.   What are they saying about the book?

Here are some reviews of this book, with corresponding links where appropriate:

Thomas Callow (adjunct professor at College of Staten Island) wrote (2008):

"I have been conducting classes at a senior Options program (ages 35 to whatever) at the local college based on the characters in your book. I choose 4 characters a week, we read aloud, and then we discuss the dynamics of what has been read. The response has been overwhelming! Childhood memories have surfaced, people talk about the analogies, metaphors, past experiences, feelings and thought-provoking discussions that are endless. We have covered approximately 50 characters in 2 consecutive semesters. We are a population of 20-25 students and believe the book has touched a nerve for those involved in the class. Participants are now going back to read the classics, they are reading aloud in class, and actually participating in discussions which are thought-provoking, sensitive, and soul-searching. It is like a time capsule, the class gets nostalgic, emotional, appreciative for what this subject has effected for them."

Library Journal - December 2005 (no link available), wrote:

"[The authors] approached their topic out of pure interest, which lends accessibility to the subject matter and a conversational style to the writing.... This entertaining and informative book is suitable for public libraries."

CH (Bas Bleu) wrote:

Slightly silly and infinitely entertaining, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived is also, in fact, seriously interesting. The contemplative coauthors of this unusual book treat the reader to an amusing short essay about each of the 101 fictional characters they deem to be the most significant in American cultural history. Among the great invented luminaries, you'll find Icarus, Santa Claus, Don Juan, King Kong, Jim Crow, Luke Skywalker, Sherlock Holmes, G. I. Joe, Captain Ahab, Alice, Hamlet, HAL 9000, Mary Richards, Bambi, the Marlboro Man, Big Brother, and Archie Bunker. It's tremendous fun to debate the selections and think up your own contenders—I wish Winnie the Pooh had made the cut—but, overall, the authors did a pretty good job! (And, in their defense, the authors did include Pooh on the appendix list of "near misses.")

Mike Israel (Prof. Emeritus, KEAN UNIVERSITY; author of crimeletter.net) - July 2007 (no link available) wrote:

"[This] book is a good research tool, for students in a class setting.  [The] book is not about popular culture, but is popular culture. This book could be a valuable course adoption text. Students will be able to see a culture through its heroes and villains. If I were teaching such a course, that's what I would be looking for, a book with "data," many examples of popular culture,  that invites each student to deduce from all the stories (data) what they can creatively see.  There's also rich material for cultural comparisons.  Example: compare the monsters -- King Kong the American, Godzilla the Japanese, and Frankenstein the English.  [Compare] James Bond with Sam Spade, both across cultures and eras...  This book could be a valuable course adoption text...  Students will be able to ...see a culture through its heroes and villains."  

Morgan Kriz (North Tahoe Living - June 6, 2007) wrote:

"I purchased it and tucked it in my purse. Well, what a good choice it was — laugh-aloud funny, easy to read, insightful, well researched without being “heavy” and educational. I found it a “Good Read” for any reader or listener (whether middle-school age or senior citizen), particularly good to read with or to someone else, and one that can be picked up and read in isolated individual segments and then discussed. 
"Plus, now that summer has arrived here at Tahoe, it provides fun beach reading that gives food for thought and conversation. The 101 characters selected are ranked in order, segregated into 17 distinct categories, and discussed individually. Interspersed between the categories are “Interludes” which are written in a very light-hearted, personal but informative tone explaining how the authors got into writing this book, their ranking method, categories, writing process, who met whom and who is fictional. In addition to a witty and clear description and history of each character, there is a frequent box of “Maybe You Didn’t Know” tidbits and references for more information or readings should you wish to know more of each character. There is also an appendix listing the “Also Rans and Near Misses.” Enjoy, and think of who you would add to the list and why."

Janice Harayda (One-Minute Book Reviews, March 23, 2007) wrote:

"Publishers have a phrase for books like The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived – “an impulse buy at the bookstore.” Boy, do they know me. I can’t remember what I was looking when I saw this book near the cash register at a bookstore. Whatever it was, it’s vanished from my mind last week’s episode of Wife Swap. But I keep dipping into this dish of literary tacos with mild salsa....

"The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived could be a handy book for, say, baby boomers who are having trouble explaining to their grandchildren exactly why Archie Bunker (No. 32) was so different from other sitcom characters of his day. It wasn’t just that he called his liberal son-in-law “Meathead”"

Linda Brazill (Madison Capital Times - December 15, 2006) wrote:

"The impact of characters from fiction, myth, legends, movies and TV on the broader culture is the premise behind this entertaining little paperback.... Fun to read or use as the springboard for creating your own lists and discussion."

