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 Author:  matt
 Dated:  Sunday, October 12 2003 @ 05:16 AM PDT
 Viewed:  1882 times  
BooksThe Guardian, a british paper, has an article where they rate the top 100 novels of all time. The good news is that I've read a bunch of them. The bad news is that I haven't read a lot more of them.

Not having read them all, I can't say for sure that they're on target with their ratings (which seem to have a reasonable bias toward british authors: Steinbeck and Hemingway don't even make the list), for the most part I'd say that the books that I have read that are mentioned are certainly worthy of the distinction.

Simply for the purpose of reminding myself that there is good literature in the world, here's a list of the ones I've read, in order of their ranking:

"Don Quixote" - I even read parts of it in spanish, back when I could use that part of my brain.

"Robinson Crusoe" - Stir in a copy of "The Swiss Family Robinson", and you'll have an owner's manual for getting stranded on fictional islands.

"Gulliver's Travels" - Fairly harmless childrens book... right up until you read it as an adult with some historical perspective. Then it really gets funny.

"Frankenstein" - As the result of a particularly dim moment in a literature class, I still have this strange picture in my head of Mary, Percy and Byron all dressed in black vinyl and listening to industrial music. She was a gothic author, you see.

"David Copperfield" - I liked "Oliver Twist" better, personally, but that's probably because I was young when I read them, and couldn't really relate to the entire story of a man's life.

"The Scarlet Letter" - Kinky puritan sex romp. How can you go wrong?

Half of "Moby Dick" I hate Melville almost as much as I hate Checkov.

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" - Growing up, I once mistook a copy of "Through the Looking Glass" as being the same thing. I was scratching my head for a long time.

"Little Women" - Alcott, Bronte and Bronte. Not my cup of tea. -shrug-

"Huckleberry Finn" - Twain is probably my favorite novelist of all time.

"The Call of the Wild" - This, and "Never Cry Wolf" I read back to back as part of my summer reading in high school... for a biology class of all things.

"Ulysses" I read both the Joyce one mentioned here and the original. I liked Homer's better, actually.

"The Great Gatsby" - I fell in love with this book during a fairly dark time in my life. I still lump F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Margaret Atwood, Arthur Miller, Tennesee Williams and Eugene O'Neill together, because those were the writers that were, get this, giving me comfort and affirmation. -shudder-

"Nineteen Eighty-Four" - Arguably the best cautionary sci-fi book ever conceived.

"A Catcher in the Rye" - Notice the 'A' at the beginning. The Guardian article omits it completely, and elsewhere, over the years, the title has been changed to "The Catcher in the Rye", which is a bastardization that I don't think Salinger would have approved. With the change in article, the title now implies that there is only one catcher in the rye, when one of the most obvious conclusions that can be drawn from the actual text is that there are certainly more than one. How could the reader empathize with Holden if he or she had nothing in common with him? Anyway, where was I...

"Charlotte's Web" - This book caused me to briefly (allright, very briefly) consider not eating pork. I was impressionable, what can I say.

"The Lord of the Rings" - This is a work of absolute genius, and is unparallelled in the high fantasy realm. Terry Brooks can blow it out his arse.

"Lord of the Flies" - You've got to love a book that approaches the nature/nurture debate without resorting to being raised by wolves. Especially when it reveals that all children are, by their very nature, psychotic.

"On the Road" - Still haven't read it, but it gets mentioned here because I actually own a copy and plan on reading it soon... if I can ever find it in my roommate's room.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" - Comic book guy says, "Best. Lawyer book. Ever."

"Catch-22" - I don't even know where to classify this book... Satire, I guess? It's a bit of a mindfuck, but Heller uses plenty of lube.


So, overall, I'm at roughly 20% of their list, and I agree with almost all of those.

Of course, they forgot a bunch (and bait people to provide them with content by acknowleging as much at the end of the article). I wouldn't mind seeing a top 100 works of non-fiction... but that'll keep until another day.



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  • A List
    Authored by: Forrest on Monday, October 13 2003 @ 10:49 AM PDT

    Of course these lists are always arbitrary. I can't respect a list without Hemingway, though. Just can't. Nope. The Sun Also Rises? To bastardize said comic book guy, "Best. Fucking. Book. Ever." Okay, maybe that and Finnegan's Wake.

    Interesting, your note about Catcher. I mean, I love the book, and Salinger. But the guy who taught an entire semester on the novel to me browbeat us about the fact that it was "The Catcher" and emphatically not "A Catcher." I wonder if there's any evidence (pics of first editions, etc) online that'll settle this little conundrum for me.

    BTW, careful with On The Road, if my own wanderlust after reading the book is any sort of warning. Remember that day in BHOP where I flipped a coin and disappeared to Syracuse. Yeah. ;)

    A List
    Authored by: Dan4th on Monday, October 13 2003 @ 11:17 PM PDT
    wanna hear something funny?

    The only argument that kept me coming back after reading On the Road was "well, guys can do that. Girls can't."

    true story.

    The Catcher in the Rye
    Authored by: matt on Tuesday, October 14 2003 @ 01:50 AM PDT
    Ok, so your teacher seems to be correct (unless there's some serious revisionist history going on).

    According to the Library of Congress, the first edition of the book was published in 1951 under the title "The Catcher in the Rye."

    According to Harper's, the retail value of this edition in good condition is about $15,000. Not bad for a book that's only 52 years old.

    For a picture of the first edition, click here.

    I hereby retract my earlier statement, but I still think that "A Catcher in the Rye" would've been a better title.
    The Catcher in the Rye
    Authored by: Forrest on Tuesday, October 14 2003 @ 10:31 AM PDT
    Well, since apparently he's a reputable source, said teacher explained that it's "The Catcher" b/c of all the Christ imagery. There was only one Christ, ergo one catcher in the rye. :-/

    Fucking good book either way.