Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of All Time

Posted on July 16, 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews, Culture Matters |

Kudos to Billy over at Joy in the Journey

for pointing me to Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of All Time List.

Now I would like to add my 2 cents worth about the list.

At the # 1 and #3 spots are two novels I have never read but have heard for years are the best novels ever written. In first place is Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” about the Napoleonic wars and Russia. I find it fascinating that a Russian novel comes out as the best novel in world history. The Russians are a fascinating people with a tragic history which makes for wondreful art, music and literature. Maybe someday I will sit down to read this massive tome. The best novel in the English language I have always heard is James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Again, I have not read it, and from what little bit of Joyce I have read, I  doubt that I would want to read it.

At #2, however, is one of my personal favorites, and a book I have read 2-3 times: “1984”. I think that every American needs to read this book by George Orwell right now. Yesterday even. The dystopia presented is all too possible and resembles many features of modern day socialist/democrat/liberal society. Read this book and look carefully at what Obamasky is doing.

Lolita at #4 by Nabokov? Gimme a break. Never read it, never will.

“The Sound and the Fury” by Faulkner I should have read but haven’t; hope to read it and some other Faulkner books. Unbelieveable that I have never read Faulkner. So, too, with Ellison at #6 and ” Invisible Man”.

#’s 7 and 9, “To the Lighthouse” by Virginian Woolf and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen I have not read and likely will not. Classics, but girly classics. Tried to watch the movie version of Pride and Prejudice but had to leave the room and go watch some MMA fighting.

But #8’s dual selection by Homer, Iliad and Odyssey I have read and will likely read again. Here is the foundation of Western Civilization!The movie Troy was ok with Brad Pitt, but they really need a new movie of Odyssey.

Numbers 10 and 11, The Divine Comedy and Canterbury Tales are books that I have read parts of but never from start to finish. I really do want to make it through Dante at some point but Chaucer….I dunno, that is some tough going.

At #12 is “Gulliver’s Travels” by Swift. Again, I have read parts, but this is political satire and must be read with a deep understanding of British politics of the day. Interest level here is pretty low.

“Middlemarch” by George Eliot is #13. I haven’t read anything by her and really do not know enough to make a judgment.

#14 “Things Fall Apart” by Achebe has an interesting title, but African lit is not my area of interest at all, so I seriously doubt if I would ever read it.

“The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger may be the single most depressing book I ever read, though “Look Homeward, Angel” by Wolf is a close second. I actually did use Catcher in the Rye in a sermon illustration once because it speaks of the hopelessness, meaninglessness, loneliness, and despair of our modern day. Ranks up there with Camus’ “The Stranger” for me.

“Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell comes in at 16. Again, you would think that I would have read this book about the Civil War, but I haven’t even seen the movie all the way through. Why? Put this on my to do list.

#17 is “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Marquez. Sorry, but Latin American lit is not on my to do list.

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is #18 and, I am embarrassed to admit, I have never read Fitzgerald either. This list is getting humbling. While I did see the movie and get the gist of what he is saying, I really, really, need to read this book, as well as others by Fitzgerald. Voof!

“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller is another book that has languished on my must be read list, but to no avail.

At #20 is “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. Probably won’t read this one either.

“The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck at #21 I read in college and would like to read again. Actually, “East of Eden” is one of my favorites even more so than “Grapes…” Depressing like most of 20th century lit, but a very good book for understanding the Great Depression and the Okies in California.

“Midnight’s Children” by Salmon Rushdie…muslim lit is not even on my radar.

#23 is “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, another dystopian novel of the future that I read in college but really need to read again, soon. Can we really be controlled by pleasure and security? We are dangerously close to that now.

Virgina Woolf makes another appearance in the 24th spot with “Mrs. Dalloway”. Sorry, never heard of it, wouldn’t read it.

25 is “Native Son” by Richard Wright, another one of those, “I can’t believe I haven’t read it” books. Gotta read this one.

So in the Top 25 I have read all of 5 listed and parts of 3 others. Pretty dismal. Voof! This is a humbling exercise. I read wayyy too much sci fi and military history over the years and not nearly enough of the classics. But some of these I have my doubts about anyway.

26 is “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville, the first non-fiction entry in the list. I read an edited version in college but would like to read the whole, unedited, version again. Soon. In these days of Statism, Socialism, and Obamasky, this book needs to be read and re-read.

At 27 is “On the Origin of Species” by Darwin. Certainly one of the most influential books in history. I reckon I ought to look at it some, but I doubt if I would actually be able to sit down and tead the whole thing.

