MODERN LIBRARY: 100 BEST NOVELS

Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels is a list of the best English-language novels of the 20th century as determined by the Modern Library. In the spring of 1998 the Modern Library polled its editorial board to find the best 100 novels of the 20th century. The board consisted of Daniel J. Boorstin, A. S. Byatt, Christopher Cerf, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal.
The top 100 list was selected that committee that included writers Gore Vidal, whose books did not make the cut, and William Styron, whose novel “Sophie’s Choice” placed fifth from the bottom. Ulysses by James Joyce topped the list, followed by The Great Gatsby and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The most recent novel in the list is Ironweed (1983) by William Kennedy, and the oldest are Sister Carrie (1900) by Theodore Dreiser and Lord Jim (1900) by Joseph Conrad.
The list purports to contain only English-language novels (in fact, ‘Darkness at Noon’ is a translation from the German).
A separate list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century was created the same year. A list of reader choices was published separately by Modern Library in 1999.

 

THE BOARD’S LIST:

  • ULYSSES by James Joyce
  • THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  • LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  • BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  • THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  • CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  • DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  • SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  • THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  • UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  • THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  • TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  • AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  • THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  • SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  • INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  • NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  • HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  • APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara
  • U.S.A.(trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  • WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  • A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  • THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  • THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  • TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  • THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  • ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  • THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  • SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  • A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  • AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  • ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  • THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  • HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  • GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  • THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  • LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  • DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  • A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  • POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  • THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  • THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  • NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  • THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  • WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  • TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  • THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  • PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  • PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  • LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  • ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  • THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  • PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
  • THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  • ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  • THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  • DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather
  • FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  • THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  • THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  • A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  • OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  • HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  • MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  • THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  • THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  • A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  • A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  • THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  • A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  • SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  • THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
  • FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  • KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  • A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  • BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  • THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow
  • ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  • A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  • THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  • LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  • RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  • THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
  • THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  • LOVING by Henry Green
  • MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  • TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  • IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  • THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  • WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  • UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  • SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
  • THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  • THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
  • THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  • THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

THE READER’S CHOICE:

  • ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
  • THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  • BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
  • WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
  • MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  • FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
  • ULYSSES by James Joyce
  • CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  • THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • DUNE by Frank Herbert
  • THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
  • STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
  • A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
  • BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  • THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  • ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  • GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
  • THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  • SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  • GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  • LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  • SHANE by Jack Schaefer
  • TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
  • A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
  • THE STAND by Stephen King
  • THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN by John Fowles
  • BELOVED by Toni Morrison
  • THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
  • THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  • LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  • MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
  • ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
  • OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  • WISE BLOOD by Flannery O’Connor
  • UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  • FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
  • SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
  • ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  • HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  • YARROW by Charles de Lint
  • AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft
  • ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
  • MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
  • TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  • THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  • TRADER by Charles de Lint
  • THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
  • THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  • THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
  • BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
  • A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  • ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
  • A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  • GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
  • ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
  • THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
  • THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
  • STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
  • THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  • THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving
  • SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
  • THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
  • AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  • TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  • INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  • THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
  • THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  • THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
  • ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig
  • I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  • THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  • AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O’Brien
  • FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
  • WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
  • NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
  • THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
  • GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
  • IT by Stephen King
  • V. by Thomas Pynchon
  • DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
  • CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
  • BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  • LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  • ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Ken Kesey
  • A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  • THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  • SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
  • MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
  • MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
  • SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
  • MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
  • ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
  • THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
  • THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie
Criticism of the list includes that it did not include enough novels by women, and not enough novels from “Anglophone” countries (besides the US and the UK). In addition some say it was a “sales gimmick” as most of the titles in the list are also sold by Modern Library.
(Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USAIt didn’t take long for the Modern Library’s list of the best 100 novels of this century to meet heavy criticism from the masses:
Released on Monday, the library picked James Joyce’s “Ulysses” as the literary topper, with “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” rounding out the top five. Aside from the usual brickbatting that accompanies any list that tries to encapsulate a century, the Modern Library’s rankings has rankled both women and people of color. Only eight female authors were represented in the top 100, and minority authors were noticeably scarce, despite a considerable presence in literature over the past 100 years.
“I don’t know if this is the last great gasp of the white patriarchal male literary establishment, or if we are just going to try and bury all the wonderful writers out there,” says Linda Bubin, co-owner of Women and Children First, a Chicago bookstore that specializes in feminist and children’s books.
Bubin, while angered by the list, was not surprised. “We (women) tend to think we’ve arrived someplace, so it’s good to remind people that the whole establishment is incredibly sexist,” says Bubin. “And this is one more piece of evidence of that.”
By CNN Interactive Writer
Jamie Allen
May 6, 1999, while Christopher Cerf, a member of the Modern Library panel that voted in the list, told reporters Monday that the list was created to spark debate and to get people reading, he also acknowledged his regret over some books left off the list, including works by Doris Lessing and Toni Morrison. The Modern Library’s panel, a division of Random House, included Cerf, Daniel J. Boorstin, A.S. Byatt, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal — seven men and one woman.

A reader’s poll on the Modern Library’s Web site puts Ayn Rand at No. 1 and 3, with “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” respectively.
On CNN Interactive’s message board, posts overflowed with questions regarding the list’s apparent lack of diversity. The absence of Morrison and Rand was mentioned often. “I am surprised that the committee chose to omit African, Indian, South American, and Australian writers, many of whom write in English.”
— Micky Black
from the CNN Interactive message boards

“I scrolled down the list and noticed that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second mention on the list, ‘Tender is the Night,’ was ranked above the second female novelist mentioned,” noted Kim Berndt in her message board post. “No doubt, F. Scott Fitzgerald is an incredible writer. But are you going to tell me that only one woman’s novel (Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” — ranked No. 15) was better than ‘Tender is the Night?'”
“I am surprised that the committee chose to omit African, Indian, South American, and Australian writers, many of whom write in English,” posted Micky Black. “Also, what about Arab writers? How about more women writers such as Doris Lessing and Isak Dinesen?”
While much of the faultfinding focused on the lack of women or minorities, some readers found other problems with the picks. Many noted that “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was excluded altogether from the list of 100.
“This list must be a practical joke, either from the Saturday Night Live crew or perhaps Monty Python,” posted Howard Paul Burgess. “‘Ulysses’ as the greatest novel of the century? Sure. And ‘Plan Nine from Outer Space’ was the best movie of the century, too. ‘Ulysses’ is the biggest pile of gobbledygook ever perpetrated on the reading public. I defy anyone to make sense of anything in that (admittedly, sometimes poetic) flow of words, words, words.”
Other readers were reminded of the recent list of the top 100 movies this century, as compiled by the American Film Institute.
“This list is far more subjective than even the AFI’s 100 greatest movies, or that insipid Time article about the century’s greatest entertainers,” Jimmy John posted. “You simply can’t narrow down a century of books into one little list of 100. It’s impossible.”
Impossible, no. The Modern Library has done it. To compile a list that finds no critics may be the impossible task.
“Ulysses as the greatest novel of the century? Sure. And Plan Nine from Outer Space was the best movie of the century, too.”
— Howard Paul Burgess
from the CNN Interactive message boards

Exactly a third of the titles on the list of “best” novels, including 6 of the top 10, have been removed or threatened with removal from bookstores, libraries and schools at some point. The Grapes of Wrath, number 10 on the list, has been one of the most vilified works since its publication in 1939. Burned at the St. Louis (Mo.) Public Library immediately after publication, it also was banned from the Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Library because of “vulgar words.” It was challenged in the Greenville (S.C.) schools because it used the names of God and Jesus “in a vain and profane manner” and was banned in Kern County (Calif.) where the story was set. It continues to be one of the most challenged books in schools and libraries.
Other banned books in the Modern Library’s “Top Ten” include The Great Gatsby and Brave New World. Today, it’s hard to imagine a library or a school curriculum without these works. Fortunately, few books are permanently banned from library and bookstore shelves in the United States. Why? Because librarians, booksellers, educators, parents and others actively defend our right to read.
The fact that 33 books on the Modern Library’s “best” list have been either banned or challenged is not surprising. School and public libraries regularly receive requests to remove materials from their shelves and reading lists. In fact, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports of such challenges each year, with many more going unreported. Last year ALA tracked nearly 500 challenges on such acclaimed works as Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.
These challenges are not just complaints. They are requests to have materials removed from library shelves and curricula, most frequently in our nation’s schools.
The controversy over the Modern Library’s list reminds us that great literature is very much in the mind of the beholder. What is intellectually stimulating to one may be irrelevant or even offensive to another. That doesn’t mean that differing viewpoints should not be heard or that parental guidance should not be exercised. Rather, it means we must respect the rights of others to choose for themselves and their families what they find appealing and appropriate.
(Source: Ann K. Symons, President, American Library Association, 1998–1999)

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