Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Best English-Language Novels, 1900-2010

The adjective "best" in the post title is a bit misleading. The description "most significant" is probably more apt. Listed below are what are arguably the 300 most significant English-language novels and novellas published since 1900. The list was assembled from several "Best of" lists. Most of the titles included under the Group A through G headings can be found on one or more of the following lists:
Additionally, the following published lists were consulted, although a book had to be mentioned in more than one of them to rate inclusion in the A through G groups:
The groupings in Groups A through G were determined by descending number of mentions. Group A titles received the most mentions, Group B received the second-most, and so on. There were two exceptions among the titles: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. The Conrad novella was elevated to Group B from Group C due to its status as perhaps the single most assigned English-language novel or novella in North American high-school and college English courses. (I also wanted a de facto top ten.) The Lawrence novel was elevated from Group E to Group D because the consulted lists skew somewhat against efforts prior to 1923, and he seemed by far the author most impacted.

Trilogies and other multi-volume works are not divided among the various groups. If more than one book in a multi-volume effort is deemed worthy of inclusion, then they are all listed under the same group heading.

The books under the Group H heading are my own personal choices. They were intended to name authors and works I felt were most conspicuously missing from the other groupings. Particular attention was given to prominent children's, young-adult, crime, horror, fantasy, and science-fiction novels. The only rule was that no author could have more than one book or multi-volume effort listed under the heading.

If one chooses to look at these listings as a lifetime reading list, the best approach is probably to work one's way down.

Happy Reading!

