davidd (davidd) wrote,

100 Great Novels: The List

While compiling my list of "100 Great Novels," a project which consumed considerably more time than I had expected, I referred to a number of web sites and attempted to cross-reference the suggestions. I discovered that while a few books garnered a spot on nearly all lists, the variety and range of what merits "great" or "must read" status was broader than I had anticipated. I thought I could easily find a "best novels" list or two, note the similarities, and work from that to create a list for myself, but even the definition of "novel" varied from list to list, with some lists steering clear of "speculative fiction" (that is, sci-fi and other genre fiction), while others included collections of short stories or plays. Many lists limited their scope to 20th-century fiction. Also, while a few authors appeared on most lists, the selections as to the "best" or most representative works from those authors were not consistent. Some lists included more than one work from a particular author. For my purposes, to ensure a greater variety, I elected to include no more than one work from any particular author (with one exception; I'll be starting off with both The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer).

Another challenge I encountered was how best to deal with foreign language novels. Obviously many of the "great" novels of all time were originally written in languages other than English. The issue for me as an English-only reader becomes which translation of a particular novel to read. When adding non-English novels to my list, I looked for opinions as to the "best" translations, or for descriptions of the differences among equally popular translations. I often selected the older, popularly referenced translations as they are likely the versions that contributed to the lasting impact of foreign language books in the English-speaking world. Availability at a reasonable price also affected my choices; I plan to read as many books as possible from this list as eBooks on the Kindle device. Many older books are available for free download, or for 99¢ for better-formatted versions. Of course I intend to make liberal use of the local public library.

Web sites I found particularly useful in compiling my list include:

The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written from Library Thing

The Telegraph's 110 Best Books from Library Thing

Time's critics pick the 100 best novels, 1923 to the present

and especially

The Greatest Books of All Time from The Greatest Books web site

I also solicited input from friends and acquaintances both internet and "real life," and I included a few obscure works of which I became aware while researching suggestions from the lists.

While the list includes a few titles I have read previously (see notes below), I did not include books I have read recently. I also included a number of "lighter" novels; many books on the "best of" lists are pretty heavy-duty… that is, long, challenging, and often depressing or disturbing. My thinking is that interspersing an occasional shorter, lighter book will help me to maintain long-term resolve.

As for obvious omissions: where is Mark Twain? I had to read and re-read Huckleberry Finn several times through high school and college, and I've read bits and pieces of Twain since. Finn is the Twain book that makes all the lists, but I feel sufficiently familiar with it to omit it from my current list. Tolkein… no thanks. Tried, years ago. Made it through The Hobbit, and that was enough for me. I'm sure there are other recommended novels that appear on various lists that I've overlooked or left out, either unconsciously or intentionally. Also, I'm uncomfortably aware that my list is probably too heavy on books from the second half of the twentieth century to the present. That time period seems to be over-represented on almost all the lists at which I looked. Perhaps, however, this indicates that books from the last fifty or sixty years have the most influence on contemporary literature and popular culture.

So, like, whatever, here we go; my list of 100(+/-) Great Novels to read:

