I spent the morning thinking about the listing of my top 40 recommendations. I don’t see any reason to make any major changes at this time but I realize that there are so many texts that I have yet to read, many of which might be contenders for the top 40.
Several years back I had yet to read George Eliot’s Middlemarch and suggested that I would probably place it in the top forty based on the comments and suggestions of others. I have since then read Middlemarch and, although I did not revere the novel to the extent of its praise, Middlemarch did in fact push its way into the list.
Then for a while I was considering David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. That too made the list after I read it, but just barely. Today I probably would use William Gaddis’s novel The Recognitions.
One thing I noticed was that for a “best” list it was also useful as a “biggest” or “most challenging” list despite several shorter, less complex novels being represented.
Why is that?
What novels would you expect to make the list if and when I finally get around to reading them … or should I put then at the top of my next reading list immediately?
- Ulysses — James Joyce
- Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert
- À La Recherche du temps perdu — Marcel Proust
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy — Laurence Sterne
- Don Quixote — Miguel de Cervantes
- The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
- The Faerie Queene — Edmund Spenser
- Finnegans Wake — James Joyce
- Waiting For Godot — Samuel Beckett
- Our Lady of the Flowers — Jean Genet
- Under the Volcano — Malcolm Lowry
- The Last Temptation of Christ — Nikos Kazantzakis
- The Cairo Trilogy
- La Vie mode d’emploi — Georges Perec
- Bouvard et Pécuchet — Gustave Flaubert
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — James Joyce
- The Magic Mountain — Thomas Mann
- JR — William Gaddis
- Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Le Voyeur — Alain Robbe-Grillet
- The Makioka Sisters — Junichero Tanizaki
- Absalom, Absalom! — William Faulkner
- To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf
- Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
- The Sea of Fertility — Yukio Mishima
- Middlemarch — George Eliot
- Moby Dick — Herman Melville
- The Leopard — Giuseppe di Lampedusa
- A Dance to the Music of Time — Anthony Powell
- Mulligan Stew — Gilbert Sorrentino
- Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs
- The Good Soldier — Ford Madox Ford
- The Awakening Land — Conrad Richter
- The Alexandria Quartet — Lawrence Durrell
- Clarissa — Samuel Richardson
- Europe Central — William Vollmann
- The Tin Drum — Günter Grass
- The Adventures of Augie March — Saul Bellow
- Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace
3 thoughts on “Be Best”
Definitely agree with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina!
Ah, but the real question is whether there are any you definitely disagree with (that you have read, of course).
I notice that War and Peace is missing from my list. Although I would rank it considerably lower than Anna Karenina, it probably should be there—I’m thinking somewhere around Moby Dick and threatening Infinite Jest for inclusion.
If I think further, a top 40 list is possibly too limiting. Lots of good stuff out there and more every year.
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Well I never made it through War and Peace (2 attempts).
I can only count nine on your list which I’ve read and maybe 2-3 others that I might (or probably) read years ago. Apparently they wouldn’t be on my top 40 list or I’d remember them better.
I didn’t care a lot for Tristram Shandy but can’t argue with it’s inclusion. There were parts I really liked but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.
If I had a George Eliot novel on my list, I’d knock off Middlemarch for sure and probably include Silas Marner.
Moby Dick was a wash-out for me once they got off the ship. Oh, well, c’est la vie.