Modern Library 100 Best Novels

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Modern Library's 100 Best Novels is a list of the best English-language novels [1] of the 20th century as selected by the Modern Library, an American publishing company owned by Random House.

Editors' list (20th Century Great Novels)[edit]

In early 1998, the Modern Library polled its editorial board to find the best 100 novels of the 20th century. The board consisted of Daniel J. Boorstin, A. S. Byatt, Christopher Cerf, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal.

Ulysses by James Joyce topped the list, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The most recent novel in the list is Ironweed (1983) by William Kennedy, and the oldest is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which was first published in 1899. Conrad has four novels on the list, the most of any author. William Faulkner, E. M. Forster, Henry James, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Evelyn Waugh each have three novels. There are ten other authors with two novels.

Criticism of the Modern Library list includes that it did not include enough novels by women, and that only one woman was on the panel. However, with ten books written by women, the gender proportions of this list are nearly the same as similar lists such as Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century, which was voted for by 17,000 members of the general public, and the The 100 Best Books of All Time by the Norwegian Book Club. Those two lists have eleven and twelve books, respectively, by female authors.

Others criticise its focus on North America and Europe.[2] In addition, some contend it was a "sales gimmick," since most of the titles in the list are also sold by Modern Library.[3] Others[who?] note that both Modern Library and Random House USA, the parent company, are US companies. Critics have argued that this is responsible for a very American view of the greatest novels. British, Canadian and Australian academics, and even Random House UK, have differing lists of "greatest novels."

The following table shows the top ten novels from the editors' list:[4]

# Year Title Author
1 1922 Ulysses Joyce, JamesJames Joyce
2 1925 The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald, F. ScottF. Scott Fitzgerald
3 1916 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Joyce, JamesJames Joyce
4 1955 Lolita Nabokov, VladimirVladimir Nabokov
5 1932 Brave New World Huxley, AldousAldous Huxley
6 1929 The Sound and the Fury Faulkner, WilliamWilliam Faulkner
7 1961 Catch-22 Heller, JosephJoseph Heller
8 1940 Darkness at Noon Koestler, ArthurArthur Koestler
9 1913 Sons and Lovers Lawrence, D. H.D. H. Lawrence
10 1939 The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck, JohnJohn Steinbeck

Readers' list (20th Century Great Novels)[edit]

A Reader's List 100 Best Novels was published separately by Modern Library in 1999. In an unscientific poll, over 200,000 self-selected voters[5] indicated four of the ten-best novels of the 20th century were written by Ayn Rand, including the two novels that topped the list. Pulp science fiction writer and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had three novels in the top ten. The Reader's Poll has been cited by Harry Binswanger, a longtime associate of Rand and promoter of her work, as representative of "the clash between the intellectual establishment and the American people." [6] Journalists such as Kyrie O'Connor and Jesse Walker have attributed the differences at the top of the list to ballot-stuffing[7] or especially devoted followings,[8] rather than accurate expressions of broad public opinion.

A separate Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century was created the same year.

The top ten books in the Readers' List:[4]

# Year Title Author
1 1957 Atlas Shrugged Rand, AynAyn Rand
2 1943 The Fountainhead Rand, AynAyn Rand
3 1982 Battlefield Earth Hubbard, L. RonL. Ron Hubbard
4 1954–55 The Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J.R.R.J.R.R. Tolkien
5 1960 To Kill a Mockingbird Lee, HarperHarper Lee
6 1949 1984 Orwell, GeorgeGeorge Orwell
7 1938 Anthem Rand, AynAyn Rand
8 1936 We the Living Rand, AynAyn Rand
9 1985 Mission Earth Hubbard, L. RonL. Ron Hubbard
10 1940 Fear Hubbard, L. RonL. Ron Hubbard

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon was originally written in German, but since the original German text was lost, and German versions, published under the title Sonnenfinsternis (literally "solar eclipse") are back-translations from English, it is reasonable to consider the English version the canonical text.
  2. ^ "The Top 100? 100 best novels list draws heavy dose of criticism", via CNN. By Jamie Allen, May 6, 1999
  3. ^ "Sound and Fury Over Top Novel List N.Y. publisher's selections signify little, critics say", SFGate, Steve Rubenstein, Tuesday, July 21, 1998
  4. ^ a b 100 Best Novels, Modern Library
  5. ^ Search for a Title or Author. "100 Best Novels-Modern Library". Modernlibrary.com. Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  6. ^ Harry Binswanger (Aug 27, 1998). "A Tale of Two Novels". Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  7. ^ Kyrie O'Connor (Feb 1, 2011). "Top 100 Novels: Let the Fighting Begin". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ Jesse Walker (May 17, 2007). "What Internet Polls Are Good For". Reason Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 

External links[edit]