Saturday, November 11, 2006

25 1/3 + Various Beginnings

Gacked from Alvina: In 2005, Time magazine picked the 100 best English-language novels (1923-present). Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn't, give it a minus (-); if you're indifferent, a question mark (?). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
? An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser (high school)
* Animal Farm - George Orwell (middle school)
Appointment in Samarra - John O'Hara
? Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume (elementary school -- I remember finding Margaret kind of dumb and weird for being obsessed with breasts and her period, but I should probably reread it.)
The Assistant - Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O'Brien
** Atonement - Ian McEwan (the beginning was terribly slow, but middle and ending devastating)
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
* The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder (high school, after I played the Lady in a Box in "Our Town")
Call It Sleep - Henry Roth
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
* The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger (in high school I thought Holden was dumb and whiny; as an adult I found him hugely pathetic, in the classical sense, and heartbreaking)
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen (I'm in the middle of this right now and loving it for its simultaneous utter lack of mercy in portraying its characters' faults and psyches, and deep human sympathy towards them)
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
A Death in the Family - James Agee
The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance - James Dickey
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone
Falconer - John Cheever
* The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles (college; fantastic book -- I recall the almost physical jolt I felt when I hit Chapter 13 -- and an equally innovative film adaptation)
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
* Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (middle school)
? The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
? The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene
Herzog - Saul Bellow
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson (in the middle of this too, and loving it likewise)
A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
I, Claudius - Robert Graves
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison (Resolution Book; have started this)
Light in August - William Faulkner
? The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (elementary school, college, and January)
* Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (Resolution Book; I read this right after The Virgin Suicides a couple of years ago, which was excellent but incredibly intense -- nothing but sex and death for two months straight)
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
? The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (I've read one of the three novels)
Loving - Henry Green
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (a Resolution Book a couple years ago, so I've started it)
Money - Martin Amis
? The Moviegoer - Walker Percy (college)
* Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf (adored it, and The Hours by Michael Cunningham too)
Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
* 1984 - George Orwell (high school)
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
* One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (high school)
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
*A Passage to India - E.M. Forster (Resolution Book)
Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion
Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
** Possession - A.S. Byatt (college; one of my favorite books in life)
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
? The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark (high school)
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
* Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow (college)
The Recognitions - William Gaddis
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Sot-Weed Factor - John Barth
? The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner (college; this was on the reading list for my senior comprehensive exam, alongside Possession and To the Lighthouse, and we concluded that the theme of the list that year was "Sex and Death, but Mostly Death")
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John Le Carre
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
* Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston (college)
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
* To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (high school)
* To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (college)
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
* Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (Resolution Book, read it this year, loved it)
White Noise - Don DeLillo
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

I'm working on my Resolution List for this coming year and I'd been thinking about a lot of these novels and novelists. . . . I've never read any DeLillo, Pynchon, Roth or Greene, for example (and I can hear my dear friend Rachel saying in my head right now, "Oh, I love Roth and Greene!"), so maybe 2007 will be the year of the Twentieth-Century White Male American Novelist. On the other hand, I usually try to balance the list across time periods, genders, and ethnicities, and thinking about nothing but the concerns of TCWMANs for a year sounds a little oppressive to me. Other suggestions for balancing the list?


  1. I remember finding Margaret kind of dumb and weird for being obsessed with breasts and her period

    Word. But then I really didn't care for Judy Blume's books in general, as a kid. They seemed to have no connection whatsoever to my interests or my life. Though I do recall getting a kick out of Superfudge, where she didn't seem to be taking herself so seriously.

    I have read a lot fewer of those books than you have, and most of the ones I have read are not on your list (like Neuromancer). Interesting.

  2. I wasn't a Judy Blume fan, either--too many characters obsessed with their body parts, without anything really happening. I mean, sure, wizards get acne, too, but they go out and save the world when they're not collecting bubotuber pus.

    Someone needs to make a list like this for children's books. I'd do a lot better with that!

  3. Interesting.

    I agree with you (and apparently several others) completely re. Are you there God, it's me Margaret...

    On the other hand, Atonement "grabbed" me, in its own quiet way, right from the start, so I was intrigued that you found the beginning "terribly slow!" Then again, I went through an Elizabeth Bowen phase years ago, so I guess I had that feeling of reading an "old friend"...

  4. I *highly* recommend The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen - he's a tremendous author, and he's written a couple of other great books as well, including The Twenty-Seventh City (it's set in St. Louis).

    I was slightly sad not to see Dave Eggers on this list - his book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is one of my all-time favorites.

  5. Books by authors who are not dead white guys... hmmm, here are a few favorite woman authors…

    Gertrude Stein "Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" = Read it with Hemingway's "A Movable Feast" for a warm bath in Paris Expat 1930's literary culture. Read while eating baguettes and coffee.

    Anais Nin "Spy in the House of Love" _ A woman with many bumpy love affairs, beautiful bathroom cabinets and a closet full of burgundy velvet dresses for angst ridden midnight walks on the beach. Tres French. Goes with red wine and a broken heart.

    Laura Esquirel “Like Water for Chocolate” = Mexican Magic Theater with a side of pushy mother problems.

    Jane Campion “ The Piano” = A stubborn woman finds her voice.

    Joanne Harris “Chocolat” = Much darker than the movie. (Pun intended) Guilty mysteries unfolded in the first person by Vivian the chocolatier and the town's priest.

    For South America try "Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings", by Jorge Luis Borge. Very layered like Calvino.

    Read on!


  6. I liked White Noise and Libra a lot out of the DeLillos I've read.

  7. I got hacked because these lists tend to be novel-exclusive. So I made my own list, where I can say with confidence that I have read every book on it.

    Also that way I make sure that none of my good books were left out. Ha ha!