“Deep Throat moved closer to Woodward. ‘Let me explain something,’ he said. ‘When you move on someone like Haldeman, you’ve got to be sure you’re on the most solid ground. Shit, what a royal screw-up!'” (p 220)

My Top 10:

  1. All the President’s Men
  2. Solyaris
  3. Carrie
  4. Voyage of the Damned
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. The Shootist
  7. Marathon Man
  8. The Last Tycoon
  9. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings
  10. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Note:  There has been a change since my Nighthawk Awards, with The Shootist moving up into the Top 10.  If it seems like a big leap, that’s because #6-10 aren’t all that strong and in a good year many of them wouldn’t make the list.  The only two films on my list that aren’t in the Top 10 are both reviewed below because of nominations: Bound for Glory and Family Plot. (more…)

The Top 100 Novels.

The Top 100 Novels.

Here it is.  My Top 100 Novels – the complete list.

The intro was here.  The second 100 can be found here.  Various statistics and trivia about the list can be found here.

Here is the list: (more…)

Faulkner is the king of the list.  Does that really surprise you?

Faulkner is the king of the list. Does that really surprise you?

Before I put up the full Top 100 list (and do the post for #1), I am tossing up this bit of various trivia and statistics about the novels on my Top 100 list and on the 101-200 list.

Please note that none of the lists involving 101-200 have numbers attached because I didn’t rank them.

  • Longest Top 100 Novel:  In Search of Lost Time  (4651 pages)
  • Shortest Top 100 Novel:  Heart of Darkness  (96 pages)
  • Earliest Top 100 Novel:  Gulliver’s Travels  (1726)
  • Latest Top 100 Novel:  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel  (2004)
  • Latest Top 200 Novel:  The Night Circus / The Tiger’s Wife  (2011) (more…)
Sinclair Lewis is king of the second 100, with four books.  He is on the cover of Time Magazine, 15 years after winning the Nobel Prize.  Have you ever read anything by him?

Sinclair Lewis is king of the second 100, with four books. Here he is on the cover of Time Magazine, 15 years after winning the Nobel Prize, yet now he is mostly forgotten or ignored. Have you ever read anything by him?

This list works a bit differently than the Top 100.  First of all, this is not a ranked list.  Except for the first three listed titles, they are placed on this list chronologically.  Second, I have not been back through each one of these titles the way I have gone through the Top 100.  Some of these I haven’t re-read in years while every one of the Top 100 were re-read before I wrote on them.  There won’t be individual posts on these books.  Think of this list as less the definitive second 100 as 100 great novels that are worth a read.

Don’t mistake me.  These aren’t just books I enjoy reading.  I hope to start a series soon called Great Reads (which will all get individual posts), which are all about the books I really enjoy, but that don’t really belong on a list like this one, let alone the Top 100.  These are all great novels (though some might also end up in Great Reads).

What about your book, the one you were surprised didn’t make the Top 100 and are even more surprised didn’t make this list?  Well, I had to pare it down (I originally typed out over 125 novels and considered far more).  Just imagine that whatever book you’re thinking of that didn’t make the list was one of the last ones I cut.  Well, unless your book is Infinite Jest, Middlemarch, On the Road or anything by Jane Austen or Henry James.  If you thought those might ever make the list you have clearly never read anything else I have ever posted on literature and are probably brand new to the site.  Welcome!

Now, as for those first three titles.  Well, I made the decision not to re-approach my list while in the process of doing these posts (of course I didn’t know it would take over three years to get the whole list done).  Because of that, sometimes things come up that I realized belonged on the list.  The first of them was something I had somehow never read and as soon as I read it (mid-2011), I realized it should have been on the list.  The second was one I went back and re-read in the summer of 2012 after re-watching the film with Veronica and I realized I had long under-estimated it and it should have been on the list.  The third of them I have the best excuse for – it hadn’t even been written when I did the list.  But it belongs on it.  So those are the de facto other Top 100 books. (more…)

The famous cover for Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby

  • Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald  (1896  –  1940)
  • Rank:  #15
  • Published:  1925
  • Publisher:  Charles Scribner’s Sons
  • Pages:  182
  • First Line:  “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
  • Last Line:  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
  • ML Edition:  #117  (1934 – discontinued in 1939)
  • Acclaim:  Modern Library Top 100 English-Language Novels of the Century #2; All-TIME List
  • Film:  1926  (lost), 1949  (**) , 1974  (**.5) , 2000 (TV movie), 2002 (as G), 2012
  • First Read:  Spring, 1990

(more…)

My Dickens and Dostoevsky Bantam Classics

The Bantam and Signet go side by side.  Bantam is the classics paperback side of Random House just like Signet covers that for Penguin.  They are owned by two of the largest publishers and they publish many of the same books.  They are possibly the two best ways to get large library of classics in paperback.  They look great, they hold up well and they are a great bargain.