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David J. Foster (West Chester Daily Local - December 13, 2006) wrote:

"'The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived' ... offers classic skirmishes: Ebenezer Scrooge (#16) versus Santa (#4) ... Willy Loman (#95) of 'Death of a Salesman' ... Dorothy Gale (#91), in 'The Wizard of Oz,' ... Godzilla (#38) as a veiled parable against atomic warfare, and G.I. Joe (#48), who shifted from blue collar hero to a comic book action figure as the country's view of the military changed.... Is the Loch Ness Monster (#56) ... more influential than mother-obsessed Norman Bates (#75)? ... Discuss that while chugging your eggnog."

Dawn Zera (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader - December 5, 2006) wrote:

"The book also provides insight into characters many younger generations may not be familiar with. For example, how many 18- to 35-year-olds can explain who Mary Richards, Rosie the Riveter, Siegfried and Nora Helmer are?"

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Erica Colliflower (Hagerstown Morning Herald - December 5, 2006) wrote:

"Try to imagine life without fiction and the people who make up that world. It's really hard, because fictional characters play an integral role in every person's life.  For every stage of life - contented child, sullen teenager or stressed adult - there are fictional people who influence behaviors or attitudes. These characters make their audiences laugh and cry. Oftentimes, they represent an ideal to strive for or repulse people with ugly attitudes or conduct....  [F]ictional characters don't have to influence people and they can't make people do things, however they do have that potential. They have as much power over us as we give them."

Bill Nash (Ventura County Star - November 30, 2006) wrote:

"Most of my conversations at parties start as the result of a spilled drink on a new dress.... But this year, I may have a secret weapon...  a book sure to generate lots of discussion. The next time conversation lags at a party, ask the person next to you, 'What person who never lived influenced you the most?' After asking the bartender to cut you off, they'll discover it's a fascinating question.... Setting the course of history is no small feat for someone who never existed.... And the impact of any one of them on our lives is certainly debatable. But, of course, that's what makes for interesting cocktail party conversation."

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Bobbi Booker (Philadelphia Tribune - November 16, 2006) wrote:

"Inspired by a heated give-and-take they had one day in a bookstore, the authors set out to create their own testament to the power of fantasy."

Katie Nichols (Washington Times - November 13, 2006)

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Candace Hammond (Cape Cod Times - November 13, 2006) wrote:

"From Don Quixote to Barbie, 'people' who never lived have influenced us all.... It's an interesting question to ponder."

The Calgary Herald, on November 12, 2006 (no link available), wrote:

"...whether you concur or take issue with the authors' picks, there's no denying that The 101 Most Influential People who Never Lived is an excellent cultural primer that is sure to get your brain going."

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Playboy - December 2006, Holiday Gift roundup (not online yet):

"... reminds us that imagination's progeny are often more memorable than real life's."

American Profile - November 5, 2006:

"Just how much clout do cartoon heroes, movie characters and literary creations carry in our cultural world? A lot, according to Lazar, Karlan and Salter, who convincingly corral monsters (King Kong, Godzilla), fictitious adventurers (Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe), folk legends (William Tell, Don Juan) and other imaginary icons from the worlds of theater, television and film, advertising, folk tales and mythology into a delightful, lively dissection of the many ways they continue to influence our lives."

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Beverly Beckham (Boston Globe - October 29, 2006) wrote:

"Unreal, but inspirational"

The Baltimore Sun, on October 29, 2006, in the Ideas section, page 4F (no link available), wrote:

"The authors try to explain the importance of these fictional characters in our lives and then, just to make a little trouble, actually rank their importance. You are sure to disagree about some assessments, nod in bemused agreement about others and make loads of fresh personal connections between life and art."

Dennis Lythgoe (Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) - October 27, 2006) wrote:

"This book is a great pleasure to read as a serious reference work, or maybe an instrument to guide a fun group game or project."

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Herb Denenberg (Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia) - October 26, 2006) wrote:

"Here comes a book and its list which I couldn't refuse.... The book shows the power of ideas, and does offer further proof that, at least at times, the pen is mightier than the sword. The list shows why poets, novelists, artists, playwrights, musicians, advertising executives, movie producers and other creative souls are often more influential than politicians, perhaps because they have ideas, emotions and truths that often cannot be grasped or uttered by politicians."

Whedon-esque: Joss the way we like it

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Rebecca Swain Vadnie (Orlando Sentinel - October 10, 2006) wrote:

"With short essays, trivia and reading suggestions, 101 Influential People is an interesting little way to get into the philosophy of popular culture while reflecting exactly how much fictional figures have shaped the way we think."

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Last updated 26 November 2017.