#42 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

English: Title page, first edition, en:Jane Eyre.

I’m going to assume I’m not the only person who hates it when an author ruins a perfectly good premise. Jane Eyre is, IMHO, the perfect case-in-point. Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of that famous family of authors, decided to defy the “rule” that only a beautiful heroine can be interesting by writing a heroine who was (GASP) plain.

And then she went on to repeat, every ten pages or so, how unattractive Jane is. It is that relevant to the plot. Or perhaps, by Brontë’s estimation, our imaginations need constant reminders to work properly.

I guess we’ll never find out.

Jane spends a lot of time at the beginning of the book with her uncle’s family, who are MEAN, and in an orphanage, where everyone is ALSO MEAN. Then she becomes a governess and meets Mr. Rochester, who is NICE. (Relatively, I mean. He’s really not that nice.) The two of them fall in love, and everything is great—except for the noisy ghost upstairs that everyone pretends not to notice.

On the day of their wedding, the ceremony is cut short when Mr. Rochester is accused of bigamy. Turns out his wife is still alive—the original Madwoman in the Attic. Why he did not see this coming is as inexplicable as the sudden appearance of the deranged wife.

Jane wanders England and eventually lands, by pure coincidence, on her cousins’ doorstep. Shortly after dodging a marriage proposal from her icky cousin, she reunites with Mr. Rochester, now blind. Turns out, that crazy wife of his set his house on fire and committed suicide. So, yeah.

Moral of the story: Jane is ugly. But you already knew that.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

“Great” is a bit strong. It would definitely go on my list of the Most Mediocre Books of All Time, though.

Favorite Quotes:

I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.

Read: 2002

#39 To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

I can’t bear to spoil To Kill a Mockingbird for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so this one will be brief. This book is funny and touching and thoughtful and achingly well-written. Framing the story from a child’s perspective was a stroke of PURE GENIUS, and Atticus Finch is the stuff of legends. He negates ALL THE LAWYER JOKES EVER and makes me wish I had someone to sue.

This quote from the book actually sums up my feelings tidily:

Miss Caroline came to the end of the story and said, “Oh, my, wasn’t that nice?”

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

Oh, my, yes.

Favorite Quotes:

I told Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school any more if it was all right with him.

Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean. He was the most boring child I ever met.

He declined to let us take our air rifles to the Landing (I had already begun to think of shooting Francis) and said if we made one false move he’d take them away from us for good.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Do snakes grunt?

As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

Read: 2003, 2007

#36 Emma, Jane Austen

Cover of "Emma (Barnes & Noble Classics)&...

YAY, another Austen book. Except NOT REALLY, because Emma (you know, the Emma that the book is named for) falls several units lower than Elizabeth Bennet on the Scale of Awesome.

Emma is one of those Snobby Snobbish Snobs who just snob around town all day because of their insuppressible snobbery. She is also smart, attractive, rich, and meddlesome. But rather than getting any real comeuppance besides being wrong, wrong, wrong about everything, like all the time, Emma gets exactly what she wants. And what Emma wants, apparently, is to marry a 37-year-old who relentlessly criticizes her totally obvious flaws.

Everything else about this book is fine, I guess.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

Literally ANY other Jane Austen book would have gotten a yes from me, but I can only give this one a meh.

Favorite Quotes:

Better be without sense than misapply it.

Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common.

I would much rather have been merry than wise.

Of all horrid things leave-taking is the worst.

I do suspect that he is not really necessary to my happiness.

I am quite enough in love. I should be sorry to be more.

Read: 2007

#32 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Lady Catherine confronts Elizabeth about Darcy...

There is a long list of reasons that so many people cite this book as a favorite. Mine is that it’s hilarious. Jane Austen knows all about people—knows how they are and how they think and how silly and absurd and hypocritical and clever and lovely they can be. She knows how people can change for the better (unless they’re snobs, that is, because snobs are bound for an eternal life of snobtacular snobbery). She also knows about life, and how it’s important to live by your convictions, and how good things come to those who wait.

And she knows, most of all, that the truth will out, usually in the form of a well-timed letter that makes all of your favorite characters fall in love, at the right place and the right time for the right reasons.

Pride and Prejudice centers around the Bennet family—notably Mrs. Bennet’s efforts to marry off her five daughters. Elizabeth Bennet is the One You Want to Come to Life and Be Your BFF. Mr. Darcy is the Well-Respected, Good-Looking Rich Dude Who Somehow Also Has a Great Personality. Caroline Bingley is That Sorority Legacy No One Actually Likes. Love is Thwarted and then Prevails.

And you’ll laugh the whole time.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

Yes, if only for the ingenious invention of Mr. William Collins.

Favorite Quotes:

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.

If your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley.

You are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner.

Is not general incivility the very essence of love?

I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.

Read: 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, and so on to infinity

#20 The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Cover of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck...

Spoiler alert: I am not a fan of Steinbeck.

Our very first encounter, back in 199OhGodI’mOld, was when my 5th grade class had to read The Red Pony. Here’s everything I remember about that waking nightmare:

  • It is 100 pages long, divided into four roughly equal chapters.
  • In Chapter One, the protagonist—a ten-year-old boy named Jody—receives a red pony.
  • The pony dies.
  • Jody spends the three remaining chapters whining, mostly about horses.
  • Eventually Jody gets another pony—a colt this time—because WHINING WORKS, KIDS. DO TRY THIS AT HOME.

But The Red Pony isn’t the reason we are gathered here today. That honor goes to The Grapes of Wrath (1939). May it Rest In Peace, after a painful, prolonged death, and may it be forgotten evermore. 

The Grapes of Wrath is the perfect book to leave on your nightstand and read only when you’re trying to put yourself to sleep. It’s a story about the most boring road trip by the most boring family in the history fiction of the U.S.A. It’s a story about how everything sucks, and just when you think it might stop sucking, it comes along and kicks you right in the suck. And then you default on your loans and die.

It’s also a story about how California may SEEM COOL, but it is actually NOT COOL, so do not fall for this. It is a TRICK.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

Are you kidding? It’s like the longest game of Oregon Trail you ever played, back when there was nothing better to do. And right at the end when you think you’re going to win, you go bankrupt, your oxen drown, and you perish full of snakebites and dysentery.

Favorite Quotes:

Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves.

They fought over everything, and loved and needed the fighting.

The people in flight from the terror behind—strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

If I was God, I’d kick their ass right outa heaven!

Ever’body’s askin’ that. ‘What we comin’ to?’ Seems to me we don’t never come to nothin’. Always on the way.

Read: 2005

#16 The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye

Does anyone NOT like this book? OK, fine, probably. But are they HUMAN?

The story is as bewilderingly simple, as straightforwardly complex, as its main character, Holden Caulfield. Holden’s style of narration reads like a stream-of-consciousness retelling of the weekend after he is kicked out of private school. Digressions abound, to the extent that he even shares an anecdote re: digression:

You could tell he was interested, so I told him a little bit about it. “It’s this course where each boy in class has to get up in class and make a speech. You know. Spontaneous and all. And if the boy digresses at all, you’re supposed to yell ‘Digression!’ at him as fast as you can.”

It should come as no surprise that Holden fails this speech class. But, as he himself points out, sometimes digression is entertaining AF—like when you get to hear about your classmate’s uncle’s polio. And when Homer Simpson says anything ever.

This book is also proof that if you want people to like your male protagonist, you should give him a dog or a younger sibling so he can show how affectionate he is toward dogs and younger siblings. Works every time.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

Is polio a laughing matter?

Favorite Quotes:

I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was… Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.

I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by… I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place, I like to know I’m leaving it.

Read: 2005

#5 The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is always an American crowd-pleaser, right up until we realize it’s actually a metaphor for all the things that are wrong with us. For F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American Dream had a lot to answer for—and in no way was it self-evident that all men are created equal. Gatsby is a story about how dreams die, and how love dies, and how people die, and how—for the most part—nobody cares.

There’s this whole element of symbolism between the West and the East, but really everyone is pretty much the same: shallow, self-involved, and rich as a cheesecake. The tension between the social classes drives the story, just as it drove the Roaring Twenties and The O.C. 

The whole situation erupts on our narrator’s 30th birthday. (His asshole entourage, naturally, can’t stop assholing long enough to bake him a cake.) At Gatsby’s funeral, Nick realizes that choosing style over substance may win you fans, but not friends—and after the party that was Gatsby’s life, Nick is the only one left with a hangover.

I can’t be the only one who finds it unspeakably awkward that the controversial Daisy Buchanan was based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Also that Jordan Baker was named for two car companies in a book where all cars are vessels of evil. This probably speaks for itself in terms of women’s representation—and it speaks volumes about the era.

Will the upcoming movie similarly favor style over substance? Under director Baz Luhrman, probably YES. But maybe that’s exactly how it should be. Money, scandal, sex, murder, drugs… Just add a pregnancy out of wedlock, and Gatsby is a Maury episode waiting to happen.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

It has GREAT in the title. This is not a world of subtlety.

Favorite Quotes:

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

Read: 2003 maybe? Or 2005?

#4 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Cover of "The Adventures of Huckleberry F...

Let’s kick off The 100 Greatest Books Challenge with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or Shenanigans Culminating in a Lesson on Morality. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but I know it’s never been by choice. That’s how famous—and how frequently assigned—this 1885 novel is.

It’s rough going, here and there—I wouldn’t pretend otherwise. Something about the zigzagging plot and recurring dialect has always bankrupted my patience. But the heart of its message and its main characters is too close to my own to ignore. So even as the ADD plot inflicts repeated whiplash, I still enjoy the ride.

Every. Single. Time.

Mark Twain’s literary legacy—a masterful combination of irony and social criticism—remains alive and well, despite his preposterous mustache. He had a zero tolerance policy for racism and stupidity—and you can’t be that witty in life or in print without making a few (million) fans. If you’re among them, consider taking a Huck Finn-themed riverboat ride on the Mississippi. Because, yes, that exists in our absurdly awesome world.

This is a book that will make you weep weepy tears… whenever you manage to follow along. A triumph of critical thinking over society’s chronic brainlessness, Huckleberry Finn is best known as the quintessential bildungsroman.

Whatever that is.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

Abso-Hucking-lutely.

Favorite Quotes:

Jim said that bees won’t sting idiots, but I didn’t believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn’t sting me.

If you tell the truth you do not need a good memory!

I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.

Read: 2003, 2005, 2007, and so on

(SHORT) Introduction to the 100 Greatest Books Challenge — The List

I am going to read 100 books. Supposedly they are great. We shall see.

  1. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
  2. Ulysses, James Joyce
  3. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. 1984, George Orwell
  7. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  8. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust
  9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  10. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  11. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  13. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  14. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  15. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  16. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  17. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  18. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  19. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  21. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  22. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  23. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
  24. The Iliad, Homer
  25. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
  26. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
  27. Native Son, Richard Wright
  28. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  29. The Odyssey, Homer
  30. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  31. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  32. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  33. The Trial, Franz Kafka
  34. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  35. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  36. Emma, Jane Austen
  37. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
  38. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  39. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  40. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  41. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  42. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  43. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  44. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  45. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  46. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  47. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  48. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  49. The Aeneid, Virgil
  50. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
  51. The Tin Drum, Günter Grass
  52. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  53. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  54. The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
  55. Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
  56. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  57. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  58. Oedipus the King, Sophocles
  59. Gargantua and Pantagruel, François Rabelais
  60. U.S.A., John Dos Passos
  61. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
  62. Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
  63. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
  64. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  65. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  66. Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
  67. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  68. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  69. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  70. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  71. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  72. Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
  73. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
  74. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  75. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  76. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  77. Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence
  78. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
  79. Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
  80. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
  81. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  82. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  84. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  85. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  86. Light in August, William Faulkner
  87. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  88. The Stranger, Albert Camus
  89. Herzog, Saul Bellow
  90. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
  91. The Awakening, Kate Chopin
  92. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  93. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  94. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  95. King Lear, William Shakespeare
  96. Dangerous Liaison, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  97. Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  98. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  99. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

For more details, see the LONG Introduction to the 100 Greatest Books Challenge.

(LONG) Introduction to the 100 Greatest Books Challenge — The What, Why, and How

A year and a half ago, I finished the most significant chapter of my imaginary autobiography to date: my studies. I planned to enter the workforce, figure out this whole adulthood thing, and only revisit academia if and when I could find a PhD supervisor willing to let me research sleep—while asleep. Armed with degrees in Linguistics, French, and Comparative Literature, I marched into the world a full-blown, higher-educated, loan-repaying adult.

It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have an enormous stack of reading assignments on my desk. I had no history textbooks to skim, no American fiction to peruse, no French novels to analyze, no JSTOR articles to highlight. It felt freeing, and exhilarating, and bewildering, and unsettling. I had no idea where to begin—couldn’t even remember how—to select a book to read, out of ALL THE BOOKS EVER. Part of me worried that without any motivation to challenge myself with works of literary genius, or at least minimal historical/social/political/philosophical significance, I would reach lazily, and exclusively, for Fifty Shades of Twilight or the many narcissistic celebrity memoirs on the Bestseller shelf at Barnes & Noble.

Since reading the newspaper or getting a Forbes subscription was out of the question, my next move was obvious: I gave myself a reading assignment. I found a list of classic literature online called thegreatestbooks.org that would give me the opportunity to catch up on all the literary references and authors that had fallen between the cracks of my studies. It lists The 100 Greatest Books of All Time, from Don Quixote to Midnight’s Children.

Many of these lists exist. The Observer, the Modern Library, the BBC, and TIME magazine have all produced similar ones, with varying quantities of Faulkner and differing judgments on whether or not to include Shakespeare’s plays. I’m not sure now why I picked this one; it certainly wasn’t the easiest to find on the Internet, as I discovered once when my Excel version inexplicably disappeared from my desktop and I forgot the idiot-proof URL. I actually regret picking this list now, because of all the Faulkner included (no less than four of his books are apparently just that GREAT). But perhaps Faulkner is an acquired taste, like olives, and I will learn to love him, like in an arranged marriage. We shall see.

Overall, though, this list suits my project well: Its compiler has drawn from forty-three “Best Books of All Time” lists and fed them into an algorithm, and even designed the site as an application to allow readers to tick off books as they finish them. My goal is, of course, to read all 100, as eventually as it takes. This will be a space for me to provide notes and commentary for anyone who is interested in sharing my journey from one end of the bookshelf to the other, or in taking on a related challenge.

My commentary here is meant to provide one non-expert opinion, one interpretation, among the many more and less important ones tucked away in libraries and various corners of the Internet. This is not intended as academic research, SparkNotes, or a literature lesson. Before all of you haters gather your vicious wit to pick apart my carefully chosen words and crush my soul to Oreo crumbs, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are being CONSTRUCTIVE or being a DOUCHE. If you <3 me, let me know. Otherwise shut up. One day the Internet will kick you off and the rest of us will LOL and sing Kumbaya together over FaceTime.

I am fully committed to telling the brutal truth about these books, since the whole endeavor sounds pretty pretentious and, well, literature snobs make reading unsexy. And anyway, my reading taste isn’t very elitist. As long as a book has avoided a giant public eye roll, I am willing to give it a go. I do not have anything against particular genres, bestsellers, or beach reads. One of my favorite books (and movies, for that matter) is Bridget Jones’s Diary. After I finished Madame Bovary last year, I reread the fourth Harry Potter and then picked up The Hunger Games. Indeed, I consider a mental rest both necessary and welcome in between authors like Steinbeck and Dickens.

By that same token, I also refuse to approach literary criticism like we’re in a snob-pocalypse, no matter how “great” or significant the classic. I recognize that highly esteemed literature does not necessarily have the entertainment value of The Da Vinci Code or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was just as baffled as everyone else when Mr. Rochester’s lunatic wife showed up in the middle of Jane Eyre. I’m not going to falsely defend a book I dislike or polish my opinions with any patronizing insistence on stylistic necessities or symbolism or the author’s intent, especially if it appears to me that the author’s intent was to suck.

