Saturday, October 25, 2008

New List

Time Magazine Top Hundred, 1923- 2005... this list is interesting because it starts around the point where I think of 20th century literature as really getting 20th century-like. Virginia Woolf's 'Night and Day', for example... already experimental but doesn't feel modern, unlike 'To The Lighthouse', a book I hate but which is indubitably modern as well as modernist. Some of these books are crap, and they've made the elementary mistake of putting children's literature on the list, which is never going to satisfy anyone. Agreed, 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' is a better book than half of these, but a.) there are different criteria for reading/judging a child's book, and b.) maybe if you haven't read C S Lewis by the time you're reading Time Magazine it's getting a bit too late?

I have a whole collection of these lists now, some better than others. The Waterstone's one includes cookbooks, which is incredibly annoying. This one is good because it's in alphabetical order- when they try to rank them they always put the most daunting at the top, usually either Joyce's 'Ulysses' or Danté's 'Divine Comedy', for no real reason except its weighty reputation.

I don't try to read everything on the lists but they always bring books to my attention which someone, somewhere thinks of as the best book ever- and I haven't read it; keeps me busy, and gives me even more stuff to buywithoneclick.

1 - Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

2 - A Death in the Family, James Agee

3 - Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

4 - Money, Martin Amis

5 - The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

6 - Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin

7 - The Sot-Weed Factor,John Barth.

8 - The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow

9 - Herzog, Saul Bellow

10 - The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles

11 - The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen

12 - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume

13 - A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

14 - Naked Lunch, William Burroughs

15 - Possession, A S Byatt

16 - Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather

17 - The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

18 - Falconer, John Cheever

19 - White Noise, Don DeLillo

20 - Ubik, Philip K Dick

21 - Deliverance, James Dickey

22 - Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion

23 - Ragtime, E L Doctorow

24 - An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser

25 - Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

26 - Light in August, William Faulkner

27 - The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

28 - The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

29 - The Sportswriter, Richard Ford

30 - A Passage to India, E M Forster

31 - The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles

32 - The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

33 - The Recognitions, William Gaddis

34 - Neuromancer, William Gibson

35 - Lord Of The Flies, William Golding

36 - I, Claudius, Robert Graves

37 - Loving, Henry Green

38 - The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene

39 - The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

40 - Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett

41 - Catch-22, Joseph Heller

42 - The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

43 - Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

44 - The Berlin Stories, Christopher Isherwood

45 - Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

46 - On The Road, Jack Kerouac

47 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey

48 - The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski

49 - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John le Carre

50 - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

51 - The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

52 - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis

53 - Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

54 - The Assistant, Bernard Malamud

55 - Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

56 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

57 - Atonement, Ian McEwan

58 - Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

59 - Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

60 - Watchmen, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

61 - Beloved, Toni Morrison

62 - Under the Net, Iris Murdoch

63 - Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

64 - Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

65 - A House for Mr Biswas, V S Naipaul

66 - At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien

67 - Appointment in Samarra, John O'Hara

68 - Animal Farm, George Orwell

69 - 1984, George Orwell

70 - The Moviegoer, Walker Percy

71 - A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell

72 - Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

73 - The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

74 - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

75 - Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson

76 - Call It Sleep, Henry Roth

77 - American Pastoral, Philip Roth

78 - Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth

79 - Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

80 - The Catcher In The Rye, J D Salinger

81 - White Teeth, Zadie Smith

82 - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

83 - The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead

84 - The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

85 - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

86 - Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone

87 - The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron

88 - The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien

89 - Rabbit, Run, John Updike

90 - Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

91 - Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

92 - All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren

93 - Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

94 - A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh

95 - The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West

96 - The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder

97 - Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.

98 - To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

99 - Native Son, Richard Wright

100 - Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

(the blue authors mean I've read other books by them)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is a totally americocentric list.
all the books on the list that aren't by white american men writing the Great American Novel, c.1910-2000 are absolutely hanging off of that aesthetic:
M Amis, Z Smith, Baldwin, Ellison, Rushdie, Stephenson, W Gibson, even McCullers, Spark, arguably Judy Blume.
There always a little bit of 'include one representative of that' tokenism in these lists, but it's barely even token tokenism here. it's fair enough to write a list of english language books, but this list seems like it was written by someone who has never read a book translated from another language.
this is a list of Literary Airport Novels, a pandering to those for whom the Modern Novel became that which Modernism tried to destroy, a denial of history in the form of a library, a monument to American Liberal Fascism.

ps you would have read a few more of these if you were still in book club ;)

Anonymous said...

ps i've read exactly the same number as you

problemshelved said...

I worry that Book Club choices sometimes tend towards the Literary Airport Novel side. Not sorry to have missed Philip Roth...
I'm kinda feeling American literature at the moment though, found a list Alice Walker made of great African American novels (of which only two on list), I'll see if I can dig it out.

I should try and look up the original Time magazine article to see what the concept was, but I doubt there was any very clear concept- 'ethnic brownie points' writers have been added to this list just like the 'children's classics' have.

You're right anyway, and it would be way more satisfying as a list if they made it White American Males only.
Who is this by the way?

DeWitt Henry said...

I would add THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien (a novel in stories). EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE by Margot Livesey; STONER by John Williams; MRS. BRIDGE by Evan S. Connell.

problemshelved said...

But what would you take away?

problemshelved said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/campaigns/bestbooks/bestbooks_list.xml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml

I don't really know where you look if you want non-airport books, I suppose people who don't want to read the one on these lists have to find their own books... also if you google enough you find millions of lists people have made themselves, I am quite a fan of this one- http://comicswait.blogspot.com/2005_03_27_archive.html
which you can find on loads of blogs.

woodscolt said...

That Telegraph list starts with The God delusion, which puts me right off. Plus, when you look at the article accompanying it, it starts:
Unfashionable though it may sound, men write better books than women - at least according to the experts, the staff of Britain’s biggest specialist book chain, Waterstone’s.

The board's list here here is quite good, although still pretty literary airport novel-y; the readers list is full of actual airport novels.

woodscolt said...

Here's the Guardian's best of all time list, which is much better. But not purely modern.

problemshelved said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
problemshelved said...

That one quoted in the Telegraph is actually the Waterstones list.

Don Quixote probably is the best book of all time, but a list like that is a bit too broad.

I'm making a 'books which should be obligatory reading to get my degree and are not' list.