Emily Temple's "A Century of Reading" series on LiteraryHub has given useful and entertaining lists of the defining American books of each decade beginning with the 1900s.
I've had no quarrel with Temple's top 10 lists until, as might be expected, she reached the 1960s on Tuesday.
My objection is that she left Joseph Heller's 1961 novel "Catch-22" off her Top 10 selections, relegating it to the much larger "See also" list.
"Catch-22" was the essential work that defined the anti-establishment, anti-military, non-conformist spirit of the 1960s. Heller's book was much more influential than those she places on the top 10.
While I appreciate Temple's honoring of poetry by including Sylvia Plath's "Ariel," on the decade's top 10, "Catch-22" inspired the 1960s generation much more than Plath's posthumous collection.
Heller's black-humor masterpiece outweighs three of the other novels she includes, "Portnoy's Complaint," "Slaughterhouse Five" and "Stranger in a Strange Land."
While Temple says in her introduction "I do not make any claim on exhaustiveness," I was mystified how she could have left Norman Mailer's 1968 classic "Armies of the Night" off both the top 10 and "see also" lists.
Mailer's new journalism landmark about the Vietnam protest march in Washington, D.C., is another defining work of the era. To my mind, it should have made the top 10 over the new journalism books Temple names, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" and "In Cold Blood."
A strong case for top 10 status could also be made for Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."
Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," placed on Temple's secondary list, should have also been on the top 10. Carson's book launched the environmental movement and still inspires the campaign against climate change.
Temple's "see also" roll ignores several other books that illustrated the zeitgeist: Eldridge Cleaver's autobiography "Soul on Ice," Richard Farina's novel, "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me," Hunter S. Thompson's New Journalism classic"Hell's Angels" and Frederick Exley's memoir/novel "A Fan's Notes."
While the 1960s marked television's ascendency for news and entertainment, the decade also brought an outpouring of important, vital literature. Temple's incomplete list brings more debate to a contentious time.