The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived—Review by Carole

Chris gave me this book for Christmas, and my family and I have been reading it aloud, a few pages a night. I always think it's interesting when someone makes a definitive list of something, such as best movies, best musicals, or best American novels, and puts it out there for others to read. It invites argument. Because no two people are going to agree 100% down the line.

That's why I found this endeavor so unique—The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived as agreed upon by three authors (Note: This link takes you to the complete list). The list is compiled by Dan Karlan, Allan Lazar, and Jeremy Salter. They actually explain how they came to determine their list and how they whittled down all of the fictional characters that have had a lasting influence on our culture into this finite list.

For the most part, I was on board with their list, but I often found their reasoning skewed by their personal politics, which is fine. It's their book—they can approach it any way they like.

The book is broken down into categories, such as Television, Literature, and Comics. We enjoyed some categories more than others. We were particularly engaged by Children's Literature, Folktales, and Greek and Roman Myths sections. Less so for Women's Liberation, Commerce, and Propaganda.

At the start of a new section, we would put forth our own ideas as to whom we thought should be included in the list. Many times we were on the right track, but sometimes our suggestions were not on the list at all. Described as "invented icons", these characters have left impressions on our society, according to the authors.

What's fun about the book too is the rather ludicrous grouping of names that otherwise would not be associated with one another. Where else would you find Mary Richards, Faust, and King Kong sharing space on a page?

The authors appear to have enjoyed the writing of the book as much as we enjoyed reading it. It's a good book to share as a family—it prompts spirited discussion, introduces you to characters you may not have encountered on your own, and makes you think about the characters that have influenced you personally.


Chris said...

Carole, did you have a favorite "most influential" person?

Carole said...

Many of the characters mentioned were influential to me, but I do have a special place in my heart for Atticus Finch (#57 on the list) and Rick Blaine (#54 on the list).