By Amanda Cleveland • January 04, 2022
The New York Times Book Review turned 125 years old. To celebrate their momentous anniversary and their dedicated readership, they asked their readers to nominate the best books of the past 125 years. They narrowed thousands of nominations down to 25 finalists. Those finalists were then voted on by their readers.
The book community has been waiting and, finally, the winner of their vote was announced. It's official:
Lee's masterpiece did have some competition. The New York Times says the win was by a narrow margin. Here, in order, are the four runners-up, any one of which could have held the title of the best book of the past 125 years:
The other books that made up the full 25 finalist ballot included well-known classics like The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The oldest book on the list was Ulysses by James Joyce, pulished in 1922, with the first serialization in 1918.
But the list was not bound by any one decade, or even century. With several recent releases making the cut, it really proves that a truly great story can become an instant classic. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, published in 2015, Amor Towles's A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, and Richard Power's The Overstory, published in 2018, were the three most recent books to make the ballot.
While many of the titles up for vote were literary fiction, the 25 finalists were not restricted to nor dominated by any one genre. Science-fiction, romance, fastasy, and even a western were included. Two children's books made the cut, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Charlotte's Web each taking a spot in the top 25.
Seeing Charlotte's Web make the finalists is extra special to ThriftBooks, as that was the first book we ever sold. And, interestingly enough, To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone have been in competition before on our own site. In our first ever Novel Knockout tournament, the winner was Harry Potter, with To Kill a Mockingbird tieing for third place.
Choosing a definitive best book of the past 125 years is a daunting task. Whatever your personal selection would have been, these 25 finalists are all amazing reads and make a great reading list to start off the new year. Here are more of the finalists so you can start to buld your list: