Saturday, August 30, 2008

. . . googled great books

I have always considered myself to be fairly well-read, although mostly self-educated. Out of curiosity I googled "best novels of 20th Century." With chagrin, I found out that no matter what list I chose, I had only read between 35%-40% of what various organizations considered to be the top 100 or top 150 books. Some of the books I had to read in school, both college and high school; some of the books I had read on my own, deciding myself they were worthy of my attention. Some of the books I had read were just bad; some of the books I had bought but found totally incomprehensible. And some were undoubtedly deserving of inclusion of the list.
My favorite list is The 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, Radcliffe Publishing Program Response ( Here's their list:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Ulysses by James Joyce
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm by George Orwell

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
The World According to Garp by John Irving
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Howards End by E.M. Forster
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Light in August by William Faulkner
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
White Noise by Don DeLillo
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
The Bostonians by Henry James
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
The ones I have read are italicized. . . only 39 out of 100. I was forced to read Ulysses in a class I took not too long ago, and although I recognize the brilliance and creativity of James Joyce, I can't think of anything that would make me read another one of his books. Too many puns, too many tricks, too many references to things I don't know about. I always like Fitzgerald, hated D. H. Lawrence. I went through streaks: read everything by Ayn Rand as a very young reader; everything by Vonnegut and Salinger. Never got into Rushdie, still haven't read anything written by him, or Updike, or Henry James, Henry Miller, Wharton or Forster. I don't know. . . maybe life is too short to spend time reading stuff because someone decided it was good even though I don't like it. I'm trying to decide whether to start on a self-improvement regimen and read all the books on this list.
I would like to add three books that have had the biggest impact on me and that do not appear on this list: (1) The Dollmaker, by Harriette Arnow; (2) The Women's Room, by Marilyn French; and (3) The Power of One, by Bryce Courtney. The Dollmaker made me cry; The Women's Room pissed me off and The Power of One was just plain wonderful. Do you have any favorites not included on the list?


Martha Marshall said...

Mary, I've read a few on that list, but many of them were so long ago that I should re-read them. Sadly, I seem to do most of my reading online. However, lately my life may be changing for the better. I now am the proud owner of a little candy apple red mp3 player, and am downloading books from my local library system. Yayyyy!

Mary Buek said...

Martha: I didn't know that was possible. . . I'm going to see if that's available here, too. . . You could paint and basically read at the same time. . . an answer to my prayers. Great idea.