Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Top 100 Novels of All Time (Supposedly)

I've been reading a book, The Novel 100: A Ranking of Greatest Novels All Time (Checkmark Books/Facts On File, Inc.: New York, 2004), by Daniel S. Burt. It purports to list the best novels of all time (from all countries), ranked by I'm-not-sure-what.

Burt does a pretty good job of articulating (in short chapters, averaging 3 pages) why he sees these as the best books ever. You may or may not agree with his choices, but his mini-analyses are suitably trenchant.

One "novel" on this list is well over a million words long. Another is unfinished. Can you guess which ones I'm talking about? (Answers: Nos. 4 and 51, respectively.)

One novel's main character rarely gets off the couch unless it's to go to bed. There is essentially no action. (No. 82.) 

One novel's protagonist is a pedophile. (Answer: No. 47, of course.)

One novel was thoroughly reviled by the author of another novel on the list. (I'm talking, of course, about No. 88, which was despised by the author of No. 14.)

Two novels on the list are by the same author. One was, for a time, banned in the U.S. The other, upon publication, was assailed by critics as a waste of paper. (Give up? Nos. 3 and 26. The former was banned.)

What's your opinion of the list?

1Don Quixote1605, 1630Miguel de Cervantes
2War and Peace1869Leo Tolstoy
3Ulysses1922James Joyce
4In Search of Lost Time1913-27Marcel Proust
5The Brothers Karamazov1880Feodor Dostoevsky
6Moby-Dick1851Herman Melville
7Madame Bovary1857Gustave Flaubert
8Middlemarch1871-72George Eliot
9The Magic Mountain1924Thomas Mann
10The Tale of Genji11th CenturyMurasaki Shikibu
11Emma1816Jane Austen
12Bleak House1852-53Charles Dickens
13Anna Karenina1877Leo Tolstoy
14Adventures of Huckleberry Finn1884Mark Twain
15Tom Jones1749Henry Fielding
16Great Expectations1860-61Charles Dickens
17Absalom, Absalom!1936William Faulkner
18The Ambassadors1903Henry James
19One Hundred Years of Solitude1967Gabriel Garcia Marquez
20The Great Gatsby1925F. Scott Fitzgerald
21To The Lighthouse1927Virginia Woolf
22Crime and Punishment1866Feodor Dostoevsky
23The Sound and the Fury1929William Faulkner
24Vanity Fair1847-48William Makepeace Thackeray
25Invisible Man1952Ralph Ellison
26Finnegans Wake1939James Joyce
27The Man Without Qualities1930-43Robert Musil
28Gravity's Rainbow1973Thomas Pynchon
29The Portrait of a Lady1881Henry James
30Women in Love1920D. H. Lawrence
31The Red and the Black1830Stendhal
32Tristram Shandy1760-67Laurence Sterne
33Dead Souls1842Nikolai Gogol
34Tess of the D'Urbervilles1891Thomas Hardy
35Buddenbrooks1901Thomas Mann
36Le Pere Goriot1835Honore de Balzac
37A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man1916James Joyce
38Wuthering Heights1847Emily Bronte
39The Tin Drum1959Gunter Grass
40Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable1951-53Samuel Beckett
41Pride and Prejudice1813Jane Austen
42The Scarlet Letter1850Nathaniel Hawthorne
43Fathers and Sons1862Ivan Turgenev
44Nostromo1904Joseph Conrad
45Beloved1987Toni Morrison
46An American Tragedy1925Theodore Dreiser
47Lolita1955Vladimir Nabokov
48The Golden Notebook1962Doris Lessing
49Clarissa1747-48Samuel Richardson
50Dream of the Red Chamber1791Cao Xueqin
51The Trial1925Franz Kafka
52Jane Eyre1847Charlotte Bronte
53The Red Badge of Courage1895Stephen Crane
54The Grapes of Wrath1939John Steinbeck
55Petersburg1916/1922Andrey Bely
56Things Fall Apart1958Chinue Achebe
57The Princess of Cleves1678Madame de Lafayette
58The Stranger1942Albert Camus
59My Antonia1918Willa Cather
60The Counterfeiters1926Andre Gide
61The Age of Innocence1920Edith Wharton
62The Good Soldier1915Ford Madox Ford
63The Awakening1899Kate Chopin
64A Passage to India1924E. M. Forster
65Herzog1964Saul Bellow
66Germinal1855Emile Zola
67Call It Sleep1934Henry Roth
68U.S.A. Trilogy1930-38John Dos Passos
69Hunger1890Knut Hamsun
70Berlin Alexanderplatz1929Alfred Doblin
71Cities of Salt1984-89'Abd al-Rahman Munif
72The Death of Artemio Cruz1962Carlos Fuentes
73A Farewell to Arms1929Ernest Hemingway
74Brideshead Revisited1945Evelyn Waugh
75The Last Chronicle of Barset1866-67Anthony Trollope
76The Pickwick Papers1836-67Charles Dickens
77Robinson Crusoe1719Daniel Defoe
78The Sorrows of Young Werther1774Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
79Candide1759Voltaire
80Native Son1940Richard Wright
81Under the Volcano1947Malcolm Lowry
82Oblomov1859Ivan Goncharov
83Their Eyes Were Watching God1937Zora Neale Hurston
84Waverley1814Sir Walter Scott
85Snow Country1937, 1948Kawabata Yasunari
86Nineteen Eighty-Four1949George Orwell
87The Betrothed1827, 1840Alessandro Manzoni
88The Last of the Mohicans1826James Fenimore Cooper
89Uncle Tom's Cabin1852Harriet Beecher Stowe
90Les Miserables1862Victor Hugo
91On the Road1957Jack Kerouac
92Frankenstein1818Mary Shelley
93The Leopard1958Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
94The Catcher in the Rye1951J.D. Salinger
95The Woman in White1860Wilkie Collins
96The Good Soldier Svejk1921-23Jaroslav Hasek
97Dracula1897Bram Stoker
98The Three Musketeers1844Alexandre Dumas
99The Hound of Baskervilles1902Arthur Conan Doyle
100Gone with the Wind1936Margaret Mitchell

6 comments:

  1. I read that book a few years ago. I'm much more of a fan of contemporary literature like Fight Club, High Fidelity, and The Corrections than this guy.

    Good lord, Beloved by Toni mOrrison is overrated.

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  2. I know some of these are great books, and I'm sure most are. But the idea that only 2 novels in the last 50 years are worth cracking the top 100 is hard to believe. For that to be true far too much weight would have to be given to the influence the books have had, or the reputation they've built, as opposed to their actually quality. (Frankenstein, I'm looking at you)

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  3. Anonymous9:32 AM

    There are actually three Joyce novels on the list. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is No. 37.

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  4. I totally have this book and am systematically trying to work my way through it during my lifetime...I think I have only read like 14 on the list! :-(

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  5. It's a little anglocentric of Mr. Burt to list all the foreign language novels only by their translated English titles (Manzoni's "I Promisi Sposi" becomes 'The Betrothed" for example). Does he rank those foreign language examples as great in their translated editions only—and if that's the case, which of the many translations?

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  6. Anonymous3:02 PM

    The list has many good books but I think an invaluable addition would be Lewis Carol's "Alice in Wonderland".

    ReplyDelete

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