What Is Your Choice For the Best Novel of All Time?

We’ve all heard the opinion of an avid reader who declares that such-and-such is the best novel ever written. Of course the selection is generally one of the reader’s most recent reads (if not the last book they read) and the best novel ever written has a tendency to change as more books are read. Even if this scenario is not too scientific, it also is not concerned with the best novel but more so with the most liked novel.

We generally mistake our enjoyment of a novel with the quality of a novel.

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Anne Frank as Literature

Anne FrankI have always had a problem seeing Anne Frank’s Diary on the must read or top 100 lists. Although I had never read this book, I felt I knew the story through all the commentary and press it received and couldn’t imagine that a thirteen year old girl had written a text, even in diary form, which was of lasting literary value. As a poignant and emotional reporting on the atrocities of the German occupation during the war, it naturally qualifies for study, otherwise it is 1952’s answer to Love Story or Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Yet several things have expanded my understanding relative to the Diary. First, I read it. What I found was a bit too mature and too orchestrated to pass as the writings of young girl in hiding during the war. Then I realized that the translator probably had as much to do with the mature prose as did Anne Frank. A little further reading and it became clear that Anne was in fact a budding writer and spent a great deal of her time editing and revising her work for publication as an account of the lives of the Dutch during the conflict. Each of these extra-textual things is helpful in explaining the quality of the writing, even for a thirteen year old girl.

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