My Top 100 Books

Created this list just ’cause; feel free to comment and disagree, but this is my top 100 novels ever written:

My best hundred works of literary fiction (limited to that category specifically; there are many authors and works I love and admire not listed here and intend no writer any disrespect). Obviously these are my own views and in no way represent any organization, author, agent, or anyone else. Also, this list is based upon my own 26-year history with literature, with the acknowledgement that there are many works I have not yet had the opportunity to read.
100-80:
100) Ensalo sobre a cegueira (Blindness), José Saramago.
99) L’Étranger (The Stranger), Albert Camus
98) V., Thomas Pynchon
97) Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow
96) Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis
95) Nana, Émile Zola
94) Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien (okay putting Tolkien above the previous folks could elicit some controversy, but think it justifiable; and purely sentimentally, Tolkien I came to when I was 11, the above quite later).
93) Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
92) A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, James Joyce
91) For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
90) Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
89) Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
88) Return Of the Native, Thomas Hardy
87) Neuromancer, William Gibson
86) El Otoño del Patriarco (Autumn of the Patriarch), Gabriel García Márquez
85) Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
84) A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
83) Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov
82) Il Barone Rampante (The Baron in the Trees), Italo Calvino
81) 村上春樹(Norwegian Wood), Haruke Murakami
80) Light in August, William Faulkner
79-60:
79) Hav, Jan Morris
78) Malina, Ingeborg Bachmann (some might find this controversial, but a truly game-changing novel by an underappreciated author)
77)The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
76) Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse (an overrated novel, while quite excellent, that gets more attention that his better works, to which we’ll get).
75) Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann (though it won the 2009 National Book Award, I feel this work has been overlooked of late to some extent; it really is a wonderful portrait of a place and time)
74) Light in August, William Faulkner
73) Tender Is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
72) Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
71) The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
70) Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
69) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
68) War and Peace (Вoйнá и мир), Leo Tolstoy (Overrated, Anna Karenina so much better… to which we’ll get)
Just ‘Cause: Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby (just cause I’m an Arsenal nut and take “Gooner” as a high compliment)
67) Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
66) Бесы (The Possessed/Demons), Fyodor Dostoevsky
65) 海辺カフカ (Kafka On the Shore), 村上春樹 (Haruki Murakami)
64) Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
63) Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
62) Rabbit, Run, John Updike
61) Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), Milan Kundera
60) Pamela, Samuel Richardson
59-40:
59) Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (have to say, after four readings, I don’t get this book, but yet I have no issues recognizing its brilliance. So… you’re an ass, Faulkner.)
58) Раковый Корпус (Cancer Ward), Алекса́ндр Иса́евич Солжени́цын (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)            (better than “One Day,” underrated, though “Gulag Archipelago” remains Solzhenitsyn’s crowning achievement, just not eligible for this list. Wish it were fiction.)
57) David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
56) What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver
55) Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
54) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
53) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
52) Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann
51) Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (might seem low for many, but really, this book – while good – grabs the top spot or near there on similar lists only because it was one of the first)
50) Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
49) Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
48) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
47) Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
46) The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
45) The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
44) O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ), José Saramago
43) Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace
42) Amor En los Tiempos del Cólera, Gabriel García Márquez
41) Bleak House, Charles Dickens
40) Under Western Eyes, Joseph Conrad
39-20:
39) On the Road, Jack Kerouac
38) Falconer, John Cheever
37) The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon (first tattoo, have to say, is the Tristero horn on my left underarm; one of the books that changed my entire view of fiction and what it could do)
36) The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Not a huge personal fan either of Hawthorne or this book, but good is good.)
35) Native Son, Richard Wright
34) To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
33) Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce
32) Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara
31) An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
30) The Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
29) Dubliners, James Joyce
28) 源氏物語 (The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
27) The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
26) Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
25) Los detectives salvajes, (The Savage Detectives) Roberto Bolaño Ávalos
24) Cairo Trilogy (okay, kind of a cop-out, but they just go together), نجيبمحفوظ (Naguib Mahfouz)
23) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 村上春樹 (Haruki Murakami)           
