Sunday, July 8, 2018

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time Wrap-Up Post (Quest is Complete)

A week ago I completed my Quest to read the 100 Greatest Novels of All Time. Of course, no one can say with authority what the 100 Greatest Novels are because there is no official keeper of literature. Any Greatest Novels list is subjective. If you want to know how I came up with my list, click the hyperlink above. If you want to see The List, it is at the very end of this post, with hyperlinks to each review.

I began this quest on August 16, 2011 and completed it June 30, 2018, meaning it took me 2510 days from the first page of The Great Gatsby, to the last page of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The longest amount of time I spent on one book was 140 days for Ulysses; the shortest was a few hours to read The Call of the Wild, and the average was 23 days per novel.

The longest book was Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes this as the world’s longest novel, based on character count, with over 9.6 million characters. My version was 3365 pages. The shortest novel, by page count, was The Call of the Wild at 84. The combined page count of all 100 novels was 55,582 pages, or an average of 555 pages.

The oldest book was Don Quixote, published in 1620, which was the only one from the 17th Century. There were two from the 18th, 23 from the 19th, and 73 from the 20th Centuries. The most contemporary, and only novel published in the 21st century, was Atonement, though it felt older as it was set in early 20th Century. The average year of publication was 1917.

William Faulkner and Henry James each had four novels. There were 11 authors with two:  Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, George Orwell, Ayn Rand, Leo Tolstoy, Evelyn Waugh, and Virginia Woolf. These 13 authors accounted for 30% of the list. Although he did not have the most novels, George Orwell has perhaps the greatest distinction with two novels in the Top Seven.

There were 11 authors who worked in intelligence. I mention this, because that is my career field and I hope to follow their career path to author one day. The authors with roots in intelligence are: W. Somerset Maugham (British WWI); Muriel Spark, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, and Anthony Powell (British WWII); Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger, and Thornton Wilder (U.S. WWII); Ernest Hemingway (unproven, Russia WWII), and John Steinbeck (unproven, U.S. Cold War).

My trophy case: Pictured here are the 100 Greatest Novels. I read mostly from  ebooks, but I have a hardcover tree book for all 100. Some used some new. (six shelves on the left, plus the top shelf on the right)

A few of my prized copies – Les Misérables (1938, 2-volume, illustrated Heritage Press), Tom Jones (1973 Folio Society), and Deliverance(1981, leather bound, limited edition, Franklin Library – autographed by James Dickey) 

Covers: These do not always represent the version I read, but rather covers that I thought were emblematic of the story.

Ratings: Upon completing this quest, I went back and changed a few of my early ratings. I was a bit unfair to some early reads as I didn’t have a broad base for comparison. Still, there were only four that I changed:  Ulysses from 1.5 to 2.5 stars, On the Road from 1.5 to 2 stars, and The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye from 3 to 3.5 stars.

Regarding these ratings, they are NOT commentary on the “Greatness” of these works, rather they simply reflect my personal enjoyment of the read – very opinionated. Secondly, in order to differentiate amongst a group that are all considered “Great”, I set the bar VERY HIGH for 5 or even 4 stars. 3.5 is above the median, so still a good rating. If you plot my ratings on a graph, the result is a fairly standard bell curve, which suggests consistent rating.

And now a few distinctions:

Top 10 Favorites (in order, starting with #1 most favored):
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Lord of the Rings
Gone With the Wind
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Chronicles of Narnia
Lord of the Flies
The Grapes of Wrath
David Copperfield
Atlas Shrugged
The Stand

Top 10 Dislikes (in order, starting with #1 most disliked)
Remembrance of Things Past
On the Road
The Ambassadors
The Golden Bowl
The Good Soldier
The Sun Also Rises
To the Lighthouse
The Wings of the Dove

Best Subtitles:
Blood Meridian: The Evening Redness in the West
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus

Most Unusual:
Pale Fire – a very novel novel. Metafiction, experimental fiction, poetry as part of prose fiction. All very unusual – a bit challenging, but still enjoyable.
The Trial – just very bizarre

Most Surprising:
One Hundred Years of Solitude – read it

Most Underappreciated:
Invisible Man – ought to be required reading
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – beautiful and powerful

Most Overrated:
On the Road – ugh!

