Michael Dirda’s Picks for Books That Will Last

Books of the past 50 years that will be remembered a half century from now

By: Todd Kliman

We asked Michael Dirda to select books of the past 50 years that will be remembered a half century from now. “I suspect that these, for the most part, strike us today as strange, idiosyncratic,” he says. “But in 50 years, they will have done something new that the next generation will appreciate in ways we can’t predict. Leaving out the more usual suspects such as Saul Bellow, John Updike, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, or Joyce Carol Oates—all of whom I admire—here are some books or bodies of work that seem quite magical to me. Some of these writers may be new to Washingtonian readers. I hope so. What’s the point of a list if it doesn’t lead you to new work?”

See Also:

An Interview With Michael Dirda

• The poems of Anthony Hecht

• The short stories of Steven Millhauser

• The Dido Twite novels of Joan Aiken

• The fantasy fiction of Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones

• The essays of Guy Davenport, William Gass, Joan Didion, and Gore Vidal

• Frederick Exley’s novel A Fan’s Notes

• James Salter’s novels A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years

• Russell Hoban’s novels The Mouse and His Child and Riddley Walker

• Gilbert Sorrentino’s novels Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things and Mulligan Stew

• Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian

• George V. Higgins’s novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle

• James Crumley’s novel The Last Good Kiss

• John Crowley’s novel Little, Big

• Gene Wolfe’s novel The Book of the New Sun (four volumes: The Shadow Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, and The Citadel of the Autarch)

This article appears in the January 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.