A nice ensemble pic from M*A*S*H that doesn’t really have a corresponding scene in the book.

My Top 10:

  1. M*A*S*H
  2. The Twelve Chairs
  3. Women in Love
  4. Lovers and Other Strangers
  5. Patton
  6. Floating Weeds
  7. The Joke
  8. Mississippi Mermaid
  9. Where’s Poppa?
  10. Catch-22

Note:  Not a strong Top 10, although at least it has 10.  The 2-5 are the weakest as a whole since 1965 and there won’t be a weaker group until 1976.  They look even weaker because they are between two very strong years.  Patton would have been #9 in 1969. (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…)

Hi, I'm James Joyce, possibly the greatest writer who ever lived and I never won the Nobel Prize.

Sometime in early October, the Swedish Academy will present this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature.  By now, they should have already reduced their list of candidates for this year down to five.  But, nonetheless, I will throw up this list now in the hopes of getting their attention (yeah, right).

I had intended to combine this list with a retrospective on the complete works of Philip Roth, but I was also planning on tying that in to one of his novels in my top 100 and that’ll be a while, so I’m tying it in with a Rushdie novel.

It seems that at times the Nobel Prize Committee could use a list.  To be fair, the Nobel Prize has gone to many worthy recipients, including Knut Hamsun, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison.  And, because, with rare exceptions, the award doesn’t mention a particular work, it is hard to criticize the exclusion of any particular author in any particular year. (more…)

Milan Kundera's literary triumph: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí)
  • Author:  Milan Kundera  (b. 1929)
  • Rank:  #76
  • Publisher:  Gallimard  (France)
  • Publisher  (U.S.):  Harper & Row
  • Published:  1984
  • Pages:  314  (Perennial Library)
  • First Lines:  “The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!  What does this mad myth signify?”
  • Last Line:  “The strains of the piano and violin rose up weakly from below.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  1988  (**** –  #5 film of the year  –  dir. Philip Kaufman)
  • Read:  Summer, 1996 (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

(more…)