Happiest Ending:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Saddest Ending (in a good way):
Les Misérables

Saddest Ending (in a just plain ole sad way):
Blood Meridian

Most Unexpected Ending:
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Most Satisfying Ending:
Jane Eyre
Vanity Fair

Least Satisfying Ending:
A Clockwork Orange – but only the post 1986 editions, with the “additional chapter” that Burgess preferred. Not me!

Favorite Hero:
Jean Valjean (Les Misérables)
William Dobbin (Vanity Fair)
Nick Andros (The Stand)
Reepicheep (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Favorite Heroine:
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)
Marmee (Little Women)
Dagny Taggert (Atlas Shrugged)
Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind)
Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Ma Joad (The Grapes of Wrath)
Lady Jessica Atreides (Dune)
Denver (Beloved)
Mary Bakonskaya (War and Peace)
Mother Abagail (The Stand)

Best (as in worst) Villain:
Caligula (I, Claudius)
The Judge (Blood Meridian)
Randall Flagg (The Stand)
Danglars (The Count of Monte Cristo)
The Man (The Grapes of Wrath)
Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
Uriah Heep (David Copperfield)
Roger Chillingsworth (The Scarlet Letter)
Madame and Monsieur Thenardier (Les Misérables)
White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Most Interesting/Complex Characters:
Francisco d’Anconia (Atlas Shrugged)
Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair)
Starbuck (Moby Dick)
Edmonde Dantes/The Count (The Count of Monte Cristo)
Jack Burden (All the King’s Men)
Ralph (Lord of the Flies)
The unnamed main character (Invisible Man)
Alyosha (The Brothers Karamazov)
Sarah/Tragedy (The French Lieutenant’s Woman)
Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter)
Pearl (The Scarlet Letter)
Count Pierre Buzukhov (War and Peace)
Bigger Thomas (Native Son)

Favorite Quotations:

A World is supported by four things…the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing…without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.Dune

Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not.~ John Galt – Atlas Shrugged

And this you can know—fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.- Narrative - The Grapes of Wrath

…for the wicked are not so easily disposed of, for God seems to have them under his special watch-care to make of them instruments of his vengeance.  ~ The Count of Monte Cristo

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.~ Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird

They aim at justice, but denying Christ, they will end by flooding the earth with blood.~ Father Zosima – The Brothers Karamazov

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Mrs. Poulteney believed in a God that had never existed; and Sarah knew a God that did. ~ The French Lieutenant’s Woman

All he did was smile and say, “Take care of yourself, Denver.” But she heard it as though it were what language was made for.Beloved

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.~ Opening line from One-Hundred Years of Solitude.

I chuckled over it from time to time for the whole rest of the day. Because it does look very funny, you know, to see a black and white cow land on its back in the middle of a stream. It is so just exactly what one doesn’t expect of a cow.~ John Dowell – The Good Soldier

Best Film Renditions:
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Beloved (1998)
Deliverance (1972)

Worst Film Renditions:
Animal Farm (several renditions, none of them good)
Atlas Shrugged (2011-2014)
Lord of the Flies (several renditions, none of them good)

Now what? I will continue reading and blogging, but I’ll expand to other categories of literature. I have TBR lists for: Short Stories; Plays; Epic Poems; Poetry; Tales, Myths, and Legends; Graphic Novels; Tolkien; Shakespeare; Sherlock Holmes, and Biographies, as well as over 1200 more novels. I might even occasionally read something not on any of these lists which could inspire me to create a new list. I love lists. By the way a lover of lists is an albumiphile – a term I created. You read it here first.

Quite obviously, I won’t finish my TBR in this lifetime. I have no idea what the Heavenly library is like, so I make no promise for the next. There are a few authors I hope to talk to though. 

