Be Best

download.pngI 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?

Top 40 Reading Suggestions

  1. Ulysses — James Joyce
  2. Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert
  3. À La Recherche du temps perdu — Marcel Proust
  4. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy — Laurence Sterne
  5. Don Quixote — Miguel de Cervantes
  6. The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
  8. The Faerie Queene — Edmund Spenser
  9. Finnegans Wake — James Joyce
  10. Waiting For Godot — Samuel Beckett
  11. Our Lady of the Flowers — Jean Genet
  12. Under the Volcano — Malcolm Lowry
  13. The Last Temptation of Christ — Nikos Kazantzakis
  14. The Cairo Trilogy
  15. La Vie mode d’emploi — Georges Perec
  16. Bouvard et Pécuchet — Gustave Flaubert
  17. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — James Joyce
  18. The Magic Mountain — Thomas Mann
  19. JR — William Gaddis
  20. Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoevsky
  21. Le Voyeur — Alain Robbe-Grillet
  22. The Makioka Sisters — Junichero Tanizaki
  23. Absalom, Absalom! — William Faulkner
  24. To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf
  25. Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
  26. The Sea of Fertility — Yukio Mishima
  27. Middlemarch — George Eliot
  28. Moby Dick — Herman Melville
  29. The Leopard — Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  30. A Dance to the Music of Time — Anthony Powell
  31. Mulligan Stew — Gilbert Sorrentino
  32. Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs
  33. The Good Soldier — Ford Madox Ford
  34. The Awakening Land — Conrad Richter
  35. The Alexandria Quartet — Lawrence Durrell
  36. Clarissa — Samuel Richardson
  37. Europe Central — William Vollmann
  38. The Tin Drum — Günter Grass
  39. The Adventures of Augie March — Saul Bellow
  40. Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace

3 responses

    • 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.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 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.

        Like

What are your thoughts on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: