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TOP 100 Novels of All Time

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Surprised that no one else has picked up on this. The UK Guardian published its Top 100 Novels of All Time list.

1. Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes
2. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
3. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
4. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
5. Tom Jones – Henry Fielding
6. Clarissa – Samuel Richardson

7. Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne
8. Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
9. Emma – Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I’m surprised how many of the ranked titles are names — Emma, Frankenstein. I’m equally surprised — at myself — because I’ve never heard of No. 7. And if I’m completely honest I’ve read only five of the top 10 and less than half of the rest of the list. I was never able to finish Robinson Crusoe. I struggled and when I got half way through and discovered he’d already been lifted off the island, well, that was it.

Wind in The Willows deserves no spot here. The Bronte sisters have too many spots. My list would include much more about fantasy – such as Lord of the Rings and, oddly, the Dragonlance series.

What really makes a novel literature? Or “great.” That question is as easy to answer as the one about media bias vs perception.

Of course, as I went to find my Amazon links below I noticed a disturbing “Customers who bought this book also purchased” trend where other books on the list were mentioned. Is this how the list was put together? I want some methodology people.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • Oh wouldn’t Faulkner be pissed that his book was #52 and Hemingway’s was #50. And isn’t it sad how a bunch of those books in the list have been banned in the U.S. school systems due to PC demands?

  • It’s worth pointing out that the list seems to be in chronological order, not ranked in order of preference!

  • Ben

    “64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
    Enough said!”

  • Every time these lists come out, I’m just embarrassed at my own ignorance. I’ve read 37 of the books and none of the top eight, although I’ve probably glanced at them all from time to time.

    I’ve given up trying to figure why anyone thinks Frankenstein is a great novel — it’s one of the silliest books ever written.

    Many of the selections seem “purely British” — it’s a rare American who knows the first thing about Nightmare Abbey, Sybil, or Three Men in a Boat.

    Some of the selections seem just weird. Why in the world would anyone choose Haroun and the Sea of Stories over Midnight’s Children or The Satanic Verses? Why is Lord of the Rings on the list at all? It’s abysmally written.

    On the other hand it’s nice to see that both Money and The Executioner’s Song made the list — I’ve always thought of those as books that were bound to endure.

  • Oooh! Temple! I love these kinds of lists!

    Rodney, you should give Frankenstein more credit…It WAS the first sci-fi novel, after all. Look at it’s influence!

    You’re ahead of me on the reading, though. I’ve only read 30 on the list. But for 15 of the listed authors, I’ve read other works.

    It’s kind of a weird list…

  • Alissa Johnson

    I recommend Tristram Shandy. It’s really funny, and very modern considering when it was written. A lot of naughty humor and odd stylisitic touches. A good read.

  • It DOES seems to be in chronological order. Any more corroboration there? I went over it again and there is a definite trend of backwardsness.

    It is a weird list.

    Here’s a better list from The Modern Library complete with a whacked out “Reader’s List.”

    Two Ayn Rand books and L. Ron Hubbard are the top 3. Lord of the Rings is 4th so maybe not all bad.

    PS – It’s a little creepy to have the last five books of the Top 10 added by Blogcritic admin. They have that right, still, creepy.

  • The Modern Library lists are priceless.

    “Ulysees” heading one, and “Atlas Shrugged” heading the other. Both allegedly unreadable books that have become the subjects of cults.

    If I see a list headed by either, I know there’s no point reading further; it’s like seeing music lists headed by The Smiths…..

  • Eric Olsen

    Dude, I’m adding Amazon crap all the time – it’s routine. When we can list up to ten Amazon products per post, and the story lists a Top 10 anything, it sort of makes sense to finish it off.

    Some people never put in Amazon links (tisk), some don’t do it right (half-tisk), some posts can use some fleshing out. Remember the Amazon links add art and possible commentary to the post – they aren’t just commerce.

  • Tim, I suspect a lot more people pretend to have read Joyce than have. Ditto for a lot of Faulkner.

    On the other hand, Sterne is often considered to be the first ‘real’ novelist. I am surprised anyone escaped college without reading Tristram Shandy. It is a fine book, though not as fine as instructors of sophomore English classes think.

    Careful what you say about that silly woman from Russia around here. Though she is laughable as a writer, she appeals to the Rightward slant of many in the blogosphere. My guess is that a lot of those people, including her number one fan at BC, don’t read real literature.

  • Creepy in a good sense 🙂

    “Ulysees” heading one, and “Atlas Shrugged” heading the other. Both allegedly unreadable books that have become the subjects of cults.


  • When people refer to either of those books as “unreadable,” they usually mean two different things. In the case of Ulysses, they mean it’s too hard; in the case of Atlas Shrugged, they means it’s just unendurably bad.

  • Eric Olsen

    Aah, good then. I was feeling kind voyeuristic and minicam in the girl’s locker room about it there for a minute.

  • P.S. I’m vaguely familiar with Tristram Shandy, but it wasn’t a staple of my college education 25 years ago and I’ve never heard of anyone in my generation, at least, being required to read it, although I’m sure schools differ on this matter.

  • Really, Rod? I had it shoved down my throat, along with Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

  • Both Ulysses and Portrait
    were required in one class or another in my college, but not Tristram. Maybe it would be different now.

  • Rodney, not my use of the all important “allegedly”, since I don’t even pretend to have read either of them.

  • “My guess is that a lot of those people, including her number one fan at BC, don’t read real literature.”

    Because anyone with a different worldview can’t be very intelligent. How diverse.

    I thought “The Fountainhead” was good but tedious at times. I stopped reading “Atlas” 300 pages in–I had already read the shorter version.

  • Is this conversation devolving? Just asking. Let’s take the books as books as words that make you think and or entertain not as grand representatives of world view.

    None are bibles (with a small b).

  • Er, Temple, since “bible” means “book,” they’re all bibles. They’re just not Holy Bibles. 😉

  • ooof, that’s gonna leave a mark.

  • Actually, Atlas Shrugged is at least a somewhat holy bible.

    MD, dumb it down for a Kentuckian, am I the number one BC Ayn fan to whom you are referring? I would certainly be happy to claim that distinction.

  • Chris, I am always waiting for that Rand fan to cite any other book (preferably literature) he has read and he never does because . . . .

  • I said exactly the opposite of what I meant to. Forgive me.

    All are bibles.

  • There are other books?

  • James Bondage

    Books that belong there:
    1) The Bible
    2) Anything by Victor Hugo
    3) Atlas Shrugged-Ayn Rand
    4) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-HST
    5) The Dictionary
    6) A Prayer For Owen Meany-John Irving
    7) Growing up Brady-Barry Williams(just kidding)

  • other than his shameful inability to recognize the merits of “growing up brady,” our man 0069 seems to be on to something.

    gregy brady was the lyosha karamazov of clinton avenue, after all.

  • #26 – The Bible is a novel? A dictionary is a novel?

    If we’re picking based on influence, sure, I can see Rand on the list. But in terms of quality writing, I’m sorry, she doesn’t make the cut.

    You might have a point on Victor Hugo, though.

    Fear and Loathing is a great book, but many other great books were also left off the list. It’s borderline in my mind.

    And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read Owen Meany. 🙁

  • Taloran

    The Bible may not be a novel, but some people would argue that it’s a work of fiction.

  • Taloran, some would argue that parts of it are fictional. Heck, some parts are admittedly and deliberately fictional. But much of it is clearly historical and what few pieces of evidence are available from the same periods of time seem to generally back it up.

    So it’s not a novel, and not solely fictional, leaving aside other considerations, and therefore it doesn’t belong on this list. 😉

  • Joe

    I’d always thought of him as the Oblomov of Westdale High, and who can ever forget Sherwood Schwartz’s homage to Fitzgerald, Johnny Bravo?

  • Owen Meany is a great read! i still remember “The Shot”.

    i’d add On The Road to the list…

  • t.bag

    If any of you had actually bothered to inform yourselves by clicking the link below the title, you would have spared me and other visitors reading many stupid commentS.

    Allow me to quote some passages:

    “First of all, our list is fundamentally English [!] and inevitably reflects the age, sex and education of its Observer contributors.”

    “It [the list] is a catalogue of just a hundred ‘essential’ titles – as we [!] see it. Of course it is not scientific. … It is partial, prejudiced and highly personal.”

    “This is a list of prose fiction, not poetry, and not plays. Never mind that Beowulf has the same plot as Jaws, it’s a long poem in Old English, by Anon. This rule also eliminated the Iliad and the Odyssey, both of which are, by any standards, books for a desert island. In that category we also included the Authorised Version of the Bible.”

    “The play and poetry rule also excluded Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot and Auden. With great reluctance we also decided that The Canterbury Tales could not be part of our list.”

    “We had to draw the line somewhere.”

    Source: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,1061036,00.html

    The only thing the article fails to mention is that the list is ordered CHRONOLOGICALLY. Therefore, Don Quixote is NOT considered the most important novel by the Observer, it’s just generally considered the first novel ever written. I know some of you have realized this, but were for some reason ignored. Maybe because people wouldn’t have any more reasons to complain.

    End of rant.

    Please don’t be offended by this post, I just felt that somebody had to defend the author(s) against unjustified criticism.

  • The Theory

    shame on me for not seeing this post sooner!

    I’ve read all of 9 on the list… and was quite happy to see 52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner on the list. One of the better and more frustrating books i’ve read.

  • You have to read “Tristram Shandy”! It’s not an easy one, but it shows on each page how a novel works. Fantastic!

  • Helen

    I’m one of the few, I think, who’s read “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, though I’d recommend it. I picked it up for 99p I think, in my local WH Smith’s – part of slightly damaged factory stock, although there was nothing wrong with my copy!

    I think I’m also one of the few who’s read “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi, although again, I’d definitely recommend it. I’m seriously thrilled that he’s on the list, as I studied most of his works as part of an Italian degree.

    His “If This Is A Man” (published in the US under a different name – “Survival In Auschwitz”) should be required reading for everyone.