How I Picked ‘Em

I must say that this list really tortured me.  I searched the web for a “definitive” list of the 100 best books ever written, and quickly came to realize that there is no such thing.  First, I had to get more specific.  You can’t just search “book”.  I had to make it fiction novels.  This forced me to make some painful cuts: no plays, epic poems, political treatises, etc.  Farewell, Shakespeare!  Au revoir, Voltaire!  Ciao, Dante & Machiavelli!  Even with those cuts, I had to figure out whose opinion of the “best” I was going to believe.  I leaned heavily on the Modern Library’s Editorial Board list of 100, but I was displeased by the lack of fantasy/science fiction (Who wouldn’t include Alice In Wonderland on this list?) and a few specific authors (No Jane Austen?  No Mark Twain?  Seriously?!)  I also wanted to make a point to include some more contemporary masterpieces, so I pulled some titles from TIME’s 100 best from 1923 to present.  I also perused the Easton Press books since I used to buy them, but they don’t provide you with a list of the books you’re agreeing to buy when you sign up for a series of shipments of the 100 greatest books.  Some kind citizen believed that it was his civic duty to relay that information on the web, so I took several titles from that list, as well.

At this point I had, well, ALOT of books on my list, and the goal was to get it down to 100.  Many wonderful titles did not make the cut (I assume they are wonderful books, too, but I can’t be sure.)  And I was so looking forward to rereading Judy Blume’s Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret? out of nostalgia.  Oh well.  I tried to make sure I had no more than 2 books by any one author, but how do you know which to remove?  William Faulkner became an exception to that rule.  He still has three entries.  I consulted with an “expert” who made a few suggestions for elimination, but then recommended a few more authors who weren’t even on the list!  I took his advice on the cuts, but had to ignore the additional authors.  I was already crying inside with some of the books I had to trash.

After that, there was very little science to how I made the rest of the cuts. I kept some out of curiosity since I’d never even heard of the authors and some because I remember enjoying them in the past and am curious to see how I feel about them now.  I got rid of some fairly randomly, almost the equivalent of throwing darts at the list, but always with the dread that I was cutting the book that should be #1 on the list.

So I was down to 101 books.  One more to cross out.  Which one?  I scanned up and down the list over and over.  I ordered it by author, then by year published, and finally by nationality, hoping that there would be something obvious that I should omit.  And then, as I was mentally wringing my hands, I suddenly thought, “Well, who says it has to be 100 of the best novels?  This is MY project!”

So . . . click on the tab above to see my 101 picks.

And try not to criticize too much.  I know that are outstanding pieces of art that didn’t make the list, and they are probably your favorite books in the world.  That’s why it says “100 of the best novels” in my tag line, not “the 100 best novels.”  Maybe, in approximately 10 years when I finish reading all these books, I’ll do the next 100.


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