And are the 100 Novels (reviews in orange hyperlink)

1. ★★★½  The Great Gatsby     by F. Scott Fitzgerald  (1925)
2. ★★★½  Nineteen Eighty-Four     by George Orwell (1948)
3. ★★★½  The Catcher in the Rye     by J. D. Salinger (1951)
4.   On the Road     by Jack Kerouac (1957)
5. ★★½  Ulysses     by James Joyce (1922)
6. ★★★½  Catch-22     by Joseph Heller (1961)
7. ★★★½  Animal Farm     by George Orwell (1946)
8. ★★★★★  The Grapes of Wrath     by John Steinbeck (1939)
9. ★★★  The Sound and the Fury     by William Faulkner (1929)
10. ★★★★★  Lord of the Flies     by William Golding (1955)
11. ★★★★  Invisible Man     by Ralph Ellison (1952)
12. ★★½  The Sun Also Rises     by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
13. ★★½  To the Lighthouse     by Virginia Woolf (1927)
14. ★★★  As I Lay Dying     by William Faulkner (1930)
15. ★★★½  Brave New World     by Aldous Huxley (1932)
16. ★★★★★  The Lord of the Rings +The Hobbit     by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
17. ★★★½  Slaughterhouse-Five     by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
18. ★★★★★  To Kill a Mockingbird     by Harper Lee (1960)
19. ★★★  A Clockwork Orange     by Anthony Burgess (1963)
20. ★★★  Heart of Darkness     by Joseph Conrad (1899)
21. ★★★½  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest     by Ken Kessey (1962)
22. ★★★★  Brideshead Revisited     by Evelyn Waugh (1946)
23. ★★★★  Atonement     by Ian McEwan (2002)
24. ★★★★  Blood Meridian     by Cormac McCarthy (1986)
25. ★★★  Don Quixote     by Miguel de Cervantes (1620)
26. ★★★★  The Brothers Karamazov     by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
27. ★★★★  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn     by Mark Twain (1884)
28. ★★★★½  Anna Karenina     by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
29. ★★★★★  Gone With the Wind     by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
30. ★★★  Moby Dick     by Herman Melville (1851)
31. ★★★★½  Jane Eyre     by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
32. ★★★  Under the Volcano     by Malcolm Lowry (1947)
33. ★★★  Wuthering Heights     by Emily Brontë (1847)
34. ★★★★  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter     by Carson McCullers (1940)
35. ★★★½  Madame Bovary     by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
36. ★★★½  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man     by James Joyce (1916)
37. ★★★½  A Passage to India     by E. M. Forster (1924)
38. ★★★  One Hundred Years of Solitude
                       by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1970)
39. ★★★½  Absalom, Absalom!     by William Faulkner (1936)
40. ★★★★  The French Lieutenant's Woman     by John Fowles (1969)
41. ★★★½  Frankenstein     by Mary Shelley (1818)
42. ★★★½  I, Claudius     by Robert Graves (1934)
43. ★★★★  Pale Fire     by Vladimir Nabokov (1962)
44. ★★★★  Nostromo     by Joseph Conrad (1904)
45. ★★★★  Emma     by Jane Austen (1816)
46. ★★★½  The Trial     by Franz Kafka (1925)
47. ★★★½  The Moviegoer     by Walker Percy (1961)
48. ★★★★½  Dune     by Frank Herbert (1965)
49. ★★★★  The Adventures of Augie March     by Saul Bellow (1953)
50. ★★★★★  David Copperfield     by Charles Dickens (1850)
51. ★★★  The Big Sleep     by Raymond Chandler (1939)
52. ★★★½  Of Human Bondage      by W. Somerset Maugham (1915)
53. ★★★★  Death Comes for the Archbishop     by Willa Cather (1927)
54. ★★★★  Beloved     by Toni Morrison (1987)
55. ★★★  The Day of the Locust     by Nathanael West (1939)
56. ★★★½  Lucky Jim     by Kingsley Amis (1954)
57. ★★★★  The Call of the Wild     by Jack London (1903)
58. ★★★★  The Scarlet Letter     by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
59. ★★★  Mrs. Dalloway     by Virginia Woolf (1925)
60. ★★★½  Light in August     by William Faulkner (1932)
61. ★★★½  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie     by Muriel Spark (1961)
62. ★★★½  A Farewell to Arms     by Ernest Hemingway (1929)
63. ★★★★  American Pastoral     by Philip Roth (1997)
64. ★★★  A Bend in the River     by V. S. Naipaul (1979)
65. ★★  Money     by Martin Amis (1984)
66. ★★★★  The Sheltering Sky     by Paul Bowles (1949)
67. ★★★★  Tom Jones     by Henry Fielding (1749)
68. ★★★★½  Pride and Prejudice     by Jane Austen (1813)
69. ★★★★  War and Peace     by Leo Tolstoy (1869)
70. ★★★★★  The Count of Monte Cristo     by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
71. ★★  The Ambassadors     by Henry James (1903)
72. ★★★★  An American Tragedy     by Theodore Dreiser (1925)
73. ★★★★½  Atlas Shrugged     by Ayn Rand (1957)
74. ★★★★  Great Expectations     by Charles Dickens (1861)
75★★★½  The Fountainhead     by Ayn Rand (1943)
76. ★★½  The Wings of the Dove     by Henry James (1902)
77. ★★★★½  Les Misérables     by Victor Hugo (1862)
78. ★★★★  Crime and Punishment     by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
79★★★½  The Heart of the Matter     by Graham Greene (1948)
80★★★½  Appointment in Samarra     by John O’Hara (1934)
81. ★★★★½  Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848)
82. ★★  The Golden Bowl     by Henry James (1904)
83★★★½  The Portrait of a Lady     by Henry James (1881)
84★★★  Tristram Shandy     by Laurence Sterne (1759)
85★★★½  A Handful of Dust     by Evelyn Waugh (1934)
86. ★★★★  All the King's Men     by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
87. ★★★★  The Picture of Dorian Gray     by Oscar Wilde (1890)
88★★  The Good Soldier     by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
89. ★★★★  The Bridge of San Luis Rey     by Thornton Wilder (1927)
90. ★★★★★  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1956)
91. ½  Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (1931)
92★★★½  The Charterhouse of Parma     by Stendhal (1839)
93. ★★★★  Go Tell it on the Mountain     by James Baldwin (1953)
94★★★½  U.S.A.   by John Dos Passos (1936)
95. ★★★★  Native Son     by Richard Wright (1940)
96. ★★★★½  Deliverance     by James Dickey (1970)
97. ★★★★½  The Stand     by Stephen King (1978)
98. ★★★★½  Little Women     by Louisa May Alcott (1869)
99★★★½  A Dance to the Music of Time   by Anthony Powell (1951)
100. ★★★★  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (1980)


