January 4, 2001
The Best Reading of the
Last summer a Mensan and fervent fan of the written word,
Robert M. Beattie, Jr., of Wichita, Kan., volunteered to tabulate the results if we would
poll Mensan readers about their picks for best books of the 20th century. We like to think
we know an interesting idea when we see one, so we took Robert up on his offer and ran the
poll in the July/August issue of the national membership magazine. Mensans from across the
country responded online and by both email and standard mail.
"The most repeated comment was that the task of choosing the best books is nearly
impossible, manifestly important, and was a cause of misery and conflict in members'
hearts, minds and souls," Robert said at the completion of the project. "The 58
books that received multiple votes are apparently the most compelling books of the century
for the readers of the Mensa Bulletin. Some of them may be characterized as
important or influential books, others as favorites, and all as someone's best
Only the top 12 books received five or more votes including a first-place vote. In tie
votes, titles are placed in the order of their year of first publication, as the older
books have stood the greater test of time. Click on any book for more information.
"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance
to read them at all." -- Henry David Thoreau
Please note this official disclaimer: The poll described above was designed solely to
sample the opinions of those members who responded. It should not be considered as a
research sample of the membership of American Mensa.