Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yes; 'tis the list

I don’t read as much as I used to. And when I do, it tends to be non-fiction, usually books about World War II, or baseball, or politics. I've never really made a point of reading any 'great' novels, and when I do pick up a novel, it tends to be on the fluffier side. I think the last novel I read was The Da Vinci Code. It was fun and enjoyed it, but let’s face it, it isn't very deep.

I recently cam across a list from Time Magazine, of their “100 All TIME Novels.” The list, selected by two of Time’s book reviewers, selected the 100 best English novels, which were written from 1923 to present. In the case of this list, 'present' was 2005, and 1923 is the year Time began publishing. When I first read through the list, something struck me; I haven’t read very many of the books that were on it. I’d heard of most of them. Actually, make that I’d heard of quite a few of them, and I’d heard of some of the authors on them, but I hadn’t necessarily heard of their books. Then there were quite a few that I’d heard of or seen the movies, but either hadn’t read the book or was unaware that it was originally a book. The plain and simple fact was that I’d read six of the novels on the list. Six out of one hundred, critically acclaimed books. I’ve been to six hockey games in the last month. I’ve probably seen all 160 episodes of Seinfeld six times each. I guess it’s fair to say, I haven't been the literary type for the past few...decades.

I’ve decided to do something about this though, and as you might have guessed, I’m going to read all 100 novels, and see how it goes. Some of them, I can’t wait to read; while others the idea of reading them fills me with ennui that one generally experiences at an insurance seminar. I’m sure none of the books on this list will be bad per se, but I’m sure that I’m going to like some more than others; make that much more than others. Only time will tell I guess.

The list itself is only in alphabetical order. The 100 books are not ranked or grouped by genre or anything else. It is just a list of 100 great books. Since they aren’t in any order, I’m not going to read them in any order either. I think I’ll just read them as I come across them or as I think of them. I don’t know.

So far, the six I’ve read are:

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

You can probably deduce from this short list how I ended up reading these books; in school as part of some mandatory reading. This was the case for Gatsby (Grade 12), Mockingbird (Grade 11) and Lord of the Flies (Grade 8). I read the Narnia book when I was about 10 years old, and it was possibly the first novel I ever read on my own. The last two books, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Catcher in the Rye , I read out of my own volition. And this is what kind of confuses me; I thoroughly enjoyed both of them, so much that I've read Nineteen Eighty-Four several times, but haven't read much fiction since then, over ten years ago.

For the purpose of this experiment, for lack of a better word, I’ve decided to read all the books on the list, including the six I’ve already read. I’ll admit that, although I enjoyed Gatsby, I don’t remember much about it. I only remember that I enjoyed it. So, here, without further ado, are the 100 All TIME Novels, according to Time Magazine.

The List:

1. The Adventures of Augie March (1953), by Saul Bellow
2. All the King's Men (1946), by Robert Penn Warren
3. American Pastoral (1997), by Philip Roth
4. An American Tragedy (1925), by Theodore Dreiser
5. Animal Farm (1946), by George Orwell
6. Appointment in Samarra (1934), by John O'Hara
7. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970), by Judy Blume
8. The Assistant (1957), by Bernard Malamud
9. At Swim-Two-Birds (1938), by Flann O'Brien
10. Atonement (2002), by Ian McEwan
11. Beloved (1987), by Toni Morrison
12. The Berlin Stories (1946), by Christopher Isherwood
13. The Big Sleep (1939), by Raymond Chandler
14. The Blind Assassin (2000), by Margaret Atwood
15. Blood Meridian (1986), by Cormac McCarthy
16. Brideshead Revisited (1946), by Evelyn Waugh
17. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), by Thornton Wilder
18. Call It Sleep (1935), by Henry Roth
19. Catch-22 (1961), by Joseph Heller
20. The Catcher in the Rye (1951), by J.D. Salinger
21. A Clockwork Orange (1963), by Anthony Burgess
22. The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), by William Styron
23. The Corrections (2001), by Jonathan Franzen
24. The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), by Thomas Pynchon
25. A Dance to the Music of Time (1951), by Anthony Powell
26. The Day of the Locust (1939), by Nathanael West
27. Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), by Willa Cather
28. A Death in the Family (1958), by James Agee
29. The Death of the Heart (1958), by Elizabeth Bowen
30. Deliverance (1970), by James Dickey
31. Dog Soldiers (1974), by Robert Stone
32. Falconer (1977), by John Cheever
33. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), by John Fowles
34. The Golden Notebook (1962), by Doris Lessing
35. Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), by James Baldwin
36. Gone With the Wind (1936), by Margaret Mitchell
37. The Grapes of Wrath (1939), by John Steinbeck
38. Gravity's Rainbow (1973), by Thomas Pynchon
39. The Great Gatsby (1925), by F. Scott Fitzgerald
40. A Handful of Dust (1934), by Evelyn Waugh
41. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter (1940), by Carson McCullers
42. The Heart of the Matter (1948), by Graham Greene
43. Herzog (1964), by Saul Bellow
44. Housekeeping (1981), by Marilynne Robinson
45. A House for Mr. Biswas (1962), by V.S. Naipaul
46. I, Claudius (1934), by Robert Graves
47. Infinite Jest (1996), by David Foster Wallace
48. Invisible Man (1952), by Ralph Ellison
49. Light in August (1932), by William Faulkner
50. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), by C.S. Lewis
51. Lolita (1955), by Vladimir Nabokov
52. Lord of the Flies (1955), by William Golding
53. The Lord of the Rings (1954), by J.R.R. Tolkien
54. Loving (1945), by Henry Green
55. Lucky Jim (1954), by Kingsley Amis
56. The Man Who Loved Children (1940), by Christina Stead
57. Midnight's Children (1981), by Salman Rushdie
58. Money (1984), by Martin Amis
59. The Moviegoer (1961), by Walker Percy
60. Mrs. Dalloway (1925), by Virginia Woolf
61. Naked Lunch (1959), by William Burroughs
62. Native Son (1940), by Richard Wright
63. Neuromancer (1984), by William Gibson
64. Never Let Me Go (2005), by Kazuo Ishiguro
65. 1984 (1948), by George Orwell
66. On the Road (1957), by Jack Kerouac
67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), by Ken Kesey
68. The Painted Bird (1965), by Jerzy Kosinski
69. Pale Fire (1962), by Vladimir Nabokov
70. A Passage to India (1924), by E.M. Forster
71. Play It As It Lays (1970), by Joan Didion
72. Portnoy's Complaint (1969), by Philip Roth
73. Possession (1990), by A.S. Byatt
74. The Power and the Glory (1939), by Graham Greene
75. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), by Muriel Spark
76. Rabbit, Run (1960), by John Updike
77. Ragtime (1975), by E.L. Doctorow
78. The Recognitions (1955), by William Gaddis
79. Red Harvest (1929), by Dashiell Hammett
80. Revolutionary Road (1961), by Richard Yates
81. The Sheltering Sky (1949), by Paul Bowles
82. Slaughterhouse Five (1969), by Kurt Vonnegut
83. Snow Crash (1992), by Neal Stephenson
84. The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), by John Barth
85. The Sound and the Fury (1929), by William Faulkner
86. The Sportswriter (1986), by Richard Ford
87. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1964), by John le Carre
88. The Sun Also Rises (1926), by Ernest Hemingway
89. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), by Zora Neale Hurston
90. Things Fall Apart (1959), by Chinua Achebe
91. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), by Harper Lee
92. To the Lighthouse (1927), by Virginia Woolf
93. Tropic of Cancer (1934), by Henry Miller
94. Ubik (1969), by Philip K. Dick
95. Under the Net (1954), by Iris Murdoch
96. Under the Volcano (1947), by Malcolm Lowry
97. Watchmen (1986), by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
98. White Noise (1985), by Don DeLillo
99. White Teeth (2000), by Zadie Smith
100. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), by Jean Rhys

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