The Problem With “Best of All Time” Lists

Super Girl handles the books

So Time Magazine released a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of all Time which since they started only from the 9th Century really just does away with the title of the list right there.

It’s also I think it’s too heavily stacked with recent releases and who the hell knows how they’re going to stand the test of time?

Let me just preface this by saying the old opinions are like assholes bit you’re welcome to yours about the books and these are mine.

But seriously…

There are two books from this series on the list. Two! I’ve only read the first one grant you and diversity aside I thought the story was highly forgettable. Literally. I can hardly remember it.

Both books from The Poppy Wars series are on the list and I know far more people that loved that than I did but both books? Really? Same with A Children of Blood and Bone series and you couldn’t spare a single one of those spots in a best of (heavily recent) fantasy for…

muse of nightmares

Or Strange the Dreamer? Or Daughter of Smoke and Bone which wasn’t really my taste but was still a damned good fantasy! I’m hard pressed to understand how you don’t include Laini Taylor somewhere on a list of Best Fantasy.

I mean Neil Gaiman appears 3 times (none of them for Sandman because graphic novels bad…) you can’t give one of those spots to…

Holy Sister

One of the best written female lead fantasy trilogies I’ve ever read.

And again for modern fantasy I wish Julie Kagawa got a lot more love…

Honor Lost and Night of the Dragon

A finished fantastic series that was completely overlooked but I kind of think maybe some of these people forgot they had to do this and then were just like wait what names are popping into my head right now?

And these are just the ones I can speak too as I’ve never read Robin Hobb but with all the readers I follow who are better read in fantasy I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen one of them not mention…

Another problem with a best of all time list skewing heavily to recent releases Rebecca Roanhorse has Trail of Lightening on the list but I think the more recently released Black Sun is her better book and will stand as a better fantasy in, you know, actual time.

I know these lists are essentially just flashes in the pan and they’ll be another one soon to get angry about. But I do think being Time and the panel they brought together does seemingly confer a lot of would be respect on this one and I just think they could have done better.

Or at least they could have titled it better. I heard someone else say it should have been called Fantasy Through the Ages or maybe split the more recent stuff off and subtitle it Best Fantasy for the Future.

Either way I need to finally get around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora already!

6 comments

  1. I think the problem with the best of lists in general, is that it’s something very personal. If someone highly recommends something, it might not be that you like it. It’s all personal, and I guess that’s something that is the biggest problem with lists such as these. Still, there are bound to be some things on lists like this that might be of interest😀

  2. I wonder if part of the reason people write lists like this is because they can be sort of clickbait-y. You know? I’d like to know if they existed with the regularity we see them now in print magazines from decades ago (…but I am waaaaaay too lazy to ever do the actual research to know). And do the authors ever think it’s really true (or, as you discuss in here, even possible that it be true) or is it just a way to a) get people to read the article and b) get people sharing the article as they passionately agree or argue about it. I don’t know.

    The most honest title an article like this could have would be, “100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time…as far as [insert author’s name] is Concerned…at this Moment in Their Life…Given What They’ve Read…and How Their Mood and Life Experiences and Personal Memories are Affecting Their Choices in this Moment.” Buuuuut I’m not sure that’s a better title XD.

    • Oh it’s definitely clickbait and the problem with the prevalence of clickbait journalism in far more important things than book lists is a whole other rant 🙂

  3. I didn’t read the list because I saw enough discussion of it to realize I didn’t think I would agree with it either. It does sound heavily recent, and I think that’s a problem if part of the criteria was that the books were supposed to be influential in some sense. How can you tell if a book published two years ago has influenced the genre in any way? (And if anyone has influenced YA fantasy, I’d honestly have to say it’s Sarah J. Maas. I don’t particularly love her writing, but I can tell so many authors are trying to write like her!)

    Also I read Beowulf isn’t on the list, which is a hard pass for me. 😀

    • Yep Beowulf is missing might be the time cut off but seriously how can you have modern fairy tale retellings but not the Brother’s Grimm? Oh well sometimes I swear I read these lists just to make myself angry 🙂

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