Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Best 100 Novels Challenge

The Champ!

Nathan Bransford posted a list of his 100 favorite novels and extended an invitation for other bloggers to do the same. Intrigued by the idea (and eager to waste some time), I decided to take him up on the challenge. 

It was a fun, if exasperating, exercise. What I found most difficult was evaluating books I hadn't read in ages, but remembered having strong feelings about. It's difficult to rank the things you love, anyway, but how to rank books you last read in high school against the ones you read last year? I'm a different person now. The older books' nuances (and sometimes, entire plots) might have escaped me in the intervening years. In the end, though, I figured if the book was powerful enough to have left an emotional fingerprint, then it deserved to make the cut (though it likely ended up in the bottom part of this list). 

I did not include collections of unrelated short stories, shorter novellas or memoirs. 

So, without further ado, here's my list of the top 100 novels: 
  1. Jane Eyre
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. A Room with a View
  4. Persuasion
  5. Women In Love
  6. Gilead
  7. The English Patient
  8. The Razor's Edge
  9. Emily of New Moon
  10. On Chesil Beach
  11. A Passage to India
  12. Charlotte's Web
  13. Bel Canto
  14. Madame Bovary
  15. Olive Kitteridge 
  16. Pride and Prejudice
  17. The Age of Innocence
  18. Anne of Green Gables
  19. The Corrections
  20. Breathing Lessons
  21. Silk
  22. Home
  23. Crime and Punishment
  24. The Anthologist
  25. Middlesex
  26. The Book of Ruth
  27. The Burgess Boys
  28. The Remains of the Day
  29. Middlemarch
  30. Villette
  31. The BFG
  32. The God of Small Things
  33. Freedom
  34. Lila
  35. My Ántonia
  36. The Sorrows of Young Werther
  37. A Thousand Splendid Suns
  38. Mrs. Dalloway
  39. Atonement
  40. The Road
  41. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  42. Jude the Obscure
  43. Les Misérables
  44. The Lowland
  45. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  46. Sense and Sensibility
  47. The Portrait of a Lady
  48. Great Expectations
  49. Mudbound
  50. The Grapes of Wrath
  51. Winesburg, Ohio
  52. Of Love and Other Demons
  53. The Art of Fielding
  54. The Sense of an Ending
  55. The House of Mirth
  56. Little Women
  57. To Kill a Mockingbird
  58. Mrs. Dalloway
  59. Life After Life
  60. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  61. Siddhartha
  62. The Namesake
  63. An Artist of the Floating World
  64. A Map of the World
  65. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  66. The Ten-Year Nap
  67. And the Mountains Echoed
  68. Elegies for the Brokenhearted
  69. Little Children
  70. And Then There Were None
  71. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
  72. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  73. Emma
  74. Digging to America
  75. The Vagabond
  76. To the Lighthouse
  77. Animal Farm
  78. White Teeth
  79. Amy and Isabelle
  80. A Farewell to Arms
  81. Things Fall Apart
  82. The Scarlet Letter
  83. The Song is You
  84. Elective Affinities
  85. Talking It Over
  86. The Great Gatsby
  87. The Red and the Black
  88. The Westing Game
  89. Station Eleven
  90. Howard's End
  91. Life of Pi
  92. The Wings of the Dove
  93. Lady Chatterley's Lover
  94. Wonder Boys
  95. Tess of the d'Urbervilles
  96. My Name is Lucy Barton
  97. Searching for Caleb
  98. Norwegian Wood
  99. All Quiet on the Western Front
  100. Brooklyn
So there you go! No doubt I've forgotten a few. And I clearly have some big holes here. No James Joyce, no Marcel Proust, no Toni Morrison, Herman Melville, or Vladimir Nabokov—not because I haven't read their work, but because I haven't read any one book to completion. I hope to remedy that someday. I'm also not that adventurous when it comes to genre fiction, and I know I'm missing out on some wonderful mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, etc. 

If we were keeping tabs on frequency of mentions, Anne Tyler, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Strout, E.M. Forster and Marilynne Robinson would take the prize. 

One final note: Jane Eyre may or may not be the best novel of all time, but I've come to believe that the novels we read at a formative age (I was 13) are the ones that stick to our souls and won't let go. I've read that book a couple times since in the intervening years, and it's always held up. I love Jane. I love Mr. Rochester. I even love poor Bertha, raving away in that attic of hers.   

They're why I fell in love with literature. And they're at least partly responsible for why I write today.

Thanks for the fun challenge, Nathan! I hope others take it up. If you do, be sure to share your list in the comments section of Nathan's original post, and he'll link his post to your blog. 



3 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Great list. I may try to do this too. My list will have very few classics on it, though. At least in the lower numbers. Much more pulp fiction

strugglingwriter said...

Nice job with the list. I wish I had the patience to do such a thing.

I'm glad to see The Westing Game on your list. I received that as a RIF book in 5th or 6th grade. I spent YEARS chasing for books like it. In the years before the Internet I sorely lacked access to book recommendations.

Sarah Hina said...

Charles, I'd like to see a list from you. Not that you have anything better to do with your time, I'm sure. ;)

Paul, I loved that book! It really made an impression. I got it for our daughter to read and was so happy she loved it, too. I totally agree about wanting other books like it when I was a kid.

The list did take some time, but I thought it was a good chance to do a mental inventory of my reading history, and remember books/authors I might want to check out again.

Thanks for stopping by! :)