Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Literary Underachiever

To Kill a MockingbirdImage by ups2006 via Flickr

This is a list of (arguably, of course) the 100 greatest novels in Western Literature. Quite arguable, because HELLO, where is the Roald Dahl? Actually, Dahl's a little creepy... Where is Chopin's The Awakening? Yams, I mean, Things Fall Apart didn't even make this list (thought it made several others, including I had an excellent literary education up to age 19. I received a 4 on the AP Composition and a 5 on the AP Literature tests in high school. Yes, I'm bragging, but you know what? Those are NOT pieces of literary cake, IMHO! These scores granted me college English credits and gave me a "pass" on all college English classes. So I never took Lit classes in college. At all. :-( This is when, for a while, I stopped reading for pleasure and started reading for survival in the LVC Music program. By the end of Sophomore year I got my head above water and picked up a book that wasn't from the college store once again. This non-coincidentally transpired just as Aural Theory classes were done for Music Ed. majors. Nothing, ever again, by The Evil Ottman. So then there's adult literary life: I won't go into what children do to your free time - I don't want to discourage nieces and nephews and friends' babies to keep a-comin'. But really, I'm just making excuses for the pitiful few books on this list that I've had the pleasure of visiting. Except Tess of the D'Ubervilles. That was just painful. And Hey! Speaking of painful, where the heck is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair? I'm blushing over here, as I reveal to the world that I'm actually a Rand, Tolstoy, and yes, Dickens virgin. *hangs head* Of course, I've read other stuff, including just about everything Philippa Gregory ever wrote, and several Star Trek/Wars "novels". But this list? 22. That's all I've got. Saaaaad. Put the other 88 on my To-Do list.

  • How about you? How many could you embolden on this list? Titles I've read are in bold.
  • Anything missing, in your opinion?

1. 1984 by George Orwell

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

7. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

10. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

11. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

12. Animal Farm by George Orwell

13. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

16. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

18. Ulysses by James Joyce

19. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

20. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

21. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

22. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

23. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

24. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

25. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

26. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

27. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

28. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

29. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

30. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

31. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

32. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

33. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

34. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

35. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

36. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

38. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

39. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

40. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

41. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

42. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

43. The Stranger by Albert Camus

44. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

45. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

46. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

47. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

48. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

49. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

50. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

51. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

52. Watership Down by Richard Adams

53. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

54. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

55. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

56. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

57. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

58. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

59. Middlemarch by George Eliot

60. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

61. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

62. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

63. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

64. The Stand by Stephen King

65. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

66. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

67. Dracula by Bram Stoker

68. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

69. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

70. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

71. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

72. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

73. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

74. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

75. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

76. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

77. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

78. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

79. Dune by Frank Herbert

80. The Trial by Franz Kafka

81. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

82. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

83. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

84. The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas

85. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

86. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

87. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

88. Persuasion by Jane Austen

89. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

90. Atonement by Ian McEwan

91. Emma by Jane Austen

92. Beloved by Toni Morrison

93. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

94. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

95. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

96. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

97. Light in August by William Faulkner

98. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

99. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

100. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Oh yeah. And Les Mis is only half in bold because I couldn't, just couldn't finish it. Knew how it ended anyway. Enhanced by Zemanta


Cyndee said...

Don't fret, Meg. If you're a good, involved parent, as I know you will be, when your daughters are in high school, they will be forced, I mean made, I mean strongly encouraged to read a lot of these books and you will read them too. I "got to" catch up on a lot of the books I had missed when my kids were in high school. Sadly, I hated more of them then I liked, or even loved.
And where is the Little House series on this list? It was my life as a child, followed by Nancy Drew as a tween....

Anonymous said...

Where'd you get this list? It's seriously suspect if it has Ayn Rand on there not once, but twice. I would agree that she has been influential (too influential on the neocon side) but that does not make her books great works of literature.

I highly recommend Dickens' Hard Times. I think it's much better than his others and it's an engrossing read.

I think you'll love all the books in the Hitchhiker's series and the LOTR series.

And Jane Eyre is fantastic, one of my faves.

But there are so many things on this list that are questionable. The Stand? Great book, yes. Great literature? Probably not.

Anyway, read what you want to read. There's no way everyone is going to read every book ever written. So, enjoy yourself!


Anonymous said...

Oh, and, where's Willa Cather, James Baldwin, and Edith Wharton, just to name a few more?

Sorry for the rant. These kind of "definitive" bug me!!


Anonymous said...


sorry. ;)

Anonymous said...

29 books. But some of these books I've never HEARD of, much less read. And some, I'll never read. And SO MANY great books/authors not on here! L.I. Wilder? Jack London? Madeleine L'Engle? "Their Eyes Were Watching God", by Zora Hurston? And son and so on! Stupid list!
Love, Mom :-)

Cyndee said...

Let's make our OWN list! Who's in? (Though I totally agree with Heidi. If I only read 'great literature' I would have totally missed out on the "Karen" series by her mother, Marie Killilea. Funny, moving books that rocked my safe little world and gave me great appreciation for people who are different.)

Vicki T. said...

Hey, maybe it's just a matter of time--and the desire to read some things everyone says are brilliant and you are bored to pieces in the first 50 pages and quit. Anyway--being quite a bit older, I've read 45 of these; and you are correct: some of these on the list do not even come close to the top 500. Mom

Thomas said...

I know what you mean about Les Mis. He spent several pages describing a door. The whole back story about Thenardier went on for 50 pages.

Then there are the graphic novels that deserve notice as well. Watchmen,Dark Knight Returns, etc.

I've heard David Foster Wallace should be there.

Confederacy of Dunces was a delight.

Helene said...

I read some of those classics in high school but you know I never truly understood the deeper meaning of many of them. I'd sit there and envy others who "got it" and then after class I'd go back and read the chapters again and wonder what the heck they were seeing that I wasn't.

So now I stick to easy stuff like James Patterson thrillers and Jodi Picoult page-turners.

Your kids will develop your passion for reading even if you're just reading Dr Suess to them!! Don't feel guilty...they'll have to read all the classics in school at some point!

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