Modern Library 100 Best Novels
Editors' list (20th Century Great Novels)
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 William Kennedy's Ironweed, published in 1983; the oldest is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, which was written between 1873 and 1884, but not published until 1902. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, serialized in 1899, is the only novel published in the 19th century; it was later republished in book form during 1902. 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.
Some criticize its focus on North America and Europe. In addition, some contend it was a "sales gimmick", since most of the titles in the list are also sold by Modern Library. 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 list has also been criticized for its emphasis of early 20th century works – 69 of the books were first published before 1951, and only two of the authors appearing on the list (William Kennedy and Salman Rushdie) are still living as of August 2018.
The following table shows the top ten novels from the editors' list:
|2||1925||The Great Gatsby||F. Scott Fitzgerald|
|3||1916||A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man||James Joyce|
|5||1932||Brave New World||Aldous Huxley|
|6||1929||The Sound and the Fury||William Faulkner|
|8||1940||Darkness at Noon||Arthur Koestler|
|9||1913||Sons and Lovers||D. H. Lawrence|
|10||1939||The Grapes of Wrath||John Steinbeck|
Readers' list (20th Century Great Novels)
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 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 non -intellectual American people." Journalists such as Kyrie O'Connor and Jesse Walker have attributed the differences at the top of the list to ballot-stuffing or especially devoted followings, 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:
|1||1957||Atlas Shrugged||Ayn Rand|
|2||1943||The Fountainhead||Ayn Rand|
|3||1982||Battlefield Earth||L. Ron Hubbard|
|4||1954–55||The Lord of the Rings||J. R. R. Tolkien|
|5||1960||To Kill a Mockingbird||Harper Lee|
|6||1949||Nineteen Eighty-Four||George Orwell|
|8||1936||We the Living||Ayn Rand|
|9||1985||Mission Earth||L. Ron Hubbard|
|10||1940||Fear||L. Ron Hubbard|
- Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction
- Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century
- Larry McCaffery's list of the 20th Century's Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction
- Marcel Reich-Ranicki's anthology of exemplary German literature Der Kanon
- Bokklubben World Library
- Western canon
- Banned books
- Great books
- 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.
- "The Top 100? 100 best novels list draws heavy dose of criticism", via CNN. By Jamie Allen, May 6, 1999
- "Sound and Fury Over Top Novel List N.Y. publisher's selections signify little, critics say", SFGate, Steve Rubenstein, Tuesday, July 21, 1998
- "Class Ranks Top 100 Novels of 20th Century". By Alan Wirzbicki, July 24, 1998
- 100 Best Novels, Modern Library
- Search for a Title or Author. "100 Best Novels-Modern Library". Modernlibrary.com. Retrieved September 30, 2011.
- Harry Binswanger (Aug 27, 1998). "A Tale of Two Novels". Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
- Kyrie O'Connor (Feb 1, 2011). "Top 100 Novels: Let the Fighting Begin". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 23, 2012.
- Jesse Walker (May 17, 2007). "What Internet Polls Are Good For". Reason Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2012.