'The Great Gatsby' turns 90 today and it's still the best American novel of all time

Dicaprio gatsby glass 2Warner Bros.Leonardo DiCaprio played Jay Gatsby in the 2013 remake from Baz Luhrmann.

When people ask what
the Great American Novel is
, there’s really one answer you can take seriously.

“The Great Gatsby,” which had its 90th birthday on Friday.

Compared with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, all the others contenders make reading feel like a slog, which has to be at least part of the reason that 23% of Americans don’t read a book in an entire year.

Let’s review:

“Moby Dick”? Boring. Who needs to spend hours reading Herman Melville spill details of New England whaling?

“The Scarlet Letter”? Nathaniel Hawthorne was at his best with “The Minister’s Black Veil.”

“To Kill A Mocking Bird”? Hope that Harper Lee’s next book is little more compelling.

“Infinite Jest”? Anyone who says they have read the whole thing is lying.

There’s “Gatsby,” then there’s everything else.

Here’s why: reading shouldn’t be a punishment.

For me, reading “Gatsby” in 11th grade was when I first realised that “pleasure reading” could be a thing that exists in real life.

While he wrote in rhyme and image and symbol and detail, Fitzgerald still pulled the plot taut — the book clocks in at under 50,000 words.

It made me want to be a writer. For my friend and novelist Jack Cheng, it’s the same story.

“I read it and said, ‘Holy s—, I want to do what this guy does,” he recalls. “For me, its a very visual book, and for me, the way Fitzgerald uses language, it can be so visually unexpected.”

A few cases in point.

This exchange between narrator Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, where Gatsby talks about winning back Daisy Buchanan:

Or the way Nick’s romantic interest Jordan describes summer in New York:

Or, most of all, the novel’s final lines, care of Nick:

There’s just nothing like it.

NOW WATCH: This Scientology documentary made HBO hire 160 lawyers — here’s the trailer

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.