5.8
February 20, 2009

100 Novels (+ Poetry) that we’re not reading because we watch 2 hours of TV a day.

UPDATE: I’ve added in a few notes on books I’ve read, and liked or disliked. Feel free to add your 2 cents in Comments section, below.


I used to read a ton. I used to be a nerd. I used to be well-educated, and half that education was self-education—me in a chair in a park on the couch in the tub reading, reading, reading and learning and enjoying and adjusting the book 555 times in my hands, trying to get comfortable. I still got the big ol’personal living room library to prove it—at least what I haven’t lent or given away (which is the same thing).

Then, four months ago or so, I got my first big TV, and cable for the first time—largely inspired by Planet Green. And while I’ve enjoyed watching basketball, again, and Conan O’Brien, and Jon Stewart & Colbert…well most of ’em I could watch online. So I’m finally thinking of saving myself a couple hundy a month and going back to having a life, reading, and going out instead of hunkering down with my tired self and my dog Redford and enjoying a little TV R&R each night.

All that said, there’s plenty of good stuff on TV—if you’re disciplined. If you have Tivo and/or Netflix, even easier to not-waste-your-precious-short-human-life channel surfing.

Anyways. Without further adieu, a list of amazing (and a few overrated) books that you better consider reading before you get too old and too blind.

The Radcliffe Publishing Course’s Top 100 Novels & Nonfiction Books of the 20th Century:

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (top writer at top of his game)
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  (every boy/girl should read)
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (couldn’t get thru it)
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (don’t remember)
5. 
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (didn’t love the style)
6. Ulysses by James Joyce (didn’t love style; reading Joyce is like having to listen to your crazy uncle)
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison (didn’t love style)
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (dark, depressing, great)
9. 1984 by George Orwell (amazingly, haven’t read)
10. 
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (didn’t love style)
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov (read but don’t remember)
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (didn’t love)
13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (love)
14. 
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (boo)
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (couldn’t get thru it)
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (amazingly, haven’t read)
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell (love)
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (This would be in my top 10)
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (boo)
20. 
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (great)
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (dark, depressing, didn’t love)
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (love, love, also love illustrations)
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (don’t remember much about it)
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (boo, rated highly based on content, not style)
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison�
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright (boo, rated highly on social importance and content, not style)
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (couldn’t get thru it)
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (couldn’t get thru it)
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (solid)
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (in my top 10)
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (beautiful)
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (fun, great, solid)
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (boo on style)
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (don’t remember much)
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin (gorgeous writing)
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving (couldn’t get thru it)
38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (don’t remember)
39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (don’t remember, movie is an all-time fave)
40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (love, the world he creates is so complete and detailed)
41. 
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (saw movie, loved it)
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair�
46. 
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf 
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum�
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence�
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin�
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather (love this, read several times, an all-time fave)
52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (couldn’t get thru it)
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger�
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie�
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. 
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton�
61. 
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (okay)
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence (at the time was scandalous, couldn’t get thru it)
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (couldn’t get thru)
66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (couldn’t get thru)
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles�
68. 
Light in August by William Faulkner (boo on style)
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe�
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (got bored)
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence (couldn’t get thru)
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe (couldn’t get thru, style boo)
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (awesome, fun, I don’t know about top 100 though)
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (couldn’t get thru)
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys�
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather�
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller�
85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad�
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser�
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather�
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame�
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (rough first novel, but loved it)
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis�
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (couldn’t get thru, and I loove Fitz)
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike (didn’t dig)
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis�
100. 
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie 

 

With thanks for the tip to this blog.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Mojack Aug 18, 2013 11:58am

I would like to add I know why the caged bird sings….. Anybody agree?

Kelly Aug 10, 2013 12:30am

I can’t believe there is not a single book by Paulo Coelho on here. He is life changing and should be required high school reading.

Amy S. Gibbs Jul 4, 2013 8:17am

Your description of reading Joyce is spot on. I cracked up at the comment.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.