#28 is “The Histories” by Herodotus. I have read it once all the way through and have started it again a couple of other times. Another foundational book for Western Civ that is fascinating.

“The Social Contract” comes in at #29. Rousseau is good important reading, but I have only read parts of it. I need to just work all the way through this important book. Same with #30, “Das Kapital” by Marx; I read bits an pieces in college, but never the whole thing. This one I probably won’t even try.

Another book I cannot believe I have never read is “The Prince” by Machiavelli at #31. This brief book must be on my list to read.

At #32 is “Confessions” by St. Augustine. I have started this book a few times, but failed to complete. Voof. I can’t believe I have not read this one.

“Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes is another book that I have only read pieces from in a Pol. Sci class or two back in college. Add this one to my list of important books to read soon.

34 “The History of the Peloponnesian War” by Thucydides is a great classic that I read in college in a Political Science course. Well worth the time and effort!

At #35 is The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. I find it unfathomable that this book is at #35 when it ought to be in the top Ten, and for me, top 5. This is my personal favorite fiction book, along with The Hobbit. I have read the whole series 7-8 times, and never tire of it. Written from a Christian worldview there is much relevance to our society today as well as in the time of the Nazis and WW2 in which it was conceived.

Winnie the Pooh at 36 I have only read parts of, never the whole thing straight through. But children’s books like Pooh are vastly better than what passes as children’s lit today. It would be great to have a Top 100 list of children’s lit.

CS Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” comes in at 37. Again, I think it belongs in the top 10. Do muslims have children’s lit? Oh yeah, See Abdullah and Natifa build bombs.

#38 “A Passage to India” by EM Forster I have not read, nor will I in all likelihood.

But I would like to read Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” from 1957. At 39 it would be an interesting look at one side of American life.

My favorite American novel comes in at an unbelievably low #40, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. Ever since I read this in Mrs Roberts Lit class in high school, this book has been in my top 10 list. I think I have read it 3 times and need to re-read it. Dang, just flung a craving on myself! The book is about the life of a child as she gets a rude awakening to the evils and prejudices of her time.

Coming in at #41 is the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. Give me a break, on two fronts. First, this ought to be listed as number one for sales alone; but if you consider influence, for sure numero uno. However, why the RSV? That would rank pretty far down in the sales figures compared with KJV,NIV, NASB, or, now, ESV. Yeah, I have read it a few times….

“A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess is #41. I never read it, probably because when I was a kid the movie got like an X rating or something. But I have heard the book is important and good; I ought to go ahead and read it.

43-44 are Faulkner’s “Light in August” and WEB DuBois “The Souls of Black Folk” both of which would be excellent, but neither of which have I read.

45-46 include two books I won’t ever read: “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys and “Madame Bovary” by Flaubert. One is about the Caribbean and the other about France. Why?

“Paradise Lost” by Milton at 47 is one of those, “I can’t believe I haven’t actually read it” books. I love the Puritans so I need to read this.

48 “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy…not gonna happen in this lifetime. Voof, as much as I loved Russian history you would think I would read some Tolstoy.

49-52 is Shakespeare: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Sonnets. OK, I admit it, I am an illiterate wannabe. I have never read Shakespeare. I tried a couple of times…but just cannot do it. However, in my own defense, I have enjoyed some Shakespeare plays on stage. Drama is to be seen and heard on stage, reading it is grueling for me. I love plays and would gladly attend any of the Shakespeare classics, just don’t ask me to read it…voof. I might have too though.

OK, we have made it through the first half of the list. I will follow up with the other half later.

In this second quarter of the list I have read all of  7 and parts of 3 more; certainly proof of my inadequate education. For the first half then I have read all of 12 and parts of 6.

How many have you read? If you can, please count your way through these first 52 books and tell me how many and which ones you have read.

Equality 7-2521


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4 Responses to “Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of All Time”

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Wow. I didn’t expect a full-length commentary on each book. I wish I had that kind of breadth of knowledge of literature. Your immersion in books continues to amaze me Bryan.

To be honest, I’ve only read all the way through 3 books on the list. LOTR, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and To Kill A Mockingbird. Like you, I’ve read parts of many of the others but that is mainly due to having to read them for English courses in high school and College. I’m ashamed that I’ve read so little, but as you know, I’m a very late-starter in the game. I didn’t take reading very seriously at all until only about a year or two before I entered Seminary, and that goes for Christian or secular lit. Another book I’m surprised that wasn’t on there is the one I’m reading right now. T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is about King Arthur.

Oops. I forgot one. I’ve also read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

yeah but your reading in seriously deep Theology makes up for any lack in world lit! I enjoy your postings about theology books that are way out of my league!

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