  1. My first question is: the Chronicles of Narnia- just one book or all seven?

    1. Hey Ed. A bit more complete answer now. Yes, I read all seven. Individually, they are each fairly short, and collectively I enjoyed them so much I read through them rather quickly.

  2. Congrats on completing your quest. Do you plan on continuing your blog now? There are many more books to read!

    I am currently working on The Well Educated Mind's list, which I mainly chose because it gives suggestions for how to take notes to really think about a book. Obviously, there is some overlap with your book. I've been really struggling with Don Quixote. But I plan on finishing it in the next two weeks, hopefully.

    I hope to see you around the bligosphere!

    1. Wow, I hadn't realized you made the list yourself. Good job. It's a fantastic list.

    2. Thanks Rachel. I'll still be reading and blogging, just more flexible on what I tackle next, other genres as well.

    3. oh yeah...I meant to add, I struggled with Don Quixote too, stick with it.

  3. Congratulations! A superb accomplishment.

    Since you finished your 100, I wondered what your future plans were. Glad you're staying around to continue reading and blogging.

    This must have been a fun post to compile. I cannot wait to do this for my WEM project, which could be ten years from now!

    Glad to know I am an albumiphile, too.

    1. Thanks Ruth, it was a lot of fun. I'll look forward to your WEM wrap-up, and I know it is a much lenghthier task. I'll still be here.

  4. WHAT an accomplishment! I can't stick to lists, so I'm doubly impressed! :)

  5. Congratulations! This is such an accomplishment, and I love that bookshelf with the collection. Glad to hear you'll be continuing on with the blog!

  6. All I can say is I love your book shelf and I wish I could zoom in to get a better look at the titles.

    And congratulations on your accomplishment!

  7. You are my hero! If only could finish any bookish thing I start! Here's to the next 100!!!

  8. Congratulations! This is very impressive. There's some real doorstops on that list!

    1. Thanks Allison. Yep, there was more than a couple major tomes, and a few I didn't really enjoy, but I'm glad to have read them all.


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