The 100 Best Novels Of All Time?

Are these the 100 best novels of all time?  Mmm. . . maybe, maybe not, but it’s a good (albeit terribly quirky) attempt.  The list is chronological.

I do quarrel with some of the choices.  For the life of me, I do not understand the fascination with Samuel Richardson or Poe.  As much as I like The Call of the Wild, it doesn’t belong on a “100 greatest” list.  Huxley’s work I find less compelling than Orwell’s.  Both spotted trends in our common English-speaking culture very well, but Orwell’s nightmare vision of a 24-hour-a-day media propaganda machine has come true, and has shaped all of us for the last twenty years, whereas the recreational drug culture in Huxley is still only at the margins of society.  Criminal acts and suffering spawned by drugs are a separate issue.  I suspect Isherwood is on the list because Robert McCrum said, “I gotta have a gay guy on here.”  Don’t laugh; such non-literary criteria have been factors in book lists for articles and college syllabi since at least the 1980s. John Cheever’s Falconer from 1977 would have served the same purpose as Isherwood’s work and would have given McCrumb another American to balance a heavily-British list.

[Postscript 8/18/15 3:20 p.m.:  McCrumb ends his list in 2000.  Fair enough.  In any list of “the greatest of all time,” time must, of course, do some winnowing.  Still, I ask myself, “Is there no book written in English since 2000 that we might put on this list, perhaps in place of the questionable selections of Poe, Huxley, Isherwood, or London?”  There are candidates.  What about Ian McEwan’s Atonement?  Or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History?  Or Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See?]

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3 thoughts on “The 100 Best Novels Of All Time?

  1. That’s interesting to think about–the great novels of the past 15 years! I have to go back and explore some publication dates… I could do without Sister Carrie and Babbitt on the original 100!

  2. I can see kicking *Babbitt* out, but my beloved *Sister Carrie*? No way! Dreiser can’t write at all, but by the end of that book, I was totally overwhelmed by the world he had created. I *knew* Carrie by the end of the book; I knew Drouet. They both make terrible choices, and they deserve their fates. Tremendous sadness over both of them, but I wouldn’t trade the feeling I had upon finishing that book for anything in the world. One more thing: yesterday, I forgot David Mitchell as a candidate for an author who’s written an all-time great book within the last fifteen years. *Cloud Atlas*, *The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZout*, and *The Bone Clocks* all three are very fine novels.

  3. Pingback: Readers Respond To “The 100 Best Novels Of All Time” | Books Here And There

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