One of the things I love most about Doux Reviews is that, in spite of the fact that we primarily review TV and movies, many of us are also avid readers and talk about books a lot. In our continuing series of reviews of Entertainment Weekly's 100 All-Time Greatest Everything, today I move on to Books. Even more than watching a movie, reading a book is a subjective experience. I have found that people speak as passionately about the books they love or they hate as they do on just about any other subject. This list will, I certainly hope, spark some debate.
What struck me about this list, the best books ever, is that it only includes fiction. While that is fine, I would argue that some wonderful nonfiction has been written as well. By no means have I read all 100 books and, frankly, am unlikely to. The comments I have made are my thoughts as I wrote out this list. So, without further ado:
100: The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
99: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979)
98: Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret, Judy Blume (1970)
-- As a child, this book was a guilty secret. Blume, however, seems to be garnering much more respect as time goes on. This book was discussed and Blume was interviewed in the PBS special Makers: Women Who Make America that I still hope everyone will watch.
97: The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler (1939)
96: If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino (1979)
95: The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
94: The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1868)
93: Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison (1992)
92: The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse (1943)
91: The Leopard, Giuseppe Tornasi di Lampedusa (1958)
90: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1940)
89: Tristam Shandy, Laurence Sterne (1895)
88: The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
-- I read this because I was living in New York when it came out and everyone said it was the quintessential book on that city. I certainly hope not. The cynicism was too much for me.
87: White Teeth, Zadie Smith (2000)
86: A Home at the End of the World, Michael Cunningham (1990)
85: Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961)
-- One of the few books that still makes me laugh out loud no matter how many times I read it. Hilarious and bleak at the same time, I believe this book deserves to be much higher up the list than it is. Plus, how many books have contributed such a universally known term to the language.
84: Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
83: The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1993)
82: The Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee (1999)
81: Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)
-- One of the most frightening and heartbreaking books I have ever read. Unlike the film versions, Shelley's monster is a metaphor for all who are dispossessed. Brilliant, considering Shelley was a woman writer in the early 19th century.
80: Swann's Way, Marcel Proust (1913)
-- This is the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past. Highly overrated.
79: Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (2012)
78: A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul (1961)
77: Tom Jones, Henry Fielding (1749)
-- This book may be 264 years old, but it is still a bawdy and fun read.
76: The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing (1962)
75: Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1857)
-- Emma Bovary was a woman ahead of her time, but Flaubert wouldn't let her get away with it. A tough read, but worth it.
74: Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
73: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John le Carré (1963)
-- If you like a good spy novel, or even a good novel, this is one to read. It's often cited as the best spy novel ever written. For good reason; it's brilliant.
72: The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
-- If you saw the movie, put that out of your mind and read this book. It moved me to tears.
71: The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
-- I am not a fan of Tolkien's (I have picked up this book four times and never gotten further than page 50), but from what I understand, I should be surprised that this one made the list and not Lord of the Rings.
70: Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
69: Money, Martin Amis (1985)
68: Middlemarch, George Eliot (1874)
-- While this is often cited as Eliot's masterpiece, I like her The Mill on the Floss much better.
67: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
66: Howard's End, E.M. Forster (1910)
-- A lovely book, but I prefer his A Room With a View.
65: Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)
64: Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (1996)
63: Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth (1969)
-- Laugh out loud funny. An obviously autobiographical novel, this one rings with an authenticity that is impossible to ignore.
62: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1884)
-- Rant time. Why this book is not in the top 10, I will never understand. Yes, I will. It is now not PC to admit to liking this book because of the language used. Those who decry the use of the racial slur miss the point. Yes, Huck uses the n-word when he refers to Jim, but as the novel progresses, Huck comes to understand, appreciate and respect Jim in spite of all he had been taught in the past. In terms of race relations, this novel was ahead of its time. When I was eight, I asked my father (who had read every novel written, I am sure) what his favorite book was. He handed me this and I have never looked back. This is one I read every year or so.
61: Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1988)
60: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
59: Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)
-- If you're on this site, chances are you like vampires. This is where it all began.
58: Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie (1981)
57: The Children of Men, P.D. James (1992)
-- Her Adam Dalgliesh series is great, but this is her best book. If you like autobiography, hers (A Time to Be Earnest) is simply wonderful.
56: Sophie's Choice, William Styron (1979)
-- Another book my father handed me shortly after it came out. I spent three days of my life doing nothing but devouring it. Again, ignore the movie and read the book.
55: A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (1995)
54: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain (2012)
53: Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1936)
-- A good book, but too long. One instance in which the movie is better.
