RICHARD: You’re getting old. One day you’ll have me once too often.
HENRY: When? I’m fifty now. My God, boy, I’m the oldest man I know. I’ve got a decade on the Pope. (p 48-49)

My Top 10:

  1. The Lion in Winter
  2. Rosemary’s Baby
  3. Belle de Jour
  4. Closely Watched Trains
  5. The Odd Couple
  6. Hunger
  7. Rachel Rachel
  8. Pretty Poison
  9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  10. War and Peace

Note:  My list is 14 long this year.  My #13 (The Fixer) and #14 (Oliver) are reviewed below because of award nominations.  The other two are listed down at the bottom.  You could make the case that 2001: A Space Odyssey should be listed but the Oscars treated it as original and I do the same.  You can find plenty of places on-line that explained the complicated history of its script. (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…)

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 Modern Library Giant dust jacket for Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

The original Modern Library Giant dust jacket for Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

The Brothers Karamazov  (Братья Карамазовы)

  • Rank: #2
  • Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky  (1821  –  1881)
  • Published:  1880
  • Publisher:  The Russian Messenger
  • Pages:  796  (Pevear / Volokhonsky)
  • First Line:  “Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of a landowner from our district, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, well known in his own day (and still remembered among mus) because of his dark and tragic death, which happened exactly thirteen years ago and I which I shall speak of in its proper place.”
  • Last Line:  ” ‘And eternally so, all our lives hand in hand!  Hurrah for Karamazov!’ Kolya cried once more ecstatically, and once more all the boys joined in his exclamation.”
  • ML Version:  #151  (five dust jackets – gift set, 1929, 1931, 1943, 1967); Giant #40 (three dust jackets – 1937, 1969, 1970); P7; Illustrated Acetate (two bindings); Illustrated Box; Gold Dust jacket (1992)
  • Film:  1958  (*** – dir. Richard Brooks), 1969  (*** – dir. Kirill Lavrov), others too numerous to mention
  • First Read:  January, 1996 (more…)

The Bantam cover of Crime and Punishment (complete with Dostoevsky portrait).

Crime and Punishment  (Преступлéние и наказáние)

  • Rank:  #11
  • Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky  (1821  –  1881)
  • Published:  1866
  • Publisher:  The Russian Messenger
  • Pages:  564
  • First Line:  “At the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, towards evening, a young man left the closet he rented from tenants in S—y Lane, walked out to the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, headed for the K—n Bridge.”
  • Last Lines:  “But here begins a new account, the account of a man’s gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality.  It might make the subject of a new story – but out present story is ended.”
  • ML Edition:  #199  (four dust jackets – 1932, 1934, 1940, 1967); Illustrated Box; Illustrated Acetate; P-1; gold hardcover (1994)
  • Films:  many, incl.  1935 (***); 1959  (***); 1970  (***)
  • First Read:  Spring, 1995 (more…)

The 1st Edition of the Modern Library Giant of Anna Karenina (1935).

Anna Karenina  (Анна Каренина)

  • Author:  Leo Tolstoy  (1828  –  1910)
  • Rank:  #16
  • Published:  1877
  • Publisher:  The Russian Messenger
  • Pages:  838
  • First Line:  “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  • Last Line:  “I’ll get angry in the same way with the coachman Ivan, argue in the same way, speak my mind inappropriately, there will be the same wall between my soul’s holy of holies and other people, even my wife, I’ll accuse her in the same way of my own fear and then regret it, Ill fail in the same way to understand with my reason why I pray, and yet I will pray – but my life now, my whole life, regardless of all that may happen to me, every minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before, but has the unquestionable meaning of the good which it is in my power to put into it!”
  • ML Edition:  #37  (four dust jackets – 1930, 1931, 1942, 1966), Giant #23  (three dust jackets – 1935, 1963, 1966), tan cover, gold hardcover, Modern Library Classics
  • Film:  many, including 1935 (***), 1948 (***), 1967 (***), 1997 (**) and 2012  (****)
  • First Read:  Summer, 2000


My collection of Pevear / Volokhonsky translations.

