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…)

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 Avon / Bard mass market editions of the first several García Márquez books.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”  (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

It was the spring of my junior year of college when I first heard of him.  My friend Jake had been taking more Spanish classes and I asked him why.  He wanted to read Cien años de soledad, the original Spanish language version of One Hundred Years of Solitude.  “It’s my new barometer for people,” he said.  “If they don’t like it, I can’t listen to them anymore.”  As one of my oldest and closest friends, this seemed like a direct challenge.  I needed to find this book and read it and like it.  Preferably, from the tone of his voice, think it brilliant.

I found an old Avon paperback in Chapter II, the same little used bookstore in Forest Grove (now long gone) where, browsing in the fall, I had found Portnoy’s Complaint and Ragtime and embarked on reading odysseys through Philip Roth and E.L. Doctorow.  It took me little more than a day to get it read (why bother reading stuff for school when I can be reading this, I kept thinking).

I called him back the next day.  “It was brilliant,” I told him.  “Especially that last sentence.  That was amazing.”  And so it began, my odyssey into this, the greatest of all the writers from Latin America, one of the few people who was won the Nobel Prize and absolutely deserved it.


The 1st Edition of Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude.

One Hundred Years of Solitude  (Cien años de soledad)

  • Rank:  #9
  • Author:  Gabriel García Márquez  (b. 1927)
  • Published:  1967  /  1970  (tr.)
  • Publisher:  Editorial Sudamericana  /  Harper & Row  (tr.)
  • Pages:  383
  • First Line:  “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
  • Last Line:  “. . . because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
  • ML Version:  none
  • Film:  none, thankfully
  • First Read:  Spring, 1995


  • Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera)

    The 1st U.S. Edition of Love in the Time of Cholera (1988) by Gabriel García Márquez

  • Author:  Gabriel García Márquez  (b. 1927)
  • Rank:  97
  • Published:  1985  /  1988 (English translation)
  • Publisher:  Editorial Oveja Negra  (Colombia) / Alfred A. Knopf  (U.S.)
  • Pages:  348  (U.S. 1st Edition)
  • First Line:  “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
  • Last Lines:  ” ‘And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?’ he asked.  Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights.  ‘Forever,’ he said.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  2007 – **.5  (dir. Michael Newell)
  • Read:  Spring, 2000 (more…)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - Rest in Peace at #20

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Rest in Peace at #20

I meant to post this list late on Sunday when I heard that Solzhenitsyn had died, since he’s on the list, but a truck hit a telephone pole and killed our Internet, Cable and phone until a few hours ago.

Anyway, for this list, I have abandoned the idea of limiting it in any way. I cut the list off at 25 because that’s where quality starts to take a dive. The most glaring omission is going to be Don Quixote, because I have never finished reading it. After that, I suppose people might lament the absence of Les Miserables, but while it’s a great story (I’m actually re-reading it), it’s twice as long as it should be. And Thomas Mann. But he is boring as can be. The foreign language Henry James (as Eliot put it so succinctly about James: “a mind so fine no idea could violate it.”).

Before I get to the list, I feel the need to mention the power of a great novel. If you truly find yourself wrapped up in a novel, it can affect how you feel. I’ve been on edge the last couple of days and I realized why: I was re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it is so good, so compelling, does such a good job of making you feel in danger and on edge, that you end up feeling that way. The only other book that ever made me feel so on edge while reading it was The Stand by Stephen King. They produce the same kind of effect that The Trial and Crime and Punishment do. Harold Bloom can dump on Rowling (and King) all he wants, but if a novel is that good at making you feel on edge, it has certainly done its job