1. The Iliad by Homer – early 7th century BCE (trans.: Samuel Butler)
2. The Odyssey by Homer - 8th – early 7th century BCE (trans.: Samuel Butler)
3. The Aeneid by Virgil - 19 BCE (trans.: J. W. Mackail)
4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - 167 (translation not yet determined)
5. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson - 1220 (trans.: A. G. Brodeur) (Icelandic version of Norse mythology, suggested by a well-read and literarily well-rounded acquaintance)
6. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli - 1532 (trans.: W. K. Marriott)
7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes - 1615 (trans.: my intent is to read the John Ormsby and John Rutherford versions concurrently)
8. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan - 1684
9. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe - 1719 (I read this in junior high school)
10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - 1735 edition
11. Candide by Voltaire - 1759 (trans.: not yet determined)
12. Tristram Shandy (The Life and Opinions of) - by Laurence Sterne 1759 - 1767
13. Female Quixotism by Tabitha Gilman Tenney - 1801
14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - 1816
15. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley - 1818
16. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock - 1818
17. Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin - 1820
18. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper - 1826
19. Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton - 1830 ("It was a dark and stormy night….")
20. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. - 1840
21. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - 1844
22. Varney the Vampire; or The Feast of Blood by Rymer and/or Prest - 1847 (Not on _any_ "best novels" lists of which I am aware… until now!)
23. Vanity Fair by William M. Thackeray - 1848
24. Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville - 1851 (I vaguely recall reading this, or trying to, in junior high school)
25. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - 1852
26. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - 1856 (trans.: Paul de Man)
27. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - 1859 (Again, I read this in junior high school in Mr. Barker's class)
28. Silas Marner by George Eliot - 1861 (I've long heard that this is a widely required high school read, but I've never read it)
29. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - 1862 (Harper Perennial Classics translation)
30. The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley - 1863
(Now you know the obscure meaning behind the line, "I'd have named him Kingsley, if I'd had any say in the matter," in the movie The Life Aquatic)
31. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - 1869 (trans.: not yet determined)
32. Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne - 1870 (trans.: F.P. Walter) (I read this in the 6th grade of elementary school)
33. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James - 1881
34. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - 1883
35. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche - 1883-1885
36. King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard - 1895 (I read this some several years ago)
37. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - 1889 (I read this fairly recently, actually, but it's too funny to not include!)
38. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - 1890
39. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy - 1891
40. The Diary of a Nobody by G. & W. Grossmith - 1892
41. Hartmann the Anarchist; or, The Doom of the Great City by E. D. Fawcett - 1893 (Another title not likely found on many "great books" lists)
42. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - 1899
43. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser - 1900
44. Kim by Rudyard Kipling - 1901
45. Brewster's Millions by George Barr McCutcheon (aka Richard Greaves) - 1902
(A prolific popular novelist of the late-19th and early 20th-centuries who deserves to be remembered, or at least not entirely forgotten)
46. The Virginian by Owen Wister - 1902 (The "western" genre is decidedly absent from "best" lists. This is one of the early classics; I recently finished Riders of the Purple Sage or that would have been my choice)
47. The Riddle of the Sands by Robert Erskine Childers - 1903 (One of the earliest "secret agent" genre novels)
48. White Fang by Jack London - 1906
49. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - 1908
50. The Nicest Girl in the School by Angela Brazil - 1909 (Schoolgirl stories, a genre to which I was recently introduced by a friend. They are too much fun, and this is one of the stories responsible for the success and popularity of the genre)
51. The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (aka The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu) by Sax Rohmer - 1913 (Pulp fiction at its finest! Or not. I've always wanted to read a Fu Manchu story)
52. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan - 1915 (An early and influential pulp adventure novel)
53. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs - 1917 (One of the most exciting and surprising books I ever read! I haven't re-read it in years, though, so it's time to visit Barsoom once more!)
54. My Antonia by Willa Cather - 1918
55. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - 1919 (trans.: not yet determined)
56. Ulysses by James Joyce - 1920
57. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis - 1920
58. The Trial by Franz Kafka 1925
59. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1925
60. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers - 1925 (The first Charlie Chan mystery)
61. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust - 1927 (trans.: Moncrieff)
62. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder - 1927
63. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - 1927
64. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence - 1928
65. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett - 1929 (Influential "hard-boiled" detective genre novel)
66. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner - 1929
67. Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham - 1930
68. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - 1931
69. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein - 1933
70. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara - 1934
71. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen - 1937
72. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - 1938
73. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - 1939 (I would much rather re-read _Travels With Charlie_ or _Cannery Row_….)
74. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler - 1939
75. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - 1940 (I had to include Hemingway, wasn't sure which one. This seems to be highly regarded)
76. The Earth is the Lord's by Taylor Caldwell - 1941 (I needed to include a mid-20th century "popular" novelist)
77. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - 1945
78. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - 1949 (I think I read this, a long time ago)
79. Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson by G. I. Gurdjieff - 1950 (trans.: not yet determined)
80. The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger - 1951 (I've never read this)
81. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - 1952 (I have no idea what this is about, but it's on almost every "best of " list)
82. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow - 1953
83. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - 1953
84. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming - 1953 (The first "Bond" novel; I've never read one)
85. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis - 1954
86. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - 1955 (Another one that's on almost every "best of" list)
87. On the Road by Jack Kerouac - 1957
88. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene - 1958 (I recently watched the movie on Turner Classic Movies)
89. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs - 1959
90. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - 1960 (A "great" novel I've never read)
91. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - 1961 (Haven't read this one, either, although it's on a lot of lists)
92. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - 1962 (Ken Kesey went to high school with my mom)
93. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - 1962
94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - 1962
95. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez - 1967
96. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - 1969
97. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson - 1971
98. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon - 1973
99. The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon - 1973 (Representative of late-20th-century popular fiction)
100. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig - 1974 (I've started it a few times, but never get very far)
101. White Noise by Don DeLillo - 1985 (I dunno… it's on a lot of lists)
102. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - 1989 (Often ppears on British lists, but not on American lists)
103. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson - 1994
104. Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield - 1998 (A historical epic, I think; I probably should pick something by Irving Stone instead, huh?)
105. Anathem by Neal Stephenson - 2008 (Hard sci-fi, recommended by a literate acquaintance)
Tags: books, novels, reading

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