Here’s another “100 best novels of all time” post

14 Jan

Here is the preface and the top ten; go to the full list.

We all love lists . . . well let’s stir the waters with an ambitious one highlighting
the 100 best novels.  Be warned:  this ranking is based on cranky and
subjective standards.  (But aren’t they all?)

1.    Marcel Proust  Remembrance of Things Past
“The only paradise is a paradise lost.”
2.    Fyodor Dostoevsky  The Brothers Karamozov
“If God is dead, then all things are permitted.”
3.    Thomas Mann,  The Magic Mountain
“Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or
blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even
when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off
4.    Henry James  The Ambassadors
"The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have."
5.    Miguel de Cervantes  Don Quixote
"For the love of God, sir knight errant, if you ever meet me again, please, even
if you see me being cut into little pieces, don’t rush to my aid or try to help
me, but just let me be miserable, because no matter what they’re doing to me
it couldn’t be worse than what will happen if your grace helps, so may God
curse you and every knight errant who’s ever been born in the world."
6.    Herman Melville  Moby Dick
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I
grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my
last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and
since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee,
though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"
7.    William Faulkner  Absalom, Absalom!
"I learned little save that most of the deeds, good and bad both, incurring
opprobrium or plaudits or reward either, within the scope of man’s abilities,
had already been performed and were to be learned about only from books."
8.    Leo Tolstoy  War and Peace
“A thought that had long since and often occured to him during his military
activities — the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of war, and
that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius — now appeared
to him an obvious truth.”
9.    Henry Fielding  Tom Jones
“Jenny replied to this with a bitterness which might have surprized a judicious
person, who had observed the tranquility with which she bore all the affronts
to her chastity; but her patience was perhaps tired out, for this is a virtue
which is very apt to be fatigued by exercise.”
10.  Mark Twain  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“But that’s always the way; it don’t make no difference whether you do right
or wrong, a person’s conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him
anyway. . . . It takes up more room than all the rest of a person’s insides, and
yet ain’t no good, nohow. Tom Sawyer thinks the same.”

I have read only five of those, though I did begin two others! Isn’t that a dreadful confession to make?

How did you score? Would you add anything to the list, assuming you are a good Floating Life reader and click on the link…?

Coincidentally, British crime fiction writer John Baker includes a similar list in his latest post: Presque vu LXXVI.


2 responses to “Here’s another “100 best novels of all time” post

  1. James Russell

    January 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve tried reading War and Peace twice and failed both times. Indeed, the second time I read the English translation approved by Tolstoy himself, and made even less headway with it than I had done the first time. Saw the Russian film version (the four-part, eight-hour one) some years later and came away feeling I hadn’t missed much.

    Others in this list I’ve read: Moby Dick, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Crime and Punishment, Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses (the book that took me 17 years to finish), Madame Bovary, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina (unfinished), Heart of Darkness (not like SBHS gave me any choice in that one), Vanity Fair, Pale Fire, Wuthering Heights, In Cold Blood, The Corrections, The Day of the Locust, 1984, Arthur Gordon Pym, Animal Farm, The Big Sleep, The Hound of the Baskervilles, On the Road, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter (another SBHS special), As I Lay Dying, Infinite Jest (unfinished), The Death of Ivan Ilych, VALIS (the one on the list I’ve read most recently, just read that last November or so) and Gravity’s Rainbow (unfinished). A pretty safe and conventional list for the most part.

  2. Neil

    January 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    The other list on John Baker’s blog is actually more interesting. I have been guilty of Scarlet Lettering my students, but they did survive… 😉

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