So, this list, which will be unfolding over the next several months, will be considerably more in-depth than my previous Lit lists.  First of all, I will do them one at a time.  Second of all, I will give not only the basic information on each novel (author, year, publisher, pages, any awards or accolades, if the Modern Library has ever published a version, first line, last line), but I will also go in-depth on each novel, including reasons why it is on the list and a look at any film versions of the novel.  Like with my top 100 Directors, I will not release the full list until the end.

However, I will take some suspense out of it and give you an idea of what to expect.  First of all, if you don’t know what novel will be at #1, you have never met me, never read anything I’ve written on Literature and certainly never seen my book collection.  If you still don’t know, enjoy the surprise.  But there are certain titles that won’t be appearing and I feel I might as well list some of them now to get it out of the way.  Because this list is comprehensive and applies to any novel, no matter the publication date or the language it was originally written in, there are no works that are technically excluded.  But you won’t find any of the following:

  • any novel by Henry James – “A mind so fine no idea could violate it,” T.S. Eliot said about him.  I agree and I find that his novels only offer additional evidence of that.
  • any novel by Jane Austen – See this post.
  • any novel by George Eliot, but specifically Middlemarch – I can’t begin to name the ways I hate George Eliot.
  • Moby Dick – Yes, I’ve read it.  It’s hard to find a highly regarded classic novel I haven’t read.  But I don’t go for it.  I had a Fine Arts teacher who said you shouldn’t read until you’re past 50.  I’ll try again in 15 years.
  • Tom Jones / Robinson Crusoe / Tristram Shandy – Outside of Gulliver, I have never taken to early novels.
  • The Adventures of Huck Finn – Hemingway may think it is the Great American Novel, but I don’t.  I read it years and years ago and will probably try it again someday, but not now.
  • The Scarlet Letter – Could Hawthorne be more preachy or more boring?
  • The Red Badge of Courage – I actually did re-read this recently and was much more inclined towards it, but it just missed the list.
  • Madame Bovary – This also just missed the list.
  • Tropic of Cancer – I have the same issues with his style that I have with the Beats.  I have a lower opinion of this than almost any novel that appeared on the Modern Library Top 100 of the 20th Century List.
  • On the Road – “That’s not writing.  It’s typing.” – Truman Capote.  I couldn’t agree more.
  • Invisible Man – No amount of scholarship that declares this one of the great 20th Century American novels makes me like it any more than I do, which is not at all.  Not at all.
  • Infinite Jest – Look at me.  I’m so clever.  The starting point for the all the McSweeney’s-esque prattle that infects modern American Lit.
  • Don Quixote – I left this for last because I have never been able to finish it and I keep feeling that I need to try again.  So we’ll have to see what I think when I finally get through it.

So there you have it, the notable rejectees.  I do tend towards 20th Century Modernist Literature and there are certain authors who will appear on the list multiple times, but the list spans novels from 1726 all the way to 2004.  Aside from my M.A. in Literature, I have read my way through the Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award Winners, the Booker Prize Winners, the PEN/Faulkner Winners, the entire Modern Library list and most of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  Following, over the next few months are my choices for the top 100 Novels of All-Time, the list I would recommend to anyone who says, “I’m looking for a good book to read.”

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