These posts are, of course, essentially a long series of detailed *SPOILERS*, so be warned.

The rules of the Challenge are as follows:

  1. I must read all 100 books on The List in their entirety (duh).
  2. I must read all volumes of each work, if the author considered the volumes to make up one book. (This, unfortunately, is the case for The Lord of the Rings—Tolkien, three volumes—and In Search of Lost Time—Proust, six freaking volumes.)
  3. I do not have to reread any books I have previously read. (Before beginning this List, I had only read 16/100 in full, despite my undergraduate Major in Literature. In all fairness to the American education system, however, I have read many of those sixteen multiple times, and numerous other books by the same authors. And I have read part of another eighteen books from The List, which must count for something. In any case, this rule is mainly my way of saying that nothing could compel me to reread The Grapes of Wrath. Ain’t nobody got time for that.)
  4. If I cannot remember whether I’ve already read the full length of any of the books on The List (e.g., The Odyssey, The Wind in the Willows), I have to read/reread them.
  5. I can read the books in whatever order I wish, I am not constrained to any time limits, and I can read multiple books at once. I can also read other books in between or alongside The List. This is a LONG-TERM goal. And I am optimistic about my lifespan.
  6. I am fluent in French, so I have to read the French books in French.
  7. As for other books originally written in another language, I am allowed to choose any suitable translation.

I don’t anticipate enjoying every minute of this self-inflicted assignment. Indeed, there have already been a few moments of struggle throughout the first nine books I’ve undertaken in the last eighteen months. But I also like a challenge, and what is a lengthy reading list if not that?

Finally, I believe that we read bookseven classicsquite differently when we’re not being forced by someone else to read them. And I am setting out to test that theory.

So here we go, in order of greatness, The 100 Greatest Books of All Time:

  1. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
  2. Ulysses, James Joyce
  3. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. 1984, George Orwell
  7. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  8. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust
  9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  10. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  11. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  13. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  14. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  15. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  16. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  17. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  18. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  19. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  21. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  22. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  23. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
  24. The Iliad, Homer
  25. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
  26. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
  27. Native Son, Richard Wright
  28. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  29. The Odyssey, Homer
  30. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  31. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  32. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  33. The Trial, Franz Kafka
  34. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  35. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  36. Emma, Jane Austen
  37. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
  38. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  39. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  40. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  41. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  42. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  43. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  44. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  45. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  46. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  47. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  48. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  49. The Aeneid, Virgil
  50. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
  51. The Tin Drum, Günter Grass
  52. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  53. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  54. The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
  55. Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
  56. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  57. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  58. Oedipus the King, Sophocles
  59. Gargantua and Pantagruel, François Rabelais
  60. U.S.A., John Dos Passos
  61. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
  62. Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
  63. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
  64. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  65. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  66. Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
  67. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  68. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  69. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  70. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  71. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  72. Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
  73. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
  74. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  75. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  76. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  77. Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence
  78. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
  79. Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
  80. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
  81. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  82. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  84. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  85. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  86. Light in August, William Faulkner
  87. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  88. The Stranger, Albert Camus
  89. Herzog, Saul Bellow
  90. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
  91. The Awakening, Kate Chopin
  92. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  93. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  94. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  95. King Lear, William Shakespeare
  96. Dangerous Liaison, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  97. Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  98. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  99. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

Looking at The List, I am struck by several things:

  • Where is Beowulf? Why the $*#% did I have to read that in high school?
  • There is a terrifying number of books on this List that approach or exceed 1,000 pages, and none of them are by J. K. Rowling. Thank God for my Kindle.
  • I have never even heard of The Magic Mountain or Herzog. I hope they’re not 1,000 pages long.
  • I am most looking forward to reading Jack Kerouac, Virginia Woolf, and Gabriel García Márquez.
  • I am least looking forward to reading James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Marcel Proust, based on rumors and previous attempts.

So here I go, off into parallel universes where ANYTHING can happen. I hope you enjoy the postcards.

Happy reading to me, and to you.