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Shakespeare's Sister

But it's on the list for the same reason Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret are on it---so that there are novels that the average TIME reader will have read.

Does it also strike you, by any chance, that an inordinate number of books on this list have been turned into films that are either award-winning, regarded as classics, or have a cult following? I suspect many of these books would likely be off our collective radar (not to mention left off this list) had they not been turned into films of some acclaim.

Exiled in NJ

I was thinking on the same line too, SS. Hammett is the right mystery choice, but Red Dust? Two classic films were made of it, but The Glass Key is one that would not require an apology to be here. The film, however, is below average.

Then again, on the same line, I suppose we could have had Thomas Harris.


I am biased. My "Best 100" list would contain about 90 science fiction novels....but never mind, that's just me.


certainly "song of solomon"
certainly "confederacy of dunces"
"trinities" by nick tosches

an obscurity... "tongues of the moon"-
a great post-apocalyptic phil farmer novel

"a canticle for leibowitz"

Gray Lensman

How about all 20 volumes of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian? I always feel I've read one huge novel when I finish.


"Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin needs to be on this list.


You know, your comment about Bellow, Roth, Atwood etc filling a potential list with a good deal of their work might point to a more interesting project than these perennial lists. Which novelists' worlds sketched out over a career of novels hold the most value for readers? The authors listed, Faulkner as the best example, created such important characters and settings that any one of the body of work surpasses lesser artists' best one-offs. More importantly, the artistic visions were made more robust by re-visiting similar places and themes. I think that's why I always feel like my favorite Bellow book, for example, is the last one I read. It's harder to separate the greats' works out because their projects sort of bleed together. I like thinking about created worlds too because it let's you compare authors with novelists you usually wouldn't. For example, Flannery O'Connor, whose Wiseblood I also love, feels even more weighty if you can include her short stories in an evaluation. Her project fits her in with all the other demiurges.

Of course, I could just be too devoted to my particular tastes, considering my favorite albums' list running in my head is dominated by my two favorite bands.


Invisible Man is my favorite book on the list, and quite possibly my favorite book of all time.

I'm also very glad they included Call it Sleep.

...I think I would dump White Teeth. I loved it, and I'll devour On Beauty, but it wasn'

Same with Wide Sargasso Sea.

Same with Infinite Jest. It's good for intercontinental flights, and much better than A Staggering Work of Pretentious Asshattery, but it's not my favorite book.

I would dump To the Lighthouse. Mrs. Dalloway, though, absolutely.

I would dump The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, because, well, John LeCarre is just not in Virginia Woolf's league.

I would also dump An American Tragedy, because I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.

I would promote Remains of the Day over Never Let Me Go--and, actually, Artist of the Floating World over either one. Including Never Let Me Go in this list is like including the babe who played Helen in TROY in People's Summer '03 Most Beautiful People List.

Disgrace, by Jim Coetzee.

Oscar & Lucinda and Illywhacker, by Peter Carey.

Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis, because it terrified me.

Aurora Dawn, because Herman Wouk deserves to be on that list somewhere.

Possibly either Family Matters or A Delicate Balance, by Rohinton Mistry.

And something--anything!--by Annie Proulx. Even That Old Ace in the Hole is better than Infinite Jest, for God's sake. Her prose is indescribably beautiful, and I'm pissed that they couldn't at least flog The Shipping News. I nominate Postcards.


Sorry. I'll head on over there.


So this is where the influx of commenters whose names I didn't recognize came from! Thanks, Lance, and welcome, all.


Jeez, Lance, at least give me credit for having it on my "guilty pleasure" list. I've always thought GWTW was one of the great bad novels of all time, no small feat.

It's my sick book. When I'm sick, I take it off the shelf, open at random and start reading. Makes the cold pass a little faster.

cali dem

I liked "Postcards" by Annie Proulx

I nominate "The Sweet Hereafter" by Russell Banks.

harry near indy

best novels as in greatest novels?

i usually don't take those lists to heart, and i urge other people to do the same thing -- because they try to judge subjective things, like art, by objective measures, like biggest, tallest, and winningest.

it doesn't work.

i remember back in '99, when espn named the 100 top athletes of the 20th century. some people complained when secretariat was on the list.

sports illustrated, otoh, had a list of its 30 most favorite athletes of the 20th century. also subjective, but it made more sense and could stand the test of time over discussions about the 100 best athletes that espn proposed.

you mention cheever, lance. i enjoy his short stories very much.

he also said "literature is not the super bowl." i agree with him.

also, the list began in 1923. the year before, ulysses was published. the damndest of co-incidences.


I didn't think it was such a bad list, but the whole purpose of a list is to start an argument, anyway. I will have to think about what I would have included besides Wodehouse (Confederacy of Dunces, definitely) but I would not include The Painted Bird, C.S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings or the Judy Blume.

The movie list is much worse. Room for the original Star Wars, but not a single John Ford? Oh, how I would have enjoyed the late George Fasel's reaction to that.


This has to be a quick first shot, because I am very pressed here.

I would defend the inclusion of Pale Fire, and as a novel.

I miss something by Penelope Fitzgerald on the list.

Thanks for the 1923 start-date clue - had been wondering about that.

Of the lot, I've only read 55. Some of the unread I'd still skip, but some I feel kind of guilty about never having gotten around to. Sort of how I feel about the stacks on my bedtable - they sit there, accusingly.

More later. Silly lists!


The Women's Room should definitely be on this list.
I tried reading "A Confederacy of Dunces" but I just couldn't. I do not see why that is such a great book, honestly. If you disagree, feel free to explain!


I find "Confederacy" an almost perfect comic novel, but you are not the first person I've met who didn't. Most of them just found Ignatius repellent, whereas he just delighted me. I also loved the picture of New Orleans and it has an amazing cast of supporting characters, all of whom get good moments themselves.

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