The Catcher in the Rye has been consistently listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. Shortly after its publication, in an article for The New York Times, Nash K. Burger called it "an unusually brilliant novel," while James Stern wrote an admiring review of the book in a voice imitating Holden's. George H. W. Bush called it a "marvelous book," listing it among the books that have inspired him. In June 2009, the BBC's Finlo Rohrer wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded "as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager." Adam Gopnik considers it one of the "three perfect books" in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby, and believes that "no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Rye captured New York in the fifties." In an appraisal of The Catcher in the Rye written after the death of J.D. Salinger, Jeff Pruchnic says the novel has retained its appeal for many generations. Pruchnic describes Holden as a “teenage protagonist frozen midcentury but destined to be discovered by those of a similar age in every generation to come.” Bill Gates said that The Catcher in the Rye is one of his favorite books.
However, not all reception has been positive. The book has had its share of critics, and many contemporary readers "just cannot understand what the fuss is about". According to Rohrer, who writes, "many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J.D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing." Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it "captures existential teenage angst" and has a "complex central character" and "accessible conversational style"; while at the same time some readers may dislike the "use of 1940s New York vernacular" and the excessive "whining" of the "self-obsessed character".