18 October 2005

Another Best Book List

Critics for Time Magazine have picked what they call the 100 Best Novels in English since 1923. It's a puzzling list in many ways. Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's me, Margaret is on the list. Why? If you're going to pick a children's book for such a list, why not anything by Madeleine L'Engle or Susan Cooper? The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe made the list, but not Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or any of the other Narnia tales. Moving beyond children's literature, why The Grapes of Wrath and not East of Eden? Why The Sun also Rises but not For Whom the Bell Tolls? Why Beloved but not Song of Solomon? There are only two Faulkner novels on the list; arguably every Faulkner novel should be on it. Where are winners of the Premio Quinto Sol, Bless Me, Ultima for example?

I suppose this is why I had Top 100 or even Top 1000 lists for literature. How can you say that these are the top books? You can't really.

I've read exactly 25% of this list (see below) but I wonder, does that make me deficient?

1. Animal Farm By George Orwell
2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
5. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
6. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
7. A Death in the Family by James Agee
8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
11. Light in August by William Faulkner
12. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
14. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
16. 1985 by George Orwell
17. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
18. Possession by A.S. Byatt
19. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
20. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
21. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
22. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
24. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
25. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 2:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are these in numerical order? I am very surprised that To Kill A Mockingbird comes behind Rabbit Run. Don't get me wrong - I loved all the Rabbit books, but they don't hold a candle to Harper Lee's. I argue that Mockingbird is perhaps one of the most beautifully written novels in American literature.
You know Who

At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 5:03:00 PM, Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

Wondering about number 16!

I, Claudius? It's a great read, but it's just Suetonius and some Tacitus.

No Brave New World?

I suppose I should be glad that speculative fiction/sf made it onto the list at all, but really.

At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 5:15:00 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

They're in alphabetical order by title...and I only reproduced the 25 I have actually read...should I be upset that I've only read 25 of them? I'm supposed to be the budding intellectual here...

At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 6:22:00 PM, Blogger air said...

Hi Rebecca,

I'm not sure if not having read Time's choice reflects on your intellectualism.

Heh, the canon is so passé anyway :)



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