'm making a list of favorites and that best is in the eye of the beholder. Still, I try to give qualifications for why I think something belongs on a Top 10 list. Why I chose this over that, etc. Anyway, as you say, often a good place to start when looking for stuff to read in a particular subject or genre.

francisco said...

I don't understand why for the shieldwall Robert E Howard is the best alongside JRR Tolkien but he doesn't appear in that kind of lists

Eric D. Lehman said...

Following what Charles said - it would be much more honest to make lists that say "Top 100 Favorite X of all time" (according to the authors of the list) or "Top 100 Most Popular X of all time" (according to sales figures, etc) and leave it at that.

At least, as you point out in the post, Brian, a list needs to be carefully defined, and that is just something that no one ever ever does. Not even "professional" listmakers, like say, The Modern Library.

Brian Murphy said...

David: Thanks for the recommendations!

Any attempt at a best list usually turns into a popularity contest, and often many of the winners are current public favorites.

I agree. Also, as someone mentioned in a comment over at Black Gate, you really need a committee-based approach, because very few people have read everything in the genre and can make an accurate assessment. But that still won't stop people (and possibly myself) from trying!

I don't understand why for the shieldwall Robert E Howard is the best alongside JRR Tolkien but he doesn't appear in that kind of lists.

I think it's probably because, outside of The Hour of the Dragon, REH never wrote a "book", but rather, short stories. But now with the release of his collected works, there's no reason why a title like The Conquering Sword of Conan shouldn't make the list.

At least, as you point out in the post, Brian, a list needs to be carefully defined, and that is just something that no one ever ever does.

I agree. The "Top 100 Books list" does give some criteria, but it's very, very fuzzy. And you can vote too using a poll on the website, so I'm not sure how that's weighted.

noisms said...

I wonder why some entries represent an entire series ("The Lord of the Rings") but others don't ("The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe")?

D Collins said...

How did Tanith Lee not make the top 100 list?

Ondrej from James Patterson Book List said...

I've got to say that most of these lists are also suffering from the author's point of view and only a few have the guts to admit it.