22: 1984, George Orwell (to be straight honest, the other two iconic English-language dystopian novels Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 – not to mention Margaret Atwood’s excellent two-released-of-three trilogy that began with Oryx & Crake and really came into its own with The Year of the Flood as well as Евге́ний Ива́нович Замя́тин’s Мы (We ) [(Yevgeni Zamyatin’s We) (and I have no clue yet how punctuation works in Russian, so added an apostrophe ‘s’ there anyway) also came under considerable consideration, as they’ve all impacted the manner in which I regard our future and their merit as fucking good writing) and Orwell has become the defining metonymic term for any form of totalitarianism, state surveillance, and denial of pleasure.  Its literary merits might fall short of others on this list, but as far as impact goes, I believe it’s hard to argue that 1984 isn’t near first on the list of books you read at fifteen and realize that the world is far more complicated, implicated, and fraught than you had thought).
21: Jane Eyre, (Brontës had to happen, yo. I’m as unhappy about it as you might be. Or ecstatic, I dunno.)
20: Pride and Prejudice,  (see above but with reference to Austen)
19-1: Now it gets real.
19: Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
(if you read that and believed it for more than three seconds, I owe you something).
19:Преступлéние и наказáние (Crime and Punishment), Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский (Fyodor Dostoevsky); have to say, it was hard to put Crime and Punishment this low, as it was really the novel that – back at age 15 in my intro to C++ computer programming class back in my sophomore year of high school (with a teacher named Lyle who always had a thermos at hand and always smelled strongly of cleaning fluid… if you catch my drift. Did I mention this class was at 8:45 am?) really opened my eyes for the first time to what great writing could accomplish, and to themes and concepts that have since perpetually caused me many a headache. I think, though, C&P‘s heavy-handedness re: redemption places it lower than a couple of Dostoevsky’s other works.
18: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad. I hated this book the first time I read it, and have no qualms saying so. I thought Conrad’s prose ugly (to put it kindly) and repetitive: how many times does one really need to write “inscrutable” or some variation. I had to reread it for my senior AP English class, and really gained a new appreciation for Conrad’s haunting prose (i.e. the “whited sepulchre” reference to the Book of Matthew) as well as a grasp of the overarching theme of a Nietzschean anti-hero consumed by his own power and the lust for more. That concept has become almost cliché nowadays, what with Cersei Lannister and Walter White running around, but it was Conrad who gave us that in its crispest and most phantasmagoric form (as well as Brando saying “The horror, the horror…”).
17: Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne. Nothing to say really but hilarious.
16. Der Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse. I rank this novel so high not only because I think it shows perhaps the complementary angle to L’Étranger of the isolated and seeking white male of indeterminate but relatively young age following a long-brewing impulse, etc., but more so because I guess I read it at the right age and in the right place.
15. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov. The greatest love story ever written.
14. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The greatest love story written to a generation.
13. Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner. Perfect.
12. Doktor Faustus (Doctor Faustus), Thomas Mann
11. Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass-Bead Game), Hermann Hesse. My physics teacher as a junior in high school gifted me this book when I graduated, and I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time; read it again later in English and then in German, and am more grateful to him with each passing day.
10. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. One of those books that changes one’s entire view of fiction and what it’s capable of.
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
8. Cien Años de Soledad, Gabriel García Márquez. Perhaps cliché, but one of the most radiant and memorable works I’ve ever read.
7. Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), Thomas Mann, stunningly brilliant work, still need to read in German.
6. Братья Карамазовы (The Brothers Karamazov), Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский (Fyodor Dostoevsky). Putting this so low has some basis – and don’t get me wrong, Karamazov was a book I cherished reading, even in the Constance Garnett verson. Certainly one of the most amazing books ever written, but No. 2 on my Dostoevsky list, second to the winner of this quasi-competition.
5. Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
4. Ulysses, James Joyce
3. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon; Pynchon changed everything for me in terms of fiction. I wasn’t even aware of the kind of things he’s been capable of until I read “49” and “Gravity’s Rainbow.” Stunning work.
2) Анна Каренина (Anna Karenina), Leo Tolstoy, Need I say more? The Kitty-Levin story alone would put it in the top 20, not to even mention the rest of a stunning stunning novel.
1) Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский (The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky) — just a novel without flaws. From the naïveté of Prince Myshkin to the diabolical Nastasya Filippovna, just perfect.
As Walter Benjamin once said, all great works of art either dissolve a genre or create one, and these are the books that accomplished both in my amateur opinion. Welcome any feedback, as I’m sure I missed works deserving of acclaim.

Update: Huh, I have Heart of Darkness on here twice. Leave it at #18, and #55 we’ll just leave open. My bad.

Update 2: Some funky font size issues, probably related to importing to WP, that I can’t quite figure out how to remedy. Apologies.

 

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~ by Benji on 28 May 2012.

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