April 26, 2012

My List: 5 Best Literary Characters of the Past 20 Years

The Book Riot's literary take on Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Characters of the Last Decade was fabulous because A) EW's list had far too few literary characters, B) I love a good bookish list, and C) I learned about some characters I have not had the pleasure of reading thus far.

But that is when it hit me.  This is a great list of literary characters since 1992, but I have not read a lot of these books these characters came from.  Not to mention the first great literary characters that pop into my head (Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn, Gatsby, Celie) are from more than twenty years ago.  So who would my own personal list include?

1. Lisbeth Salander  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2006) by Stieg Larsson
The one book I have read on Book Riot's list is one of my favorites and I cannot argue that Lisbeth most definitely deserves a place on my list as well (and EW, she should be WAY above the #98 slot, I might add.)  She is a computer-hacking. punk-style-wearing, photographic-memory-having, troubled-childhood-overcoming, take-no-prisoners, kick-ass chick.  Did I miss anything?

2. Katniss Everdeen The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins
Katniss is on here because she is a teenage heroine who doesn't melt every time a cute boy looks at her and has built herself a life of living on the edge.  She is someone young females can read about that is actually someone to look up to, not just some girl who has no head on her shoulders and is waiting for prince charming to come rescue her.  Katniss rescues herself.  She is in charge of her own destiny and she doesn't let anybody tell her what to do unless it agrees with her own convictions or she sees through reasoning or hard work that maybe that path is correct.  She has her flaws and she doesn't try to pretend she is perfect and that makes her a little, well, perfect.

3. Alex Cross Along Came a Spider (1992) by James Patterson
Just making the cut of the past 20 years is Patterson's famous detective, Alex Cross.  I like Alex Cross because he is multi-dimensional.  He not only is one of the best homicide detectives in D.C., but he actually cares a lot about the victims and their families.  He is not out for fame and glory, he just wants the bastards who did it caught.  Not only this but he is a family man with children and a grandmother to look after and protect.  He has a degree in psychology.  He plays the piano on the back porch.  He volunteers at a soup kitchen where he is known as the "Peanut Butter Man".  He has a good run of bad luck with women.  He is a good friend and partner.  I can't wait to find out more about Alex Cross as I am not done with the series just yet.

4. Melinda Sordino Speak (1999) by Laurie Halse Anderson
I have several reasons for liking Melinda, some based on literary merit and some personal.  However, I think that Melinda is an important character in that there are not many like her, if there are any at all.  Young women who have gone through the same ordeal as her can read how they are not the only ones.  Those who have not discover a likeable character that, while perhaps not relatable, is certainly easy to sympathize with.

5. Bruno The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) by John Boyne
Bruno is the 9-year-old son of a Nazi commander who is living the good life of wealth and innocence until one day he discovers where his father works, not far from his home - a concentration camp.  He forges an unlikely friendship with a small boy in striped pajamas, Shmuel, who lives in the camp.  Bruno does not care that the little boy is Jewish, he only cares that he is his friend and he wishes his friend could come play with him.  He brings him food to eat and he learns about Shmuel's life on the other side of the fence.  Bruno shows us that hatred is taught, not an innate behavior.


  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)April 26, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Fantastic list!  I haven't read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet, but I have seen the movie.

  2. Great list! Now I want to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas! :)

  3. Hm, that's kinda tough! Do you know how many books I've read since 1992?? Off the top of my head, I'd have to go with:

    -Elena from the The Vampire Diaries
    -Sir John Smythe from the Vicky Bliss series
    -Lisbeth Salander--I haven't read the books, but she definitely makes that series.
    -Edward Cullen--I was just thinking the other day he might be the most influential hero of the last decade.

  4. I like your list specially the last recommendation.

  5. You will love the books, Kathy!

  6. I have only read Hunger Games and agree with Katniss! I dont know I could narrow it down to only 5. Hmm but mine would be maybe:
    - Harry Dresden - Harry Dresden series
    - The Witches - Discworld Series
    - Heck most of the Discworld series cast.
     um I cant think of any more sorry :(


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