52: Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison (1977)
-- While this is a fantastic book, even better is Paradise. The best opening line of a novel I have ever read.
51: The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
50: Snow, Orhan Pamuk (2002)
49: Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (1985)
48: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith (1955)
47: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1994)
46: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1920)
-- I so loved this novel, I wrote my senior thesis on Wharton. Pick up any of her books. They are genius.
45: The Color Purple, Alice Walker (1982)
44: His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995 - 2000)
-- Another one I have tried, and failed more than once, to read.
43: A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (1980)
42: The Stand, Stephen King (1978)
-- For all the King fans out there, is this the best?
41: Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (1953)
40: A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth (1993)
39: Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)
38: The Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker (1991 - 1995)
37: The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (1926)
-- I think that this man could craft a sentence like no one else. This is my favorite of all his novels.
36: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1957)
35: A Personal Matter, Kenzaburo Oe (1964)
34: The World According to Garp, John Irving (1978)
33. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986)
32: The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (1951)
-- Holden Caulfield is one of the, if not the, best characters ever written. If you've never read this book, do so now.
31: Blindness, José Sarmago (1995)
30: Native Son, Richard Wright (1940)
29: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
-- A simply stunning novel that stayed with me long after I read it. I find myself thinking about it a lot, often when something offends my feminist sensibilities.
28: War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (1869)
-- Someday, I will read this book. No really, someday I will. OK, maybe not.
27: A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
-- One of my favorites.
26: Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1952)
25: Bleak House, Charles Dickens (1853)
-- See below.
24: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1916)
-- I give credit to EW for naming this and not Ulysses. Josie Kafka is the only person I know who has gotten through the latter, not once but twice.
23: The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
22: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë (1847)
-- One of my favorites since I was a child. Another one I read every year or so.
21: An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1925)
20: Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty (1985)
19: Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
-- Truly disturbing, but a great read.
18: Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)
-- See the Mark Twain quote at the beginning of this piece. I've never been able to get through this.
17: The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
16: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (1847)
-- Unlike her sister's novel, this one is a love story with a happily ever after ending. I have read this countless times.
15: Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow (1975)
14: Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1867)
13: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)
-- Another one I cannot believe is not in the top ten. Atticus Finch, Scout and Boo are all wonderfully drawn characters about whom it is impossible not to care and root for.
12: The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929)
-- His best, hands down.
11: Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
-- Her best, hands down.
10: Charlotte's Web, E.B. White (1952)
-- This was the first book I read that didn't have a happy ending. I remember sobbing in my father's arms and demanding that he (!!!) re-write the ending for me. Dad explained to me that sometimes the best books make us cry. He was right and this book still makes me cry every time I read it.
9: Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
-- This is a good book and I loved it, but I'm not sure it belongs in the top ten.
8: The Rabbit Quartet, John Updike (1960 - 1990)
-- I managed to force myself to read the first. That was enough for me.
7: The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling (1997 - 2007)
-- My niece is making her way through this series as I write this. She is completely enthralled with it and can't put the books down. I had no trouble doing so. A wonderful example of how books speak differently to different people.
6: My Ántonia, Willa Cather (1918)
-- This book is as bleak as the landscape it depicts. It is, however, one of those books that lingers with you long after you have put it down.
5: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1967)
-- Another book I know I should eventually get through, but I have tried several times and never been all that enthralled with it.
4: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (1861)
-- It is not surprising that Dickens is on this list twice. The man could tell one hell of a story, but he could also ramble on and on and on, which makes reading him tough. He was, after all, paid by the word. This is my favorite of his novels. Bleak House (#25 above) is not. I would have put Oliver Twist before it.
3: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
-- A novel with a story so good, its plot has been "borrowed" countless times in the past 200 years. We have spent a fair amount of time on this story this year; the novel (which I will review soon, I promise) is better than anything we have talked about to date.
2: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
-- The Great American Novel, bar none. I re-read it a couple of weeks ago when the movie came out. It is a brilliant story, brilliantly written. If you have never read this, or only read it when you were forced to in school, give it a chance.
1: Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1878)
-- "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." From one of the greatest opening lines of all time, this novel just evolves. It is long and rambling, but I got lost in it. Writers much more eloquent than I have loved it as well. It is thick, but it is worth it. Is it the best novel of all time? Maybe, maybe not.
So, here we have them. There have been so many books written over the years, that I am sure many of your favorites have been left off. My favorite book of all time is Little Women. I, frankly, expected it to be on this list as it is one of those books that most young girls read and relate to.
What did you think of the list? Rant or rave in the comments.
The Top 100 All-Time Greatest Lists: