Saturday, December 31, 2005

Time Magazine: Top 100 All-Time Novels

First posted 6/10/2020.

From “In 2005, Time® magazine’s literary critics, Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo selected what they considered to be the top 100 English-language novels published from 1923 to 2005 (1923 being the year Time® began publishing). As usual, with any “top 100” list, these were their subjective choices, and obviously do not reflect the views of any other reader. However, their list inarguably includes numerous works of influential English-languge literature.”

Note: the original list was unranked, presented alphabetically by book titles. The rankings here are based on

  1. Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
  2. George Orwell 1984 (1949)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (trilogy: 1954-55)
  4. J.D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (1925)
  6. C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
  7. William Golding Lord of the Flies (1954)
  8. George Orwell Animal Farm (1954)
  9. Joseph Heller Catch-22 (1961)
  10. John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

  11. Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind (1936)
  12. Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
  13. Vladimir Nabokov Lolita (1955)
  14. Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
  15. Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  16. Judy Blume Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (1972)
  17. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen (1986)
  18. Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go (2005)
  19. Ian McEwan Atonement (2001)
  20. Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (1958)

  21. Toni Morrison Beloved (1987)
  22. Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (1952)
  23. Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  24. Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  25. Jack Kerouac On the Road (1957)
  26. A.S. Byatt Possession (1990)
  27. Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep (1939)
  28. E.M. Forster A Passage to India (1924)
  29. Robert Graves I, Claudius (1934)
  30. Zora Neal Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

  31. William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury (1929)
  32. Robert Penn Warren All the King’s Men (1946)
  33. Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin (2000)
  34. Richard Wright Native Son (1940)
  35. Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse (1927)
  36. E.L. Doctorow Ragtime (1975)
  37. John Fowles The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)
  38. Carson McCullers The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
  39. William Faulkner Light in August (1932)
  40. William Burroughs Naked Lunch (1959)

  41. John Le Carré The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
  42. Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian (1985)
  43. Don DeLillo White Noise (1985)
  44. David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest (1995)
  45. Neal Stephenson Snow Crash (1992)
  46. Richard Yates Revolutionary Road (1961)
  47. Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited (1945)
  48. Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children (1981)
  49. Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1960)
  50. Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

  51. Thornton Wilder The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1928)
  52. William Gibson Neuromancer (1984)
  53. Jonathan Franzen The Corrections (2001)
  54. Philip Roth American Pastoral (1998)
  55. Graham Greene The Power and the Glory (1939)
  56. Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
  57. Philip Roth Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)
  58. Jean Rhys Wide Saragosso Sea (1966)
  59. Thomas Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
  60. Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest (1929)

  61. John Updike Rabbit, Run (1960)
  62. Zadie Smith White Teeth (2000)
  63. Malcolm Lowry Under the Volcano (1947)
  64. Jerzy Kosinski The Painted Bird (1976)
  65. James Baldwin Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
  66. V.S. Naipaul A House for Mr. Biswas (1961)
  67. Joan Didion Play It As It Lays (1970)
  68. Kingsley Amis Lucky Jim (1954)
  69. Philip K. Dick Ubik (1969)
  70. Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook (1962)

  71. Graham Greene The Heart of the Matter (1948)
  72. Vladimir Nabokov Pale Fire (1962)
  73. Walker Percy The Moviegoer (1961)
  74. William Styron The Confessions of Nat Turner (1968)
  75. Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer (1934)
  76. John O’Hara Appointment in Samarra (1934)
  77. Martin Amis Money: A Suicide Note (1984)
  78. James Dickey Deliverance (1970)
  79. Nathanael West The Day of the Locust (1939)
  80. Marilynn Robinson Housekeeping (1981)

  81. Christina Stead The Man Who Loved Children (1940)
  82. John Barth The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)
  83. Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
  84. Saul Bellow Herzog (1964)
  85. Flann O’Brien At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
  86. Henry Roth Call It Sleep (1935)
  87. Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky (1949)
  88. Evelyn Waugh A Handful of Dust (1934)
  89. Richard Ford The Sportswriter (1986)
  90. Christopher Isherwood The Berlin Stories (1945)

  91. James Agee A Death in the Family (1958)
  92. William Gaddis The Recognitions (1955)
  93. Robert Stone Dog Soldiers (1975)
  94. Bernard Malamud The Assistant (1957)
  95. Henry Green Loving (1945)
  96. Iris Murdoch Under the Net (1954)
  97. Anthony Powell A Dance to the Music of Time (1975)
  98. Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy (1925)
  99. John Cheever Falconer (1977)
  100. Elizabeth Bowen The Death of the Heart (1938)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Criss Cross: Unanswered Dreams of Longing for Something Big to Happen

My latest read in my quest to plow through the Newbery award winners is Criss Cross (2005) by Lynne Rae Perkins. It ranks as one of my least favorites so far.

I'd like to think I'm smart enough to see the merits of a book targeted toward kids, but I'm apparently missing something - like characters, a plot, and action.

The book primarily tells the story about Debbie, a teenager who is wishing for something big to happen as her summer kicks in. It doesn't take long before the reader is also wishing for something big to happen. But nothing does.

In fact, by the second chapter, the story shifts to Hector. At this point, the reader is thrown into confusion over who the main character of the story is even going to be. When we get side tangents delving into the circle of other teens surrounding Debbie and Hector, the result is a muddied storyline where I found myself having to read back to keep characters straight.

In the end, the story leaves its audience with this unsatisfying reality: "Maybe it was another time that their moments would meet. Maybe it would happen in a few days, or next week. Maybe it would happen when they were fifty. But just now they had missed, and the jet trails of the crisscrossing moments left an awkward vacuum in their wake."

Slice of life is okay; many a quality story is built on such a concept. Following teenagers through a summer of hanging out is fine, too - if we see real struggle and not just a few unrequited crushes here and there. Ultimately, Perkins has left an awkward vaccum in the wake of her readers. Like Debbie, I wished for something big to happen, but it never did.

The latest book I'm writing, Abigail's Atlantis, tackles a similar task of following both a female and a male character as they are just entering young adulthood. Criss Cross will help me keep in mind that I need to draw the two characters with clear-cut dreams and ambitions and give them strong stories in which to pursue them. Is it too much to hope that I can be more successful at doing so than a Newbery-winning book?