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27% makes me better-read than I would have guessed...

In his typical audacious manner, Ed Champion has vowed to read the entire Modern Library list of the top 100 novels of the 20th Century. Given that I'm a fairly slow reader (only about thirty books a year) and am generally suspicious of any sort of literary canon decreed from on high, I'm somewhat surprised that I've read 27 of the 100:

98. James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice; 91. Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road; 88. Jack London, The Call of the Wild; 86. E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime; 85. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim; 73. Nathaniel West, The Day of the Locust; 68. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street; 67. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; 66. W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage; 56. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon; 55. Jack Kerouac, On the Road; 41. William Golding, Lord of the Flies; 39. James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain; 38. E.M. Forster, Howards End; 33. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; 29. James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan; 24. Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; 20. Richard Wright, Native Son; 19. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; 18. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five; 13. George Orwell, 1984; 10. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath; 8. Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon; 7. Joseph Heller, Catch-22; 5. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; 3. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; 2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

Naturally, I have my objections to many of the books on this list (no more than 15 of which I'd put on my own Top 100 list) as well as the many exclusions. But that's a barroom argument for another day.

January 11, 2011 in Books | Permalink


Agreed, this is a really weird list. How can you snub Don Delillo and Pynchon for "The Magnificent Ambersons". Lord.

Posted by: Charles Dodd White at Jan 11, 2011 4:09:13 PM

I've managed 52 of them, but while there are a few that still intrigue me, there are plenty I have no interest in at all.

Posted by: Paul at Jan 12, 2011 5:21:22 AM

I've read 14 on the board's list and 26 on the readers' list. Only relentless lobbying by Scientologists can account for the two L. Ron Hubbard novels on the latter list...

Posted by: Jeff at Jan 13, 2011 3:13:38 PM

I've read twelve of the books on the board's list and twenty-one on the reader's list. I own books from both lists that I haven't gotten around to. If we assume that I'll read those books at some point, my totals will be twenty on the board's list and thirty on the reader's list.

I will never read Laurell K. Hamilton or Tom Clancy, though. And how could readers pick "Fear" as one of the best books? My god, that's one of the least enjoyable books I've ever read. And I read it when I was a teenager, ignorant of Scientology and living on a literary diet of King and Crichton.

Posted by: Brandon at Jan 21, 2011 12:23:49 AM