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The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History Paperback – 2 Nov 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (2 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061132217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061132216
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description

About the Author

Allan Lazar is a graduate of Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia and did post graduate work at the University of Chicago where he was also a member of the faculty. He has also served on the faculty of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons as well as Fairleigh Dickinson University Dental School.

Dan Karlan originally trained to be a biochemistry researcher at MIT, but after several years changed careers to computer programming. His favorite authors are Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Larry Niven and Poul Anderson.

Jeremy Salter was born in New York City but grew up in Long Branch, NJ. He has a BS in chemistry from Monmouth College and worked in the drug industry as an analytical chemist. He had studied writing at the feet of Allan Lazar and his dog, Yogi.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martensgirl on 14 Oct. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
A great idea, an interesting book, but it still disappoints on several levels. Firstly, there are several characters I had never heard of; the book is written by Americans, I am British, and in years gone by quite a bit of American culture did not make it across the pond. It made me feel a tad left out- surely I should have heard of characters who are ranked in importance alongside the protagonists of Greek myths, Shakespearean plays and classic films from the last century!

I am undecided on the ranking process. Some of the choices seem a little bit odd, but then I like the quirkiness of some of the others. This book would be a good choice for the bathroom library- great to dip into, learn an interesting fact about someone from our culture, and then put it down again. It is not a scholarly work, and is to be taken lightheartedly.
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By Pilipala on 23 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
As a fan of the quirky and sometimes pointless fact, I loved this book. Some I wouldn't agree with as to their influence on society, but good cases put forward for each - and how could every reader of it possibly agree entirely with each entry? That would be insane. If you require insights into the characters from Greek Mythology, or literature, or more contemporary figures for a speech or an essay - or you're just one of those bores at parties, this is for you! Seriously, I enjoyed it, despite not recognising a few of the characters from the Americana chapter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 38 reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
A great concept-- but not particularly well done 18 May 2007
By L. F. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read a review of this book in a magazine, and I was intrigued by the concept: Michael Hart's "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History" deals with actual people; wouldn't it be possible and useful to do the same with fictional characters? Yes, it would, but, unfortunately, the authors don't execute the concept very well.

The problem for me isn't the rankings. After, all, they're admittedly subjective, and in the end, they don't matter that much any way. The thing that I found jarring at first-- and then grating as I read on-- was the uneven quality of the essays. I suspect that this was in part due to the simple fact that there are three co-authors. It would be very difficult to coordinate the styles and lengths of the essays.

More seriously, though, they clearly didn't attempt to coordinate the point of the essays. That is, some of them are straight biographies. Some are pop-cultural analyses of the significance of the characters. Some are political screeds. Some are failed attempts to be cutsie, best illustrated by the essay supposedly written by an author's dog. Many of the essays read as though they were responses to homework assignments that were written at the last second by a student hoping that his teacher will mistake generalities and clever wordplay for content.

Now, this isn't to say that I hated the book; in fact, I actually liked it. It's just that it disappointed me. With a little more authorial discipline-- or maybe stronger editorial control-- it could have been a GREAT book.

So, in summary, I think it's worth reading, and it's entertaining, but I believe it could have been so much better.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting concept, disappointing execution 30 Nov. 2007
By Jacob A. Manalan - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a person with a long and meaningful relationship with fiction, I was excited to read a book based on the effects of fictional persons on a societal level.
However, most of the book is dedicated to introducing you to these characters, their history and introduction, and very little time (almost no time) is spent talking about the cultural impact. For instance, Superman (#64) is introduced as a creation in comics and later discussed how he differs from conventional heroes, followed by a discussion of a few later incarnations. There is no discussion about the hero mentality, the usage of Superman in language to embody the exceptional. There isn't even a note about the irony with the Nazi "superman" concept.

The book is broken up into a series of individual character vignettes of about 2 pages each. They offer a brief history of the character with some relatively mediocre quips of humor. The information offered is not a discussion of the impact of fictional characters, so much, as a simple introduction to each character in turn.

Even at the beginning of the book with their self proclaimed "subjective" ranking, they fail to offer any kind of metric or ideal on how they rated each character. They may have, for all I know, picked the names out of a hat, which would be why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is listed as MORE influential than Helen of Troy, Batman, and Atticus Finch.

The writing is ok, and the content is amusing. The book is a simple overview of 101 fictional characters in a quick and relatively enjoyable fashion. Their influence and impact remain pretty much unmentioned.

Probably a decent bathroom book, since each character has an isolated area that can be read in any order. However, I can't recommend it for more than that.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This book didn't influence me 30 Jun. 2008
By Julie Hedlund - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I got this book, I expected to find educated views about the historical/cultural significance of each of the "people" that never lived. Why and how would they consider these particular characters the most influential? Amazingly, this book doesn't even discuss the influence of the characters on society throughout history or why they have so much staying power in our hearts and imaginations. Instead, the authors provide boring summaries of what the characters "did," or how they were created and by whom. Then they proceed to give self-righteous and condescending opinions about whether the message(s) in the story or the actions of the character(s) are appropriate in today's times. Gee, I thought that's what readers/viewers were supposed to do for themselves!!

For example, we shouldn't read Cinderella to our little girls because it creates a sense of false hope that you don't have to do anything to solve your problems (fairy godmother), and that men will only want to marry you if you're beautiful. Perhaps that's true, but last time I read the story, Cinderella was hard-working, lived a difficult life without complaint, and did not resort to treating people badly even when that was the way she herself was being treated. The problem with these compilation-type books is that they can so easily oversimplify and fall into the trite.

Of course I was not expected objectivity. The very nature of a book of this type is one person's biased viewpoint (or in this case two people). I did, however, expect a literary and cultural analysis, as well as perhaps some humor or interesting perspectives. NOT!

This book seemed to me like a brazen attempt for the authors to cash in on the success of books like the 1001 series. My advice: save your money on this one.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Amazing that Fictional People Have the Influence they Do 9 Dec. 2006
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Paperback
Well you can pretty much guess what this book is all about just from reading the title. The only thing left to argue about is the content of the list. Uncle Sam is there, as is Uncle Tom, there's Sherlock Holmes and Luke Skywalker. But there's no Harry Potter, perhaps when he grows up. Mickey Mouse is there, along with Buck Rogers and Superman, but no Charlie Brown or any of the Peanuts gang. Atticus Finch is there - Who's that again? Atticus Finch, the defense lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird.

I could go on, but with 101 people to argue about it would take forever.

After you argue about who is included in the list, then you can start to argue about their ranking. I can't believe that The Marlboro Man #1, ranks higher than Santa Claus - #4.

With each name on the list there is a page or three of description as to who is this person and why he was included. All in all, this shows an amazing amount of research into these characters and I must admit present pretty good arguments to justify their inclusion.

Pretty good arguments, wrong, but pretty good.

Delightful reading.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Okay Bathroom book. 20 Mar. 2007
By Leon Gellert - Published on
Format: Paperback
My sister bought me this book and I was really excited to read it because my friends and I would sit around and discuss topics such as this. It appears that a group of people took advantage of an idea most of us have had and did not deliver anything more than essays that remind me of papers I wrote 3 hours before they were due. Sometimes I never understood why they thought the character was influential, sometimes their influence seemed extremely exaggerated and sometimes I was not sure whether they undertsood influence. The only reason I gave the book 2 stars is because it reignited my desire to have discussions a=on topics such as this.
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