books + poetry, Inspirations

A reading list for the next couple of years

As I grow older I  find that my consumption of literature has, along with other things, lost some of its former passion. When I was in high school I used to devour a book every couple of days (not all of them steamy romance novels, either,) curled up on a broken couch in the dusty attic of my parents’ house from mid-morning till the early hours of the following day. I know now that reading this way was a luxury of time and, perhaps, of youth: to be able to lose oneself for 30 uninterrupted hours in the world of the book—oblivious to hunger or thirst, my whereabouts unknown and unremarked by my family—and surrender myself to the delights, the feverish ideas, the anxieties, hot tears or disturbing sensuality that lay within each work.

At university my reading dropped to a book a week, mainly because I had less time to indulge in my  passion, but also because the books were getting more complex, demanded more critical thought, more concentration; it wasn’t enough to let the story and its feelings flow over me: the novel had become a complex little machine of intricate connections, cogs ticking a riddle, secret switches and coded messages that pointed, in oblique ways, to things and ideas in the real world.

Nearing 40, I might be lucky to read a book a month. Work, a relationship, friends, other commitments as well as many, many new interests, jostle for blocks of time. I’m less stuck-up, now, about what I read…there was a time when I scorned science fiction, or popular works. I used to force myself to read only classics, even when they were boring and difficult to stay with, because of some snooty idea that a quality mind only read quality books. Youth is such a self-righteous, ridiculous time of life! Still I’m glad I read the classics early on, for I doubt I would have the patience or perseverance to slog my way through Austen, now! And now? I read for a dozen different reasons: for information, for the love of the English language…the roll and roar of an ocean of words; for entertainment and lighthearted humor, for edification, still, but more often for a different angle on life and humanity than my own experience affords me.

There are many books I have not yet read that I would like to (or at least would like to try to read) and I am always on the lookout for a good reading list to serve as my guide. I base my choice of list on whether  it has a few books that I have already read and loved…it is a cautious approach, and I will not make very big leaps in the word of literature by hopping from pebble to pebble, but in my own slow way I move across the pond, sometimes to its edge,  and from there chance to spy something really new and unfamiliar, out in the middle of the field…

Random House has released their list (two lists, actually: the board’s and the reader’s) of the 100 Best Novels in their Modern Library series…not really two hundred, since many of the titles repeat in both lists. I’ve crossed out the ones I’ve read…again, not as many as it may seem at first glance, since many titles are duplicated.

100 Best Novels

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  89. LOVING by Henry Green
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  98. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

  1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
  2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
  8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
  9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
  11. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  12. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  13. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. DUNE by Frank Herbert
  15. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
  16. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
  17. A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
  18. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  19. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  20. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  21. GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
  22. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  23. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  24. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  25. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  26. SHANE by Jack Schaefer
  27. TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
  28. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
  29. THE STAND by Stephen King
  30. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN by John Fowles
  31. BELOVED by Toni Morrison
  32. THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
  33. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  34. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  35. MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
  36. ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
  37. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  38. WISE BLOOD by Flannery O’Connor
  39. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  40. FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
  41. SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
  42. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  43. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  44. YARROW by Charles de Lint
  45. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft
  46. ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
  47. MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
  48. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  49. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  50. TRADER by Charles de Lint
  51. THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
  52. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  53. THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
  54. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
  55. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  56. ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
  57. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  58. GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
  59. ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
  60. THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
  61. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
  62. STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
  63. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  64. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving
  65. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
  66. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
  67. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  68. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  69. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  70. THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
  71. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  72. THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
  73. ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig
  74. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  75. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  76. AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O’Brien
  77. FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
  78. ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
  79. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
  80. NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
  81. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
  82. GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
  83. THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
  84. IT by Stephen King
  85. V. by Thomas Pynchon
  86. DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
  87. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
  88. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  89. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  90. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Ken Kesey
  91. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  92. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  93. SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
  94. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
  95. MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
  96. SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
  97. MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
  98. ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
  99. THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
  100. THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

The Modern Library | 100 Best | Novels

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