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…)

My inscribed First Edition of The Satanic Verses.

The Satanic Verses

  • Author:  Salman Rushdie  (b. 1948)
  • Published:  1988
  • Publisher:  Viking
  • Pages:  561
  • First Line:  ” ‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’ “
  • Last Line:  ” ‘I’m coming,’ he answered her, and turned away from the view.”
  • ML Edition:  None
  • Film:  Are you kidding?
  • Acclaim:  Whitbread Award; Booker Prize Finalist
  • First Read:  Fall, 2000 (more…)

The first edition of Salman Rushdie's Booker of Bookers: Midnight's Children (1981)

Midnight’s Children

  • Author:  Salman Rushdie (b. 1947)
  • Rank:  #47
  • Published:  1981
  • Publisher:  Jonathan Cape
  • Pages:  552
  • First Line:  “I was born in the city of Bombay . . . once upon a time.”
  • Last Line:  “Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million, five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, in all good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film Version:  planned by the BBC in the late 90’s with a screenplay by Rushdie; current version being planned
  • Awards:  Booker Prize; 25th Anniversary Booker of Bookers; 40th Anniversary Booker of Bookers, All-TIME List; Modern Library Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century #90
  • First Read:  Spring, 2000 (more…)

my Rushdie collection

“I was born in the city of Bombay . . . once upon a time.”

Midnight’s Children (p. 3)

I had never heard of Salman Rushdie before February of 1989.  I heard of him for the first time when many people heard of him for the first time: the announcement of the fatwa upon him over the publication of The Satanic Verses.  I, like so many other people, was appalled.  It drove me and my two best friends to walk into the B. Dalton at the Mall of Orange to see if they were carrying the book that weekend.  They were, but it didn’t look as if anyone was interested in buying it. (more…)

Salman Rushdie's brilliant The Moor's Last Sigh (1995)

The Moor’s Last Sigh

  • Author:  Salman Rushdie  (b. 1947)
  • Rank:  #66
  • Published:  1995
  • Publisher:  Jonathan Cape (U.K.), Pantheon (U.S.)
  • Pages:  435
  • First Line:  “I have lost count of the days that have passed since I fled the horrors of Vasco Miranda’s mad fortress in the Andalusian mountain-village of Benengeli; ran from death under cover of darkness and left a message nailed to the door.”
  • Last Line:  “I’ll drink some wine; and then, like a latter-day Van Winkle, I’ll lay me down upon this graven stone, lay my head beneath these letters R I P, and close my eyes, according to our family’s old practice of falling asleep in times of trouble, and hope to awaken, renewed and joyful, into a better time.
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Acclaim:  Whitbread Prize; Time Magazine’s Book of the Year; shortlisted for Booker Prize
  • Film:  none
  • First Read:  Summer, 2001 (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…)





A quick note: the following 10 novels will not appear on this list. It’s not your list. You might think these are great. I think they are overrated, whether because they are simply badly written (The Historian, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter), pretentious McSweeney’s-esque prattle (Absurdistan, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Everything is Illuminated), boring (Life of Pi), overrated due to serious subject matter (Lovely Bones), well written but uninteresting (Bee Season, Wickett’s Remedy), or fatally flawed due to oversimplification of a truly horrid situation (The Kite Runner). They’re not here so don’t ask for them.  While I am at it, I should add a few more: A Visit from Goon Squad (an utter mess), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (even being part of its target audience I hated it), The Finkler Question (simply awful).  Those are more recent prize-winning novels that also aren’t here because I couldn’t stand them. Also not here are the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, which are fantastic, but, like Douglas Adams, not quite great writing, or the Jump 225 Trilogy, which I love and was written by a friend of mine, but isn’t quite up there. I have done away with the English language requirement for this list, because my previous list was done to Modern Library standards to match up against their list. Only two of these are foreign language novels anyway.

Before I get to the list, I feel I should point out that it’s now up to 29 35 books.  That’s because I have added some updates over the last couple of years and didn’t feel the need to delete the books at the bottom of the list.

Actually, let me add to that last little paragraph, which was written in 2010.  At the time I was just doing some additions.  This time I have actually changed the title of the list.  Why change the title and not just do a whole new post?  Because I am proud that people keep finding this list and I like all the conversations that the comments have inspired.  So, I decided to up it to 35, add six more books and go with that.  To that end, I had to cut some books I considered, including The Sense of an Ending, The Marriage Plot, Wolf Hall, 1Q84 and even The Casual Vacancy (yes, I thought it was very good – a modern Thomas Hardy).  But something interesting came to me as I was doing the additional titles: five of the six of them were written by females and three of them were first novels.  So let’s be glad for some new blood getting out there and getting noticed (at least by me).


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…)