Observer Repeats New York Times Survey and Names Disgrace Best Work of Fiction


Nearly five months after New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus surveyed several hundred writers, critics, and editors to name the best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years (Toni Morrison’s Beloved), a British newspaper has repeated the process and named the best novel published from 1980 to 2005 in Great Britain, Ireland, or the Commonwealth.

On October 8, after asking a hundred and fifty literary professionals for their input, the Observer named J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace (Secker and Warburg, 1999) the winner. Second place belongs to Martin Amis for Money (Jonathan Cape, 1984), and sharing third place is Earthly Powers (Hutchinson, 1980) by Anthony Burgess, Atonement (Doubleday, 2001) by Ian McEwan, The Blue Flower (Flamingo, 1996) by Penelope Fitzgerald, The Unconsoled (Knopf, 1995) by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Midnight's Children (Knopf, 1981) by Salman Rushdie.

Among the panelists were Monica Ali, Kate Atkinson, Julian Barnes, A. S. Byatt, Peter Carey, Nick Hornby, Hanif Kureishi, Frank McCourt, Jonathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith, and Edmund White.

Writing in the October 22 issue of the New York Times Book Review, book editor Dwight Garner made the point that only one of the seven books at the top of the Observer's list—McEwan's Atonement—has appeared on the New York Times best-seller list.