Essential Books Commentary

The post about the 20 Essential Books panel has garnered a fair amount of interest around the blogosphere. In particular Niall Harrison and Karen Burnham have been busy doing data mining.

I’m sure this is all very interesting, and I’ve been guilty of some of it myself, but I can’t help get the feeling that this is missing the point somewhat. That panel was not particularly diverse (and in part I picked it that way). We all know each other quite well, and to some extent we have similar tastes. We would have got a very different result if we had a panel composed of, say, Timmi Duchamp, Dave Truesdale, Jeff VanderMeer, Tempest Bradford and Jerry Pournelle. And that panel would not have produced a definitive list any more than we did.

And yes, even though the panel all knew each other, we don’t all read the same books. Each of my fellow panelists managed to pick at least one book that I hadn’t read. I’m mostly far more interested in those than in middling overlap between our lists.

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