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100 top novels


A few years ago I decided that I would create a list of my favorite 100 novels. I started out by listing all the novels I could think of that “should” be on the list and then ranked them. I had about 30 novels. Since then, whenever I read or think of a new novel that I think should be on the list, I add it, where ever I think appropriate in the list, moving every other novel down, if needed. I’m still not up to 100, but never fear, I’ll make it one of these days.

Occassionally, I have revisted the list to see if I need to move books around. Maybe I’ve misranked them and need to reconsider. I have yet to move one.

About a year ago, my friend Alisa tagged me and my list with genre elitism because I was including only “literature” on the list—no mysteries, science fiction, or other genre fiction. I let her convince me and I added some of those, which also helped fill out the list. However, this creates an interesting little problem for me in that it can be very hard to compare say, The Poisonwood Bible, with say, Neuromancer. Nevertheless, I have tried and I’ll be interested to read any comments on this problem.

Without further ado, the list as it stands today:

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. Beloved – Toni Morrison
3. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
4. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
5. Molloy – Samuel Beckett
6. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
7. Underworld – Don DeLillo
8. Middle Passage – Charles Johnson
9. White Noise – Don DeLillo
10. Middlemarch – George Eliot

11. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
12. Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
13. Housekeeping – Marilyn Robinson
14. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
15. The Brother’s Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
16. The Plague – Albert Camus
17. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
18. Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
19. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
20. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

21. Native Son – Richard Wright
22. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
23. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
24. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
25. The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
26. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
27. Wolf – Jim Harrison
28. Narcissus and Goldmund – Herman Hesse
29. The Master and Marguerita – Michael Bulgakov
30. Blindness – Jose Saramago

31. A House for Mr. Biswas – V. S. Naipaul
32. Written on the Body – Jeanette Winterson
33. The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi)- Herman Hesse
34. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
35. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
36. The Bone People – Keri Hulme
37. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
38. The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass
39. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
40. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitzen

41. Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
42. Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Lethem
43. Mao II – Don DeLillo
44. Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
45. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
46. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
47. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
48. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
49. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
50. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

51. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
52. Neuromancer – William Gibson
53. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Earnest Hemingway
54. Generation X – Douglass Copeland
55. Brave New World – Aldus Huxley
56. The Chosen – Chaim Potok
57. Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
58. Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald
59. The Dog of the South – Charles Portis
60. All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

61. Dr. Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
62. The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
63. Gorky Park – Martin Cruz Smith
64. White Teeth – Zadie Smith
65. The Stone Canal – Ken MacLeod
66. Schizmatrix – Bruce Sterling
67. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin
68. The Loved One – Evelyn Waugh
69. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
70. The Fall – Albert Camus

71. Vineland – Thomas Pynchon
72. Straight Man – Richard Russo
73. A Small Death in Lisbon – Robert Wilson
74. Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee
75. Kindred – Octavia Butler
76. The Feast of Love – Charles Baxter
77. Fear of Flying – Erica Jong
78. Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
79. The Old Man and the Sea – Earnest Hemingway
80. The Star Fraction – Ken MacLeod

81. He, She, and It – Marge Piercy
82. The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
83. The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
84. The Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler



  1. John says:

    Very interesting Hal, Would you care to elaborate on the criteria for selection?

  2. halshop says:

    The criteria for the list are not simple. Here’s a partial list of the criteria:

    • How much I enjoyed reading the book
    • Quality of writing — metaphor, imagery, and other factors
    • Subject matter
    • Emotional impact
    • Intellectual impact
    • The ability to work on many levels at the same time
    • I’m definitely partial to novels with sad, bleak and/or tragic endings

  3. Captain America says:

    The Fountainhead
    Brave New World
    Catch 22
    Slaughterhouse Five
    The Jagged Edge
    Rubyfruit Jungle
    The Milagro Beanfield War
    Farenheit 451
    The World According to Garp
    Rabbit, Run
    The Hobbit
    Harold and the Purple Crayon

  4. halshop says:

    Brave New World is already there. I’ll add Farenheit 451 in the next couple of days. As for the rest, I’ve read most and don’t think they deserve to be on the list. And, surely you’re joking about The Fountainhead?

  5. some uneducated guy says:

    Top 100, an audacious project, but the list is certainly all Hal. In regards to your number one choice, the opening sentence of that novel has been stuck in my brain from the moment I read it. Based on that alone I agree with your choice. Some authors I thought would be on your list: Kate Chopin, James Joyce, David Foster Wallace.

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