Modern Library’s Top 100 Books

Boy, you are a nerd for clicking the link to come here. I know, you’re saying to yourself, “How in the world can this guy have any time to read books?” And you’d have a point, but I try. One of those goals is to read 3 Modern Library Top 100 books per year 4 Modern Library Top 100 books per year, which puts me as finishing just at retirement. (There are actually 121 books to read, due to there being 2 trilogies, 2 tetralogies and a crazy 12 novel set, meaning that we mutually decided to pick up the pace 10 years into this project.) This little scheme started with an agreement with my wife, Hoang, in early 2002. After which years went by before I picked up my first book. Hoang has stayed on task, while I’ve fallen behind. No worries, I’ve plenty of time to catch up.

If you’re curious, that’s me pretending to enjoy the abysmal To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf on vacation in Rhode Island surrounded by Rhode Islandy food. Just because.

Click links below or to the right to read my somewhat uneducated reviews of those I’ve read.

As you’ve probably guessed, unlike a lot of stuff I do on this website, there are other human beings completing (and writing about) this very same challenge. I’ve scoured many of them and the best one – by far – is this one by my new virtual friend Ed Champion. His plan is far more ambitious than ours, and his reviews are far more erudite (and often funny).

This is really cool. It’s a link to the original New York Times book reviews of the Top 100. Though not complete, it’s fascinting – especially the “Ulysses” one. The reviewer nailed it like no reviewer has nailed a review before.

The Tally as of 6/21/2013:
Hoang: 34
Steve: 32

For more on how Hoang has stayed true to the goal and I have not, enjoy this.

100. The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
99. The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy
98. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
97. The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
96. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
95. Under the Net, Iris Murdoch
94. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
93. The Magus, John Fowles
92. Ironweed, William Kennedy
91. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
90. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
89. Loving, Henry Green
88. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
87. The Old Wives’ Tale, Arnold Bennett
86. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
85. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
84. The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen
83. A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul
82. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
81. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
80. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
79. A Room with a View, E.M. Forster
78. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
77. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
76. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
75. Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
74. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
73. The Day of the Locust, Nathaniel West
72. A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul
71. A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes
70. The Alexandra Quartet, Lawrence Durrell
     a. Justine
     b. Balthazar
     c. Mountolive
     d. Clea
69. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
68. Main Street, Sinclair Lewis
67. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
66. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
65. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
64. A Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
63. The Wapshot Chronicle, John Cheever
62. From Here to Eternity, James Jones
61. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Wilia Cather
60. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
59. Zulieka Dobson, Max Beerbohm
58. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
57. Parade’s End (4 Books), Ford Maddox Ford
     a. Some Do Not…
     b. No More Parades
     c. A Man Could Stand Up
     d. Last Post
56. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
55. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
54. Light in August, William Faulkner
53. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
52. Portnoy’s Complaint, Phillip Roth
51. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
50. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
49. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
48. The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence
47. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
46. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
45. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
44. Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley
43. A Dance to the Music of Time (12 Books), Anthony Powell
     a. A Question of Upbringing
     b. A Buyer’s Market
     c. The Acceptance World
     d. At Lady Molly’s
     e. Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant
     f. The Kindly Ones
     g. The Valley of Bones
     h. The Soldier’s Art
     i. The Military Philosophers
     j. Books Do Furnish a Room
     k. Temporary Kings
     l. Hearing Secret Harmonies
42. Deliverance, James Dickey
41. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
40. The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene
39. Go Tell It On the Mountain, James Baldwin
38. Howards End, E.M. Forster
37. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
36. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
35. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
34. A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
33. Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
32. The Golden Bowl, Henry James
31. Animal Farm, George Orwell
30. The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford
29. Studs Lonigan (3 Books), James T. Farrell
     a. Young Lonigan
     b. The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan
     c. Judgment Day
28. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
27. The Ambassadors, Henry James
26. The Wings of the Dove, Henry James
25. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
24. Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
23. USA Trilogy, John Dos Passos
     a. The 42nd Parallel
     b. 1919
     c. The Big Money
22. Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara
21. Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow
20. Native Son, Richard Wright
19. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
18. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
17. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
16. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
15. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
14. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
13. 1984, George Orwell
12. The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
11. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
10. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
9. Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
8. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler
7. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
6. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
5. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
1. Ulysses, James Joyce

4 responses to “Modern Library’s Top 100 Books”

  1. Hilary says:

    I sort of love that you haven’t read Catcher in the Rye and On The Road. Those are such cop outs from guys who claim to read. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit on at a bar by some jerk namedropping those books.

    Way to be unique!

  2. Mulv says:

    I can’t believe Women in Love and The Rainbow are on here, but not Lady Chatterly’s Lover. That defies logic.

    Catcher in the Rye sucks.

    To The Lighthouse is fantastic.

    And, don’t get me wrong, I love The Great Gatsby as much as anyone, but no. 2? Really? I don’t think so.

  3. The Ginger Man (Modern Library #99) says:

    [...] Modern Library titles out of order. I smiled a long while over the Connecticut Museum Quest’s slower but very noble efforts to read three Modern Library books a year — which, by my math, works out to about 40 years [...]

  4. The Death of the Heart (Modern Library #84) says:

    [...] won’t ruin it for you,” emailed my fellow Modern Library reader Steve, “but so far, that’s the 2nd worst book I’ve read for this project.” And [...]

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