The 100 greatest novels of all time

I read quite a bit, in the last couple of years I’ve tried to read more classics and I know that there are as many “greatest and best” lists as there are reader. Yet looking at The Observer’s list I’m tempted to say that I suck. I’ve only read 10 of them (actually I’m currently finishing the tenth) and own 3 more that I haven’t read yet.

I have read (in reverse order of the list):

The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

On the Road, Jack Kerouac

The Lord Of The Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (that’s the one I’m reading now)

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

I haven’t done any research on this so it’s just a feeling from going through the list quickly but weren’t the vast majority of these books written in the late 19th and early 20th century? What gives?

How about you? What’s your “score” and do you agree with the list?


lightspeedchick October 20, 2003

Okay, first I find out that you wilfully saw A Man Apart. Then, that you haven’t read LOTR.

My score is 4. I own about 15, but read 4. Just as pathetic.

Patrick October 20, 2003

What the hell are you talking about? It’s the fourth one!! ;-p

lightspeedchick October 20, 2003

I checked twice to make sure too. Going senile…

Martine October 20, 2003

My score is 15, not counting the books I own but haven’t read yet, and all the books I had to read in litterature class, but couldn’t go pass the first few chapters: Ulysses, À la recherche du temps perdu, etc.

My all times favorite is in there: Dangerous Liaisons. I was also glad to find Calvino in there as well.

Fanny October 21, 2003

I got 15 (+ a couple I’m not sure I actually read, but I know I own).

As far as the list goes, I don’t disagree with it, but you will indeed get as many lists as there are critics.. I think that tastes in reading (just like in movies for examples) are so personnal, we each have our own lists… But you are right about the vast majority of these books dating back to the early 20th, as is it the case in most lists: they lack modern litterature which is at least as good as these old classics…

aj October 21, 2003

I scored 9, not counting the ones I’ve only seen as film adaptations….and I read a lot. I don’t agree with the list – it’s entirely too weighted towards pre-20th century English authors. I don’t want to get on a Dead White Male bandwagon – that’s so early 90s – but it ignores a lot of world literature for a ‘best novels ever’ list (unless books translated into English count?) and there are hardly any female authors except the obligatory Bronte etc…where’s the Japanese literature, for instance? And it sort of puts The Novel above any other literary form (drama, poetry, short stories, etc…) And it encourages the split between The Word and The Image (which goes back to early Christian dogma) – so therefore Books Good, Movies Bad…

Alex October 21, 2003

I’ve only read four. This list is preposterous. It sounds pretty academic to me! (you know cardigan wearing bearded bald guys, Yaleys). And what’s with the Lord of The Rings being on there! He didn’t want to get flamed, for sure.

lightspeedchick October 21, 2003

But you obviously do ;)

Nika October 21, 2003

I’m at 14. And I’m proud to say that I was only forced to read one for a class: The Great Gatsby ;-)
The list is obviously only a partial one. These are books that have been labeled “classics” since the first class of Literature 101. I noticed only a couple of allowances for modern literature which, by the way, has quite a few contenders to add to the list. Where’s Vonnegut? Robbins? Suskind? Angelou? Rushdie?
Good on all of you for reading, I was starting to think that I was the only person left who actually reads books!

Patrick October 21, 2003

Well well, I know what I need to talk about when I want to get comments ;)

Not as bad as I feared though, 15 being the high score among the blogoraty of Montral. Although maybe when Blork is done moving he might come over and say 20 or something.

Fanny: “lack modern litterature” I agree, a lot of the classic I think are classics in that they brought a new style or previously unused subject but are often not that good while some more recent work might not be groundbreaking but makes for a much better read.

Alex: I agree (not the LOTR part though, I dont want c-speedchick to hit me ;)

Nika: What did you expect, my readers are very cultured ;)

Kate M. October 21, 2003

I’ve read 42 of them. Many of which I don’t believe are really among the 100 best.

Patrick October 21, 2003

Holy Sh*t!!! I’m impressed, may I ask if you were specifically going through a list of classics or you just happened to be reading those by interest?

Alex October 22, 2003

I don’t see why there’s no Bukowski. I can’t believe there’s no Buk.

Kate McDonnell October 23, 2003

I’ve never read to any list. But I read a lot, and also I seem to have a taste for quirky British books, and there are a lot on this list – Nancy Mitford, Jerome K. Jerome, George Grossmith, Kingsley Amis, people like that. I wouldn’t score as high on an equivalent North American list.

I also left out some of the things like Tristram Shandy, Ulysses and 100 Years of Solitude, that I’ve read bits of but not finished.

Sean November 7, 2003

My score is a pitiful 10, but my excuse is I’m really more of a non-fiction reader. Here are my 10:

Don Quixote
Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre
The Scarlett Letter
The Great Gatsby
Brave New World
Catcher in the Rye
The Lord of the Rings

My score improves to a whopping 20 if I include

Books that were read to me:
Charlotte’s Web

Books I’ve read substantial parts of:
Huckleberry Finn

Saw the movie instead:
Dangerous Liaisons
Alice in Wonderland
The 39 Steps
The Trial
Lord of the Flies
L.A. Confidential

Books I have owned for years but still haven’t read even a single page of:
The Brothers Karamozov

Having thoroughly established above that I am really not qualified in any way to comment on the list, here is my own list of books that should have made the cut:

War and Peace — Tolstoy
The Fountainhead — Rand
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe — C.S. Lewis
The Old Man and the Sea — Hemingway
Foundation — Aasimov

One last comment which I am again completely unqualified to make — I was very glad to see Don Quixote at the top of the list. I very much enjoyed the book.

Captain Falkenberg November 25, 2003

I have read 17 and am reading New York Trilogy at the moment, which will be 18. Plus 5 partly read.

The list is chronological rather than by merit.

Since there is only one book listed by any author surely you can count other books you have read by a listed author as 0.5!

a shame no Knut Hamsun…

do others agree that The Plague is better than The Outsider and The Fall? I have heard that in other places too- but I have not ‘got into’ the book myself.

ahmed December 21, 2003

dorian gray is far the greatest novel of all times

riccardo December 29, 2003

Yes, real shame (incredible!!!) that there is no Hamsun… the father of the modern novel! also, what about Henry Miller?!!! This list is way too british-centric…. but then, it is the Observer.

Vlad January 28, 2004

I read 22, including some that I almost finished. Everyone talks and talks bout War and Peace and then they exclude it…? What bout Hoffman, and 1984 can beat Brave New World with greatest ease…Other than that can’t say anything cause I only read a quarter ;-)

John del Critic January 28, 2004

Hm Hm don’t give a shit bout anyone’s list, they are all WRONG so here’s mine, eat it: (cause mine is RIGHT)

“Crime and Punishment”, Dostoyevsky
“Satan’s Elixirs”, Hoffman
“Hunger” Knut Hamsun
“Anna Karenina” Leo Tolstoy
“1984” George Orwell
“Solaris” Stanislaw Lem
“Master and Margarita” Bulgakov
“Fathers and Sons” Turgenev
“Metomorphosis” Kafka
“Catcher in the Rye” forgot the dude’s name… Selinger, right
“Great Gatsby” Fitzegerald
“Sun Also Rises” Hemingway
Can’t think of anything else…stupid books, burn them all, give us mindless action movies and pornography, don’t wanna be human wanna be pig with a toungue stuck out and saliva dripping tip tip tip…what? you don’t like this comment? At all, you say? Well then go hang yourself, let your neck find out how heavy your ass is!..Damn…

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