The New York Times asked a pretty distinguished panel that question, and the answer seems identical to what might be returned by Oprah’s Book Club: Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The rest of the list suggests a somewhat rigged game, with Philip Roth placing no less than six novels in the honorable mentions. A feature on the poll results is promised for Sunday’s book review.
I haven’t read enough contemporary fiction to be a worthy judge of such things – too much Thomas Pynchon in younger days soured me, I guess. However, I have read Toni Morrison, and I do know that Beloved is not the best novel of this or any other quarter century. My own vote would go to Marilynne Robinson’s
On the plus side, Robinson’s earlier classic, Housekeeping, did make the Times poll’s final cut. And Robinson herself was among the panelists. Maybe Sunday’s piece will reveal how they voted.