Group A
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  • George Orwell, 1984
  • J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Group B
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • James Joyce, Ulysses
  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Group C
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  • William Faulkner, Light in August
  • E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
  • William Golding, Lord of the Flies
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Philip Roth, American Pastoral
  • Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book One: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book Two: The Two Towers
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book Three: The Return of the King
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Group D
  • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
  • Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
  • Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
  • Don DeLillo, White Noise
  • Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
  • D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Jack London, The Call of the Wild
  • Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
  • Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
  • Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
  • George Orwell, Animal Farm
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run (The Rabbit Tetralogy, Book One)
  • John Updike, Rabbit Redux (The Rabbit Tetralogy, Book Two)
  • John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich (The Rabbit Tetralogy, Book Three)
  • John Updike, Rabbit at Rest (The Rabbit Tetralogy, Book Four)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Richard Wright, Native Son
Group E
  • Martin Amis, Money
  • James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
  • Saul Bellow, Herzog
  • William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch
  • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Willa Cather, My Ántonia
  • Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
  • Joseph Conrad, Nostromo
  • Don DeLillo, Underworld
  • John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel (The U. S. A. Trilogy, Book One)
  • John Dos Passos, 1919 (The U. S. A. Trilogy, Book Two)
  • John Dos Passos, The Big Money (The U. S. A. Trilogy, Book Three)
  • William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom!
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
  • Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
  • E. M. Forster, Howards End
  • John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • William Gaddis, The Recognitions
  • Robert Graves, I, Claudius
  • Henry Green, Loving
  • Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Henry James, The Wings of the Dove
  • James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
  • Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Rudyard Kipling, Kim
  • D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow (The Brangwen Sisters Duology, Book One)
  • D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love (The Brangwen Sisters Duology, Book Two)
  • Ian McEwan, Atonement
  • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
  • V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River
  • V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas
  • Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
  • Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
  • Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • William Styron, Sophie’s Choice
  • Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop
  • Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust
  • Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Group F
  • Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
  • Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
  • Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson
  • Arnold Bennett, The Old Wives’ Tale
  • Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
  • Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh
  • A. S. Byatt, Possession
  • Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
  • Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
  • Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
  • Don DeLillo, Libra
  • James Dickey, Deliverance
  • E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime
  • E. L. Doctorow, World’s Fair
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  • Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet, Book One: Justine
  • Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet, Book Two: Balthazar
  • Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet, Book Three: Mountolive
  • Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet, Book Four: Clea
  • Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End, Book One: Some Do Not…
  • Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End, Book Two: No More Parades
  • Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End, Book Three: A Man Could Stand Up—
  • Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End, Book Four: Last Post
  • Richard Ford, The Sportswriter (The Frank Bascombe Trilogy, Book One)
  • Richard Ford, Independence Day (The Frank Bascombe Trilogy, Book Two)
  • Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land (The Frank Bascombe Trilogy, Book Three)
  • E. M. Forster, A Room with a View
  • John Fowles, The Magus
  • Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
  • William Gibson, Neuromancer
  • Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
  • Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
  • Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon
  • Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • John Irving, The World According to Garp
  • Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories
  • Henry James, The Ambassadors
  • Henry James, The Golden Bowl
  • Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s List
  • William Kennedy, Ironweed
  • D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
  • Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
  • Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
  • Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
  • W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
  • Cormac McCarthy, Suttree
  • Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Watchmen
  • Iris Murdoch, Under the Net
  • Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
  • John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book One: A Question of Upbringing
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Two: A Buyer’s Market
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Three: The Acceptance World
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Four: At Lady Molly’s
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Five: Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Six: The Kindly Ones
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Seven: The Valley of Bones
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Eight: The Soldier’s Art
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Nine: The Military Philosophers
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Ten: Books Do Furnish a Room
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Eleven: Temporary Kings
  • Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, Book Twelve: Hearing Secret Harmonies
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
  • Thomas Pynchon, V.
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
  • Philip Roth, The Counterlife
  • Philip Roth, Operation Shylock
  • Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater
  • Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
  • Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
  • Robert Stone, Dog Soldiers
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
  • Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
  • Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
  • E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
  • Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Group G
  • James Agee, A Death in the Family
  • Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
  • L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King
  • Judy Blume, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
  • James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road
  • John Cheever, Falconer
  • John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle
  • Philip K. Dick, Ubik
  • Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays
  • J. P. Donleavy, The Ginger Man
  • Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan, Book One: Young Lonigan
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan, Book Two: The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan, Book Three: Judgment Day
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
  • E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
  • Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
  • Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Edward P. Jones, The Known World
  • James Jones, From Here to Eternity
  • John Knowles, A Separate Peace
  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
  • Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird
  • John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Bernard Malamud, The Assistant
  • Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book One)
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book Two)
  • Cormac McCarthy, Fires on the Plain (The Border Trilogy, Book Three)
  • A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Toni Morrison, Jazz
  • Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
  • Philip Roth, The Human Stain
  • Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
  • Norman Rush, Mating
  • J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • Zadie Smith, White Teeth
  • Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
  • John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
  • Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
  • William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner
  • Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons
  • John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Alice Walker, The Color Purple
  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
  • Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
  • Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
Group H
  • Richard Adams, Watership Down
  • Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
  • Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
  • Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  • Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth
  • Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
  • Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth
  • Willa Cather, A Lost Lady
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End
  • Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain
  • Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
  • Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Thomas M. Disch, On Wings of Song
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • John Fowles, The Collector
  • William Gaddis, J R
  • Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist
  • Judith Guest, Ordinary People
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • Frank Herbert, Dune
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders
  • Laura Z. Hobson, Gentlemen’s Agreement
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
  • Stephen King, The Stand
  • John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here
  • H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
  • Bernard Malamud, The Fixer
  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
  • Richard Matheson, I Am Legend
  • W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road
  • Mary McCarthy, The Group
  • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
  • Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  • Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
  • Ngugi wa-Thion’go, A Grain of Wheat
  • Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country
  • Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling
  • Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book One)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book Two)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book Three)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book Four)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book Five)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book Six)
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book Seven)
  • Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
  • Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  • Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
  • Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me
  • Jean Toomer, Cane
  • Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  • Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan
  • Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier
  • Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country

No comments: