Megan Harlan
April 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The New York Public Library's Books of the Century

Current Status
In Season
Elizabeth Diefendorf
Oxford University Press
Reference, Nonfiction

We gave it an B+

Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and The Joy of Cooking all made the cut: They were declared some of the most notable books of the last 100 years by the New York Public Library in a controversial 1995 exhibit, ”Books of the Century.” In the companion tome The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century, the 150-plus titles — each accompanied by a Cliffs Notes-style explanatory blurb — are divided into sections like ”Protest & Progress” (where you’ll find The Grapes of Wrath) and ”Optimism, Joy, Gentility” (home of To Kill a Mockingbird). Owing to public outcry, some books not in the original exhibit are added here — like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which, after the Bible, many American readers consider to have had the greatest influence on their lives. As a ”list” book, this is an invigorating one — quick, smart, contentious.

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