Last week I came across with a good blog of a writer who has decided to read all the books in the Time Magazine‘s list of 100 greatest English novels.
I wish I could be doing something like that… I was impressed with how effortlessly he reads and writes reviews.
I looked through the Time list and found very few titles known to me. I guess the time period since 1923 is quite recent in the history of English literature. Well, of course, ‘English’ doesn’t include world writers such as Tolstoy, Dumas or Hugo. I’m bilingual, so I may be reading some of those writers in other language than English.
My favourite writer, which changes periodically, is Jane Austen. I took a course on Austen and her contemporaries in my last semester, and I loved it more than any other courses I had taken. I searched for a well-known list of ‘greatest literature of all time’ that contains Austen, only to come up with my own. There are a number of lists out there, including the ones by Time Magazine and Modernlibrary, which I found rather dull. I am sure those books are great, but not everybody has to enjoy all the Nobel Prize winning novels.
So I picked out a number of interesting titles in the Time list and supplemented with my personal addition:
Among the Time List
Atonement – Ian McEwan (2002)
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (1961)
The Grape of Wrath – John Steinbeck (1936)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (1950)
Lord of the Flies – William Golding (1955)
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
1984 – George Orwell (1948)
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (1960)
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Great Expectation – Charles Dickens
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Why I Write – George Orwell
Reading a book in a translated version is not quite same as reading the original one, but I think it’d be sufficient to absorb the themes and messages the author conveys through the story.
I’m quite spontaneous so my list is tentative- I’m going to play with it from time to time. I’m not sure where my instinct is going to take me. I’m currently reading Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and thinking about comparing it with other dystopian novels such as 1984 or Brave New World. But my next one is definitely going to be one of Austen’s… After that, I may be interested in something other than the ones I listed. But I will try to stick with it as much as possible.