Sunday, October 21, 2007

Strand Poll: Atlas & Fountainhead Make The Cut

By Joseph Kellard

Back in August I informed my readers about a poll that Strand Bookstore in New York City was conducting to celebrate its 80th anniversary. The poll asked Strand customers to cast their votes for their all-time favorite five books. Well, the results of the poll’s top 80 vote-getters were announced earlier this month, and two of the books I voted for, both by Ayn Rand, landed in the top 10: “Atlas Shrugged” at 5 and “The Fountainhead” at 6.

For the complete list of 80 books, follow this link:

I learned about this poll from a fellow member of the Harry Binswanger List. This particular HBLer attended the event at which the owner of the famous Greenwich Village bookstore announced the poll’s results. He writes that when Miss Rand’s novel’s were read off the list, he heard “some minor murmurs of pain” for the people in attendance, and that the owner apologize for these titles, benevolently explaining that he thought that Ayn Rand’s fans stacked the vote for her two most important novels.

Meanwhile, at number 42 is her novella, “Anthem,” another book I cast a vote for, and among the top ten books, I’ve read the top four:

1) ToKill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salingerr

I read these novels many years ago, before I read “The Fountainhead,” my all-time favorite novel, and “Atlas Shrugged,” my second favorite. I don’t remember much at all about either “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Catcher in the Rye,” other than that the youthful narrator in the latter novel was quite cynical. “The Great Gatsby" is a sad book about a not-so-great wealthy man who eventually kills himself because he cannot be with the love of his life. “Pride and Prejudice” is the best of the quartet—a novel that highlights as independent, bold and intelligent a woman as you’re find in a story set in 18th century England.

After reading many similar and somewhat better novels for many years, I eventually picked up “The Fountainhead” and was thus taken into another universe of literature. After coming across the intransigently independent Howard Roark, my life would eventually change forever. For more on this, see my post “How I Got Bit By The Objectivism Bug.”

Hopefully news of Strand’s book poll will spread and others will be inspired to read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” and possibly, hopefully, they will discover the same grandeur and life-enhancing ideas that I found in these great novels.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard


Rational Jenn said...

That's a really good list of books! Even though the owner apologized for the inclusion of Ayn Rand's books, it's wonderful that they are included so prominently and hopefully that will translate into more people becoming familiar with her writing.

If I may make a point about The Great Gatsby: Gatsby did not commit suicide. He was killed by someone who was taking revenge and mistakenly thought Gatsby was the man he sought. However, Gatsby's choices did lead to his fate. The book is exceptionally well-written and I think it deserves a top 10 placement in any list of great literature, despite its tragic premise. An Objectivist might find it worthy of study--it's a gripping tale of a first rate second-hander and Fitzgerald very ably illustrates Gatsby's unhappiness even though he is incorrect about the moral issues.

Joseph Kellard said...


Thank you for leaving a comment. And thanks for correcting me on how Gatsby dies. While it's been a long time since I read the novel and have watched the movie (with Robert Redford at Gatsby), I should have made sure about Gatsby's fate before writing about the novel.

I cannot comment about the literary worthy of The Great Gatsby, since, again, I haven't read it in many years and don't remember it that well. Right now, I’m venturing into the world of “My Antonia” by Willa Cather.

~ JK