Bantam hasn’t been doing this as long as Signet – Signet, after all, has been around for decades, and I am not doing a whole history of Bantam.  These classics are the ones that began to be published around about 1981.  There were earlier Bantam Classics, but they seem to have set aside a large group of ISBN’s beginning in 1981 and they began to make them more uniform.  For a long time, they were all one solid color along the side – the Dostoevksy’s in the picture are a good example of what I love about them.  They also standardized the font on the front and spine, so they all look good together on the shelf. (more…)

my personal collection of the Viking Portable Library, organized by spine #

There are few publishing ventures as wonderful as the Viking Portable Library.  While the Modern Library, for a long time offered low cost hardcover classics, they were all separate works.  But in the Viking Portable Library, you could sum up great authors in the scope of one book.

If you followed the wits of the Algonquin Round Table, you know that Alexander Woollcott often got the short end of the stick (he was savaged as the lead character in The Man Who Came to Dinner and when he looked at one of his own books and sighed “Ah, what is so rare as a Woollcott first edition”, Franklin Adams quickly replied “A Woollcott second edition.”).  But in the first part of World War II, remembering his days as a soldier during the first World War, Woollcott decided to put together a book of pieces from various American authors for servicemen to read.  He proposed it to his publishing house, Viking.  It would be hardcover (a flexible hardcover for durability and making it easy to put anywhere), but also small, compact, though with a lot of pages.  They had light paper and small margins, but were compact, and most of all, portable.  After all, they were being designed for soldiers. (more…)

the Scribners classic Fitzgerald books

“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.  At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred.  Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.”

Ernest Hemingway on Scott Fitzgerald  –  A Moveable Feast

Hemingway and Fitzgerald have long been linked.  They both rose up as masters of their craft in the 1920’s, both as short story writers and as novelists, both excelling in each form.  While Hemingway was the more successful novelist, making more money, making good money off the film sales and winning the Pulitzer Prize (an award which always eluded Fitzgerald) and Fitzgerald ensured his own financial survival producing short story after short story, their places in literary history are the opposite.  Hemingway’s stories include some of the most classic titles in any anthology: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, “Hills Like White Elephants” and it is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby that seems to contend with Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Sound and the Fury for the title of the Great American Novel. (more…)

Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald never won a Pulitzer Prize. How distinguished can it really be?

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is the oldest and perhaps most distinguished literary award in the United States.  Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck all won it, as did Morrison, Updike and Roth.  But how distinguished is it, really?  How many of these books are still studied?  How many of them are even still read?  How well do they stack up over time?

A quick comparison.  When the Modern Library did their list of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century, only 7 of them had won the Pulitzer.  By contrast, 6 of them had won the National Book Award, which is 30 years younger.  None of those overlap, as only two post-1950 Pulitzer winners were on the list and neither won the NBA.  Only 5 Pulitzer winners have won the NBA.  Of course, the major book awards don’t like to copy each other – only twice has a Pulitzer winner also won the PEN/Faulkner award.  But the Pulitzer Prize is supposed to be the award, the one that truly lasts.  Well, now that I’m finally done reading the list of all the Pulitzers, I just wanted to a quick look back and see how well that list actually stands up to the test of time. (more…)

Be warned: your favorite book may not appear here. One of my favorite books doesn’t appear here (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). It’s hilarious and I love it, but it’s not great literature. There’s a difference between my favorite and what I think is the best. Star Wars has long been my favorite film. Sunset Boulevard is the best.

That said, there are several books that I love (I’m going to mention Good Omens, His Dark Materials, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Stand, High Fidelity and The Straight Man) that just don’t measure up. I will read them again and again, but they won’t make the list. And the one book that everyone loves (To Kill a Mockingbird) just doesn’t measure up as literature. And there are no pre-20th century books. There are no short story collections, no non-fiction books, no works of philosophy. And there are no books originally written in a foreign language (that will be an upcoming list). There are no 21st century books (that will also be an upcoming list). What there are, are the 25 best English language novels of the 20th Century. (more…)