When I began these For Love of Books posts, I began them with a specific purpose.  Because I love books.  Not just the words inside, but books themselves.  And I hate the Kindle.  I don’t hate all E-readers, and I can understand why people flock to them on some level.  But for me, they will never replace books.  My specific hatred of the Kindle stems partially from the concept, but mostly from the fact that Amazon has replaced Microsoft in my Holy Trinity of Wrong (it now sits alongside Walmart and the Yankees).

I bring this all up here, because this specific post deals with books that you can buy as opposed to e-books that you can get for free.  My guess is that it is relatively easy to get the great Russian novels – the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov – for free.  They were almost all written in the nineteenth century and even the English language translations have long since passed out of copyright protection.

But, those free novels that you’re getting aren’t the whole piece of the puzzle.  Certainly they are worthy of reading and you will experience, through one literary vision, the great Russian works.  My guess is that that vision is the vision of Constance Garnett.  Garnett translated 71 Russian works over the course of her career and we should be thankful for how much we can read in English thanks to her.

But, they are no longer the last word.  They are no longer the best translations out there, as is made obvious with every new release.  Granted, I have no knowledge of the Russian language.  But I know the English language and I know literature.  And there’s a magical world available to us now, thanks to the work in the last 25 years of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.  They are the husband and wife team that has brought out new translations of the best works in Russian literature (excepting Fathers and Sons). (more…)

The Modern Library Giant dust jacket of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot

The Idiot (Идиот)

  • Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky  (1821  –  1881)
  • Rank:  #54
  • Published:  1869
  • Publisher:  Russkiy Vestnik
  • Pages:  597
  • First Line:  “At nine o’clock in the morning, towards the end of November, the Warsaw train was approaching Petersburg at full speed.”
  • Last Line:  ” ‘And all of this, all this life abroad, and this Europe of yours is all a fantasy, and all of us abroad are only a fantasy . . . remember my words, you’ll see it for yourself!’ she concluded almost wrathfully, as she parted from Yevgeny Pavlovitch.”
  • ML Version:  MLG #60  (1952)
  • Film:  1946  (dir. Georges Lampin), 1951  –  ***.5  (dir. Akira Kurosawa), 1958  (dir. Ivan Pyryev)
  • First Read:  Fall, 1997 (more…)

the 1960 Modern Library dust jacket for War and Peace

War and Peace (Война и мир)

  • Author:  Leo Tolstoy  (1828  –  1910)
  • Rank:  #61
  • Published:  1869
  • Publisher:  Russkii Vestnik
  • Pages:  1273  (Pevear / Volokhonsky translation)
  • First Line:  ” ‘Eh bien, mon prince, Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des estates, de la famille Buonaparte.’ ”  (Well, my prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than possessions, estates, of the Buonaparte family.)
  • Last Line:  “In the first case, the need was to renounce the consciousness of a nonexistent immobility in space and recognize a movement we do not feel; in the present case, it is just as necessary to renounce a nonexistent freedom and recognize a dependence we do not feel.”
  • ML Edition:  MLG #1 – three dust jackets  (1937, 1960, 1969); current Modern Library paperback  (all ML versions are the Constant Garnett translation)
  • Film:  1956  (***); 1968  (***.5)
  • First Read:  July, 1996 (more…)

The current Vintage trade edition of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita (Ма стер и Маргари та)

  • Author:  Mikhail Bulgakov  (1891 – 1940)
  • Rank:  #84
  • Published:  1966-67
    • completed in 1940, first published in a censored version in 1966-67 in Moscow magazine, first English translation in 1967 by Mirra Ginsburg from the censored version
  • Publisher:  Posev  (first English translation by Grove Press)
  • Pages:  372  (Vintage trade)
  • First Line:  “One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.”
  • Last Lines:  “The next morning he wakes up silent, but completely calm and well.  His ravaged memory quiets down, and no one will trouble the professor until the next full moon: neither the noseless murderer of Gestas, nor the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the knight Pontius Pilate.”
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  1972 – ***  (dir. Aleksandar Petrovic)
  • Read:  Summer 2000 (more…)