These lists may show some bias for a few reasons: first, I tend to read several titles by an author that interests me and since I don’t want to show favoritism, I will generally limit the entries to one or two for that author. Second, I suppose I fluctuate between a semi-objective discernment of literary quality and a purely personal response to any work (I do try for objectivity, though). And third, I tend to discount works that do not press against the limits of fiction so I might have a slight bias towards more experimental fiction.
I have a list of the top 40 works of fiction that I think should be high on everyone’s reading list. I have placed them in order but I confess that both the order and the actual entries often change. Also note that illogical or inconsistent entries are fully acceptable and are not drug induced.
Some books I read were truly awful, but in general I tend to steer around the dreck to carefully apply my valuable reading time. So keep in mind that these titles are the worst I read which doesn’t automatically make them bad books (although for the most part, don’t read them too soon after eating).
On the other hand, there have been several books that caused me nothing but pain in the process of reading them. Yes, sometimes they were just bad books, but more often they were excellent literature that for some reason made my reading experience painful, even if rewarding in the end. Of course we all have examples of books we were forced to read in school, but there are others that I just couldn’t get in gear as I tried to read them.
I have added a few of the recommended reading lists I have run across through the years, you know, those ubiquitous Top 100 lists.
For a fun site dedicated to just these sort of lists, take a look at The Greatest Books.