The List of Books


We awarded points for each selection – 10 points for a first place pick, nine points for a second place pick, and so on. Then we totaled up all the points and ranked them accordingly. Here are all the books ordered by the number of points each earned. In the parentheses are the initials of the authors that selected them and the points earned. Click on their initials to see their list. 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877). Anna’s adulterous love affair with Count Vronsky—which follows an inevitable, devastating road from their dizzyingly erotic first encounter at a ball to Anna’s exile from society and her famous, fearful end—is a masterwork of tragic love. What makes the novel so deeply satisfying, though, is how Tolstoy balances the story of Anna’s passion with a second semiautobiographical story of Levin’s spirituality and domesticity. Levin commits his life to simple human values: his marriage to Kitty, his faith in God, and his farming. Tolstoy enchants us with Anna’s sin, then proceeds to educate us with Levin’s virtue.

Total Points: 221 (MB 10) (JBarn 7) (CB 7) (JBud 6) (BMC 1) (PCap 4) (PC 5) (CD 7) (BEE 9) (GG 7) (RG 9) (HaJ 10) (DLod 4) (MMCPH 4) (MM 10) (NM10) (PM 2) (CM 6) (SM 10) (SO’N 7) (TP 9) (RPri 8) (FP 10) (APat 10) (JSalt 3) (LShriv 8) (AMS 10) (SS 2) (ST 9) (TW 7) (SY 10)

Madame Bovary  by Gustave Flaubert (1857). Of the many nineteenth-century novels about adulteresses, only Madame Bovary features a heroine frankly detested by her author. Flaubert battled for five years to complete his meticulous portrait of extramarital romance in the French provinces, and he complained endlessly in letters about his love-starved main character— so inferior, he felt, to himself. In the end, however, he came to peace with her, famously saying, “Madame Bovary: c’est moi.” A model of gorgeous style and perfect characterization, the novel is a testament to how yearning for a higher life both elevates and destroys us.

Total Points: 214 (RB 3) (JBarn 10) (BMC 5) (PCap 6) (PC 10) (MCunn 9) (MD 8) (BEE 5) (EF 10) (MGait 6) (DG 2) (MGri 6) (JGil 9) (RG 6) (LG 10) (KHarr 3) (JI 1) (DLod 2) (TM 8) (VM 9) (EM 6) (JMEND 6) (CM 7) (LM 10) (RM 4) (RPri 10) (AMS 4) (LS 1) (JSalt 5) (SS 9) (BU 7) (AW 8) (MW 5) (SY 4)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869). Mark Twain supposedly said of this masterpiece, “Tolstoy carelessly neglects to include a boat race.” Everything else is included in this epic novel that revolves around Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Tolstoy is as adept at drawing panoramic battle scenes as he is at describing individual feeling in hundreds of characters from all strata of society, but it is his depiction of Prince Andrey, Natasha, and Pierre—who struggle with love and with finding the right way to live—that makes this book beloved.

Total Points: 167 (PA 9) (RB 4) (AB 9) (SCraw 4) (RFD 9) (JF 9) (PF 10) (BH 1) (AHas 8) (HaJ 8) (KK 8) (TK 6) (NM 9) (PM1) (JMEND 6) (CN 5) (APhil 4) (IR 8) (RR 10) (LDR 4) (GS 8) (CS 8) (MSimp 6) (AMS 9) (MW 4)

 Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72). Dorothea Brooke is a pretty young idealist whose desire to improve the world leads her to marry the crusty pedant Casaubon. This mistake takes her down a circuitous and painful path in search of happiness. The novel, which explores society’s brakes on women and deteriorating rural life, is as much a chronicle of the English town of Middlemarch as it is the portrait of a lady. Eliot excels at parsing moments of moral crisis so that we feel a character’s anguish and resolve. Her intelligent sympathy for even the most unlikable people redirects our own moral compass toward charity rather than enmity.

Total Points: 157 (JE 6) (DAJ 8) (KA 7) (MB 4) (AB 8) (TBiss 10) (PC 6) (JC 6) (SCraw 6) (BEE 8) (KJF 10) (GG 6) (MG 1) (MGri 2) (AG 8) (KHarr 4) (AHas 5) (AHud 3) (SHust 8) (DL 9) (DLod 5) (MMCPH 9) (JMEND 4) (LM 2) (FP 3) (JR 5) (MSimp 4)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). Perhaps the most searching fable of the American Dream ever written, this glittering novel of the Jazz Age paints an unforgettable portrait of its day— the flappers, the bootleg gin, the careless, giddy wealth. Self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby, determined to win back the heart of the girl he loved and lost, emerges as an emblem for romantic yearning, and the novel’s narrator, Nick Carroway, brilliantly illuminates the post–World War I end to American innocence.

Total Points: 157 (MB 6) (CB 6) (CBollen 10) (JLB 1) (MCon 10) (MCunn 6) (BEE 6) (AFilip 1) (JF 6) (DG 7) (AHud 1) (TK 3) (WL 4) (CL 3) (BAM 8) (PM 4) (EM 2) (CN 10) (AO 9) (RBP 9) (APat 6) (TP 3) (JPico 8) (VV 3) (SV 1) (AW 5) (RW 9) (MW 10)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955). “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” So begins the Russian master’s infamous novel about Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who falls madly, obsessively in love with a twelve-year-old “nymphet,” Dolores Haze. So he marries the girl’s mother. When she dies he becomes Lolita’s father. As Humbert describes their car trip—a twisted mockery of the American road novel—Nabokov depicts love, power, and obsession in audacious, shockingly funny language.

Total Points: 152 (DAJ 3) (MB 9) (JB 5) (JBud 10) (MCunn 5) (BEE 7) (JF 3) (MGait 9) (AGold 9) (MGri 7) (DH 10) (AMH 1) (JHUMP 4) (WK 6) (ML 4) (MM 7) (VM 8) (BAM 9) (SM 8) (APat 8) (JS 10) (SS 10)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884). Hemingway proclaimed, “All modern American literature comes from . . . ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ” But one can read it simply as a straightforward adventure story in which two comrades of conve­ nience, the parentally abused rascal Huck and fugitive slave Jim, escape the laws and conventions of society on a raft trip down the Mississippi. Alternatively, it’s a subversive satire in which Twain uses the only superficially naïve Huck to comment bitingly on the evils of racial bigotry, religious hypocrisy, and capitalist greed he observes in a host of other largely unsympathetic characters. Huck’s climactic decision to “light out for the Territory ahead of the rest” rather than submit to the starched standards of “civilization” reflects a uniquely American strain of individualism and nonconformity stretching from Daniel Boone to Easy Rider.

Total Points: 136 (LKA 9) (KA 2) (RB 8) (MSB 2) (CB 3) (FC 3) (CE 7) (PE 8) (AGold 1) (BH 5) (KH 5) (CH 9) (JHUMP 9) (HK 4) (SK 9) (WK 2) (WL 6) (BAM 4) (JCO 1) (RBP 7) (JR 3) (LDR 1) (GS 9) (CS 4) (MSimp 1) (SS 7) (SV 7)

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27). It’s about time. No, really. This seven-volume, three-thousand-page work is only superficially a mordant critique of French (mostly high) society in the belle époque. Both as author and as “Marcel,” the first-person narrator whose childhood memories are evoked by a crumbling madeleine cookie, Proust asks some of the same questions Einstein did about our notions of time and memory. As we follow the affairs, the badinage, and the betrayals of dozens of characters over the years, time is the highway and memory the driver.

Total Points: 134 (PA 6) (MC 4) (AFilip 9) (JF 7) (PF 9) (MG 8) (RG 10) (JH 9) (AHas 6) (HaJ 6) (DL 10) (DMe 3) (CM 9) (APhil 5) (RPow 1) (FP 8) (LDR 10) (MSimp 7) (AW 6) (SY 1)

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851). This sweeping saga of obsession, vanity, and vengeance at sea can be read as a harrowing parable, a gripping adventure story, or a semiscientific chronicle of the whaling industry. No matter, the book rewards patient readers with some of fiction’s most memorable characters, from mad Captain Ahab to the titular white whale that crippled him, from the honorable pagan Queequeg to our insightful narrator/surrogate (“Call me”) Ishmael, to that hell-bent vessel itself, the Pequod.

Total Points: 128 (PA 8) (RB 9) (JB 6) (AB 3) (BMC 4) (MC 7) (DAD 7) (BEE 1) (JH 7) (JHUMP 10) (AHas 3) (TLeClair 8) (JI 8) (NM 4) (BAM 2) (PM 10) (RM 6) (JCO 2) (RPow 1) (FP 4) (IR 1) (RRash 7) (LDR 2) (SY 8)

The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904). The son of a freed Russian serf, Anton Chekhov became a doctor who, between the patients he often treated without charge, invented the modern short story. The form had been overdecorated with trick endings and swags of atmosphere. Chekhov freed it to reflect the earnest urgencies of ordinary lives in crises through prose that blended a deeply compassionate imagination with precise description. “He remains a great teacher-healer-sage,” Allan Gurganus observed of Chekhov’s stories, which “continue to haunt, inspire, and baffle.”

Total Points: 128 (DAJ 7) (ABrav 4) (SCraw 5) (MGait 4) (AG 9) (KH 9) (EH 10) (HaJ 7) (VM 5) (DMe 7) (JMEND 7) (SM 1) (DM 10) (SO’N 8) (RR 9) (APhil 3) (FP 7) (GS 4) (JS 7) (MSimp 5)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600). The most famous play ever written, Hamlet tells the story of a melancholic prince charged with avenging the murder of his father at the hands of his uncle, who then married his mother and, becoming King of Denmark, robbed Hamlet of the throne. Told the circumstances of this murder and usurpation by his father’s ghost, Hamlet is plunged deep into brilliant and profound reflection on the problems of existence, which meditations delay his revenge at the cost of innocent lives. When he finally acts decisively, Hamlet takes with him every remaining major character in a crescendo of violence unmatched in Shakespearean theater.

Total Points: 124 (DAJ 4) (CE 10) (KH 8) (AHud 6) (KK 9) (HK 8) (DLod 9) (VM 10) (BAM 10) (SO’N 10) (RBP 8) (APhil 6) (RRash 9) (GS 6) (SV 9) (AW 2)

Ulysses by James Joyce (1922). Filled with convoluted plotting, scrambled syntax, puns, neologisms, and arcane mythological allusions, Ulysses recounts the misadventures of schlubby Dublin advertising salesman Leopold Bloom on a single day, June 16, 1904. As Everyman Bloom and a host of other characters act out, on a banal and quotidian scale, the major episodes of Homer’s ­Odyssey—including encounters with modern-day sirens and a Cyclops—Joyce’s bawdy mock-epic suggests the improbability, perhaps even the pointlessness, of heroism in the modern age.

Total Points: 124 (PA 5) (JB 8) (TBiss 9) (CB 9) (BEE 4) (MGait 10) (LG 6) (JH 6) (KK 7) (TLeClair 7) (DLod 7) (DMe 2) (RM 3) (JCO 9) (RPow 1) (RP 6) (IR 6) (RRash 4) (LDR 9) (IWelsh 10)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615). Considered literature’s first great novel, Don Quixote is the comic tale of a dream-driven nobleman whose devotion to medieval romances inspires him to go in quest of chivalric glory and the love of a lady who doesn’t know him. Famed for its hilarious antics with windmills and nags, Don Quixote offers timeless meditations on heroism, imagination, and the art of writing itself. Still, the heart of the book is the relationship between the deluded knight and his proverb-spewing squire, Sancho Panza. If their misadventures illuminate human folly, it is a folly redeemed by simple love, which makes Sancho stick by his mad master “no matter how many foolish things he does.”

Total Points: 109 (SA 6) (PA 10) (RB 10) (PC 7) (FC 9) (CE 9) (KJF 8) (AGold 8) (WL 9) (RM 8) (TP 10) (LDR 5) (PShreve 10)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61). Dickens gives a twist to an ancient storyline—of the child of royal birth raised in humble surroundings. Looking back on his life, Pip describes his poor youth near marshes in rural England—his chance encounter with a murderous convict, his experiences with the strange Miss Havisham, who always wears a wedding dress, and his love for her beautiful adopted daughter Estella. As he approaches adulthood, Pip learns that he has a secret benefactor who arranges opportunities for him in London, wherein lies the tale, and the twist.

Total Points: 96 (CB 8) (PC 8) (EDon 7) (AH 9) (JI 10) (TK 7) (JL 10) (CN 1) (RPow 1) (RPri 9) (PShreve 8) (MSimp 8) (ES 10) (SS 8)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967). Widely considered the most popular work in Spanish since Don Quixote, this novel—part fantasy, part social history of Colombia— sparked fiction’s “Latin boom” and the popularization of magic realism. Over a century that seems to move backward and forward simultaneously, the forgotten and offhandedly magical village of Macondo— home to a Faulknerian plethora of incest, floods, massacres, civil wars, dreamers, prudes, and prostitutes— loses its Edenic innocence as it is increasingly exposed to civilization.

Total Points: 93 (LKA 1) (RB 1) (PCle 10) (ED 6) (CD 4) (KJF 2) (MGri 8) (AH 4) (JH 3) (JI 3) (LL 2) (WL 1) (MM 9) (CN 8) (APat 9) (FP 2) (JS 9) (PShreve 2) (AMS 3) (SY 6)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866). In the peak heat of a St. Petersburg summer, an erstwhile university student, Raskolnikov, commits literature’s most famous fictional crime, bludgeoning a pawnbroker and her sister with an axe. What follows is a psychological chess match between Raskolnikov and a wily detective that moves toward a form of redemption for our antihero. Relentlessly philosophical and psychological, Crime and Punishment tackles freedom and strength, suffering and madness, illness and fate, and the pressures of the modern urban world on the soul, while asking if “great men” have license to forge their own moral codes.

Total Points: 92 (PA 7) (AFilip 5) (DG 3) (AMH 2) (JL 1) (NM 8) (TM 7) (BM 10) (JCO 10) (FP 1) (IR 7) (RRash 6) (VV 9) (AW 7) (SY 9)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927). The Ramsays and their eight children vacation with an assortment of scholarly and artistic houseguests by the Scottish seaside. Mainly set on two days ten years apart, the novel describes the loss, love, and disagreements of family life while reaching toward the bigger question—“What is the meaning of life?”—that Woolf addresses in meticulously crafted, modernist prose that is impressionistic without being vague or sterile.

Total Points: 85 (DAJ 5) (MCunn 7) (MD 2) (MGait 5) (MG 3) (SHust 4) (HK 6) (SM 9) (RM 2) (SO’N 4) (RPri 3) (RR 8) (LS 6) (MSimp 10) (MW 9) (SY 2)

King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605). Considered one of Shakespeare’s four “core tragedies”—with Hamlet, Othello, and ­Macbeth—King Lear commences with Lear, having achieved great age but little wisdom, dividing his kingdom among his three daughters in return for their proclamations of love for him. Two of his daughters, evil to the core, falsely profess their love, while Cordelia, his good and true daughter, refuses his request. Enraged, Lear gives his kingdom to his evil daughters and banishes Cordelia. Lear pays a dear price for this rash act. The play systematically strips him of his kingdom, title, retainers, clothes, and sanity in a process so cruel and unrelenting as to be nearly unendurable.

Total Points: 81 (MCunn 10) (MG 5) (WL 8) (AHas 10) (JMEND 9) (IP 10) (RP 8) (AP 5) (IR 10) (SS 6)

The Odyssey by Homer (ninth century b.c.e.?). Where The Iliad tells of war, The Odyssey is the story of survival and reconciliation following the ten-year battle with Troy. Where Achilles was defined by warrior brutality, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, is defined by his intelligence and wit. This epic poem follows Odysseus on his adventures as he struggles—against the threats of sea monsters and the temptation of the sirens’ song—to be reunited with his son Telemachus, his faithful, clever queen Penelope, and their kingdom.

Total Points: 81 (RB 6) (FC 6) (AHud 9) (KK 10) (WL 10) (DLod 10) (BM 8) (RPow 1) (RP 10) (AP 10) (APhil 1)

Dubliners by James Joyce (1916). Although many of these largely autobiographical stories evoke themes of death, illness, and stasis, nearly all offer their characters redemption—or at least momentary self-knowledge—through what Joyce called “epiphanies,” in which defeat or disappointment is transformed by a sudden, usually life-altering flash of awareness. The collection’s emotional centerpiece is its concluding tale, “The Dead,” which moves from a New Year’s Eve party where guests muse about issues of the day—the Catholic church, Irish nationalism, Freddie Malins’s worrying drunkenness—to a man’s discovery of his wife weeping over a boy who died for love of her. A profound portrait of identity and loneliness, it is Joyce’s most compassionate work.

Total Points: 79 (JLB 9) (MCunn 4) (KJF 1) (PF 7) (DG 5) (MG 7) (HK 7) (DMcF 1) (DMe 4) (LM 9) (RBP 4) (JS 5) (LS 10) (MW 6)

Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64). Full of violence, mordant comedy, and a fierce Catholic vision that is bent on human salvation at any cost, Flannery O’Connor’s stories are like no others. Bigots, intellectual snobs, shyster preachers, and crazed religious seers—a full cavalcade of what critics came to call “grotesques”—careen through her tales, and O’Connor gleefully displays the moral inadequacy of all of them. Twentieth-century short stories often focus on tiny moments, but O’Connor’s stories, with their unswerving eye for vanity and their profound sense of the sacred, feel immense.

Total Points: 79 (JLB 6) (JC 1) (MCunn 1) (CE 5) (CH 2) (BH 7) (KH 4) (JHUMP 3) (WK 10) (WL 2) (BM 1) (DMcF 7) (EM 1) (MM 4) (RRash 3) (JS 4) (PShreve 4) (LS 4) (BW 10)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936). Weaving mythic tales of biblical urgency with the experimental techniques of high modernism, Faulkner bridged the past and future. This is the story of Thomas Sutpen, a rough-hewn striver who came to Mississippi in 1833 with a gang of wild slaves from Haiti to build a dynasty. Almost in reach, his dream is undone by plagues of biblical (and Faulknerian) proportions: racism, incest, war, fratricide, pride, and jealousy. Through the use of multiple narrators, Faulkner turns this gripping Yoknapatawpha saga into a profound and dazzling meditation on truth, memory, history, and literature itself.

Total Points: 77 (PCap 1) (JF 5) (JGil 7) (AG 5) (JH 4) (AHas 7) (AHud 2) (HaJ 5) (TLeClair 9) (EM 3) (RASH 5) (LDR 8) (LShriv 9) (LS 7)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880). In perhaps the consummate Russian novel, Dostoevsky dramatizes the spiritual conundrums of nineteenth-century Russia through the story of three brothers and their father’s murder. Hedonistic Dmitri, tortured intellectual Ivan, and saintly Alyosha embody distinct philosophical positions, while remaining full-fledged human beings. Issues such as free will, secularism, and Russia’s unique destiny are argued not through authorial polemic, but through the confessions, diatribes, and nightmares of the characters themselves. An unsparing portrayal of human vice and weakness, the novel ultimately imparts a vision of redemption. Dostoevsky’s passion, doubt, and imaginative power compel even the secular West he scorned.

Total Points: 77 (RB 2) (DAD 9) (JF 10) (BH 10) (HaJ 9) (NM 7) (EM 4) (DMe 10) (RM 5) (CN 6) (IWelsh 5)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813). “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” reads this novel’s famous opening line. This matching of wife to single man—or good fortune—makes up the plot of perhaps the happiest, smartest romance ever written. Austen’s genius was to make Elizabeth Bennet a reluctant, sometimes crabby equal to her Mr. Darcy, making Pride and Prejudice as much a battle of wits as it is a love story.

Total Points: 76 (KA 8) (MC 6) (RFD 5) (AH 7) (NM 6) (JMEND 8) (CM 10) (IP 5) (JPico 2) (IR 2) (PShreve 9) (AT 3) (SY 5)

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929). A modernist classic of Old South decay, this novel circles the travails of the Compson family from four different narrative perspectives. All are haunted by the figure of Caddy, the only daughter, whom Faulkner described as “a beautiful and tragic little girl.” Surrounding the trials of the family itself are the usual Faulkner suspects: alcoholism, suicide, racism, religion, money, and violence both seen and unseen. In the experimental style of the book, Quentin Compson summarizes the confused honor and tragedy that Faulkner relentlessly evokes: “theres a curse on us its not our fault is it our fault.”

Total Points: 72

(LKA 3) (RB 7) (JLB 10) (GDG 8) (KH 10) (AH 5) (DMe 5) (SM 7) (JCO 8) (RRash 2) (SY 7)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Like Wuthering Heights, this is a romance set in the isolated moors of rural England the Brontës called home. Its title character is an exceptionally independent orphan who becomes governess to the children of an appealing but troubled character, Mr. Rochester. As their love develops, the author introduces a host of memorable characters and a shattering secret before sending Jane on yet another arduous journey.

Total Points: 71 (AB 2) (CB 4) (PC 1) (AFilip 6) (KJF 4) (JGil 10) (EH 3) (CL 6) (ML 10) (LM 4) (AO 8) (LS 2) (MSimp 2) (AT 9)

Emma by Jane Austen (1816). The story of Miss Woodhouse—busybody, know-it-all, and general relationship enthusiast—is a comedy of manners deftly laced with social criticism. The charm largely inheres in Emma’s imperfections: her slightly spoiled maneuverings, her highly fallible matchmaking, her inability to know her own heart. Emma teeters from lovable one moment to tiresome and self-centered the next. In writing her story, Austen found an ideal venue for her note-perfect, never-equaled archness.

Total Points: 69 (SCraw 8) (CS 10) (EDon 8) (MD 9) (AFilip 2) (KJF 5) (GG 9) (AG 2) (DLod 6) (BAM 1) (JR 9)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936). Weaving mythic tales of biblical urgency with the experimental techniques of high modernism, Faulkner bridged the past and future. This is the story of Thomas Sutpen, a rough-hewn striver who came to Mississippi in 1833 with a gang of wild slaves from Haiti to build a dynasty. Almost in reach, his dream is undone by plagues of biblical (and Faulknerian) proportions: racism, incest, war, fratricide, pride, and jealousy. Through the use of multiple narrators, Faulkner turns this gripping Yoknapatawpha saga into a profound and dazzling meditation on truth, memory, history, and literature itself.

Total Points: 68 (PCap 1) (JF 5) (JGil 7) (AG 5) (JH 4) (AHas 7) (AHud 2) (HaJ 5) (EM 3) (RASH 5) (LDR 8) (LShriv 9) (LS 7)

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1321). Dante’s poetic trilogy traces the journey of a man’s soul from darkness (The Inferno) to the revelation of divine light (Paradiso) while providing commentary and gossip about the politics and prominent families of Florence. Led in his pilgrimage through the underworld and purgatory by the Greek poet, Virgil, Dante is escorted into paradise by his early beloved, Beatrice, while learning that, in order to ascend, he must be transformed.

Total Points: 66 (CB 10) (PCap 8) (MD 5) (AHud 8) (EM 8) (RM 10) (RP 7) (VV 10)

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67). Sterne promises the “life and opinions” of his protagonist. Yet halfway through the fourth volume of nine, we are still in the first day of the hero’s life thanks to marvelous digressions and what the narrator calls “unforeseen stoppages”—detailing the quirky habits of his eccentric family members and their friends. This broken narrative is unified by Sterne’s comic touch, which shimmers in this thoroughly entertaining novel that harks back to Don Quixote and foreshadows Ulysses.

Total Points: 65 (PA 1) (PC 9) (JE 4) (PE 10) (ALK 6) (JL 2) (DLod 3) (TM 9) (JR 4) (RM 7) (LDR 3) (GS 7)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847). The author’s only novel, published a year before her death, centers on the doomed love between Heathcliff, a tormented orphan, and Catherine Earnshaw, his benefactor’s vain and willful daughter. Passion brings them together, but class differences, and the bitterness it inspires, keeps them apart and continues to take its toll on the next generation. Wuthering Heights tells you why they say that love hurts.

Total Points: 63 (DG 10) (JH 8) (AH 10) (SHust 10) (TK 10) (SMK 7) (CL 1) (PM 7)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952). This modernist novel follows the bizarre, often surreal adventures of an unnamed narrator, a black man, whose identity becomes a battleground in racially divided America. Expected to be submissive and obedient in the South, he must decipher the often contradictory rules whites set for a black man’s behavior. Traveling north to Harlem, he meets white leaders intent on controlling and manipulating him. Desperate to seize control of his life, he imitates Dostoevsky’s underground man, escaping down a manhole where he vows to remain until he can define himself. The book’s famous last line, “Who knows, but that on the lower frequencies I speak for you,” suggests how it transcends race to tell a universal story of the quest for self-determination.

Total Points: 54 (SA 10) (CB 2) (BMC 6) (JC 5) (ED 7) (JE 5) (PE 7) (HK 3) (LL 3) (PShreve 5) (AW 1)

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925). This masterpiece of concision and interior monologue recounts events in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a delicate, upper-class London wife and mother, as she prepares for a party at her home on a single day in June 1923. In a parallel subsidiary plot, a shell-shocked World War I veteran Clarissa encounters spirals into suicide rather than submit to soul-stealing experimental psycho­ therapy. The novel explores questions of time, memory, love, class, and life choices through Woolf’s intricate melding of points of view and powerful use of flashback.

Total Points: 54 (RFD 3) (KJF 3) (DG 1) (MGri 3) (LG 9) (EH 9) (TK 4) (LMill 9) (AO 3) (VV 6) (SV 4)

The Bible.

Appreciation of the Bible by Andrew Hudgins

The Bible is both a holy book and a work of supreme fiction; those of us who read it both ways are doubly blessed. One does not need to believe in God to hear the majesty of the story that begins, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” A great story itself, the Bible is also the source of great stories, by geniuses from Dante to Dostoevsky, Faulkner to Thomas Mann, and the poetry of the Psalms echoes through great poetry from William Blake to Walt Whitman to T. S. Eliot.

One does not have to believe Jesus is the Son of God to understand that his parables are penetrating works of fiction that embody complex truths about human nature. One need not believe Adam and Eve existed to see Genesis is, whatever else it is, a philosophically sophisticated and psychologically acute story about people’s innate response to authority, even loving authority. And it is perfectly possible to believe Moses and King David are fictional, and yet find true to life the Bible’s stories of these flawed men who succeed greatly, if only partially, while failing God time and again.

And what of Jesus—a god entering history as a man and living as a mortal? True or not true, “the greatest story ever told,” in the majesty of its telling and the power of its message, has taught an entire culture how to think about love, suffering, and transcendence, and it has fundamentally colored the language by which we talk about everything.

Total Points: 50 (AHud 10) (HK 10) (EM 10) (RPow 1) (RP 9) (JSalt 10) 

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962). “It is the commentator who has the last word,” claims Charles Kinbote in this novel masquerading as literary criticism. The text of the book includes a 999-line poem by the murdered American poet John Shade and a line-by-line commentary by Kinbote, a scholar from the country of Zembla. Nabokov even provides an index to this playful, provocative story of poetry, interpretation, identity, and madness, which is full to bursting with allusions, tricks, and the author’s inimitable wordplay.

Total Points: 49 (MC 9) (MGait 8) (MGri 10) (DL 7) (APhil 7) (VV 8)

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985). D. H. Lawrence famously remarked that the archetypal American hero was a stoic, a loner, and a killer. Cormac McCarthy’s tale of the formation and dissolution of a band of scalp hunters in northern Mexico in the late 1840s embodies that dire maxim. Led by a soldier named Glanton and a mysterious, hairless, moral monstrosity known as the “Judge,” these freebooters wipe out Indians, Mexicans, and each other amidst a landscape of such sublime desolation one feels it leaching into their very souls.

Total Points: 48 (MSB 8) (TBiss 7) (DAD 5) (BH 6) (SK 1) (MM 1) (GP 3) (BW 9) (IWelsh 8)

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). Tomboy Scout and her brother Jem are the children of the profoundly decent widower Atticus Finch, a small-town Alabama lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. Although Tom Robinson’s trial is the centerpiece of this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel—raising profound questions of race and conscience—this is, at heart, a tale about the fears and mysteries of growing up, as the children learn about bravery, empathy, and societal expectations through a series of evocative set pieces that conjure the Depression-era South.

Total Points: 48 (CB 5) (JBud 7) (PCle 7) (MCon 8) (SMK 8) (RG 4) (AMS 1) (SV 8)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853). Dickens is best known for his immense plots that trace every corner of Victorian society, and Bleak House fulfills that expectation to perfection. The plot braids the sentimental tale of an orphan unaware of her scandalous parentage with an ironic and bitterly funny satire of a lawsuit that appears to entail all of London. In doing so, the novel encompasses more than any other Dickens novel, shows the author’s mature skills, and is the only Victorian novel to include an incident of human spontaneous combustion.

Total Points: 47 (AB 6) (MGait 7) (MGri 9) (JHUMP 5) (SK 5) (IR 5) (BU 8) (AWald 2)

Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817). Eight years ago, Anne Elliot was persuaded by a friend to break off her engagement to a handsome naval officer because he lacked wealth and name. Now twenty-seven, her romantic prospects a dim memory, she encounters him once again, only now he is a grand success. Can she rekindle his love?

Total Points: 47 (KA 10) (JBarn 8) (MG 2) (EH 5) (SHust 6) (VM 4) (APat 2) (AWald 10)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939). A powerful portrait of Depression-era America, this gritty social novel follows the Joad family as they flee their farm in the Oklahoma dust bowl for the promised land of California. While limping across a crippled land, Ma and Pa Joad, their pregnant daughter Rose of Sharon, and their recently paroled son Tom sleep in ramshackle Hoovervilles filled with other refugees and encounter hardship, death, and deceit. While vividly capturing the plight of a nation, Steinbeck renders people who have lost everything but their dignity.

Total Points: 46 (SA 2) (PCle 1) (KH 1) (KK 1) (WL 3) (MMCPH 10) (GP 8) (BU 4) (SV 10) (TW 6)

The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925). The Trial is not just a book, but a cultural icon; Kafka is not just a writer but a mindset—“Kafkaesque.” Here, Everyman Josef K is persecuted by a mysterious and sadistic Law, which has condemned him in advance for a crime of which he knows nothing. Modern anxieties are given near-archetypal form in this parable that seems both to foretell the totalitarian societies to come and to mourn our alienation from a terrible Old Testament God.

Total Points: 45 (ED 2) (JF 8) (LG 5) (JL 9) (BM 7) (DMe 6) (JS 8)

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1380s?). Not so much a single poem as a gathering of voices ranging from bawdy to pious, this captivating work presents a panoramic view of medieval England. Vivid, direct, and often irresistibly funny, the tales are told by pilgrims making their way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Each night another member of the party—a knight, a scholar, a miller—tells a story, and tale by tale, a portrait emerges of the diversity and delight of human possibility.

Total Points: 43 (RB 5) (CE 8) (AHud 7) (DLod 8) (EM 7) (FC 8)

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899). In a novella with prose as lush and brooding as its jungle setting, Phillip Marlowe travels to the Belgian Congo to pilot a trading company’s steamship. There he witnesses the brutality of colonial exploitation, epitomized by Kurtz, an enigmatic white ivory trader. To understand evil, Marlowe seeks out Kurtz, whom he finds amongst the natives, dying. After Kurtz laments his own depravity through his final, anguished words—“The horror! The horror!”—Marlowe must decide what to tell his widow back home.

Total Points: 42 (LKA 10) (PCap 2) (PM 9) (DM 8) (SO’N 6) (RW 7)

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881). James’s Portrait is of that superior creature Isabel Archer, an assured American girl who is determined to forge her destiny in the drawing rooms of Europe. To this end, she weds the older and more cultivated Gilbert Osmond, and eventually finds that she is less the author of her fate than she thought. Throughout, James gives us a combination of careful psychological refraction and truly diabolical plotting. The result is a book at once chilling and glorious.

Total Points: 42 (KA 6) (PC 2) (SCraw 3) (GG 10) (VM 3) (JMEND 3) (CM 8) (JR 7) 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606). The shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth runs along at breakneck speed, elevating Macbeth from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor to King of Scotland in two brief acts. It explores the psychology of ambition, abetted by supernatural forces, as Macbeth and his wife— one of the few successful marriages in the Shakespearean canon— engineer the murder of King Duncan and Macbeth’s usurpation of the Scottish throne. The pleasures of kingship are rare and brief, however, as the past comes to haunt the future, in ways obscurely prophesied by three witches, and Macbeth is brought down with a terrible swiftness matched only by the speed of his ascent.

Total Points: 41 (PCap 7) (RFD 6) (BM 9) (SO’N 9) (RRash 10)

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915). A novel made seminally modernist through an unreliable narration that is part cubist, part Freudian, it tells the story of the prissy and rather thick John Dowell and his wife Florence who repeatedly meet British soldier Edward Ashburnham and his wife over the years at various upper-crust European spas. Dowell’s blindness to Edward and Florence’s hidden-in-plain-sight affair finally lifts, but his class solidarity with the man he calls a “good soldier” endures—a tension that creates an exquisite portrait of denial and the death throes of Edwardian gentility.

Total Points: 41 (JBarn 4) (MG 10) (DL 8) (CN 9) (TP 6) (APat 4)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). It’s a choice no mother should have to make. In 1856, escaped slave Margaret Garner decided to kill her infant daughter rather than return her to slavery. Her desperate act created a national sensation. Where Garner’s true-life drama ends, Beloved begins. In this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, the murdered child, Beloved, returns from the grave years later to haunt her mother Sethe. Aided by her daughter Denver and lover Paul D, Sethe confronts the all-consuming guilt precipitated by the ghostly embodiment of her dead child. Rendered in poetic language, Beloved is a stunning indictment of slavery “full of baby’s venom.”

Total Points: 40 (SA 1) (BMC 7) (JC 2) (ED 5) (DAD 10) (DG 4) (DH 3) (AH 6) (HK 2)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). It’s a choice no mother should have to make. In 1856, escaped slave Margaret Garner decided to kill her infant daughter rather than return her to slavery. Her desperate act created a national sensation. Where Garner’s true-life drama ends, Beloved begins. In this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, the murdered child, Beloved, returns from the grave years later to haunt her mother Sethe. Aided by her daughter Denver and lover Paul D, Sethe confronts the all-consuming guilt precipitated by the ghostly embodiment of her dead child. Rendered in poetic language, Beloved is a stunning indictment of slavery “full of baby’s venom.”

Total Points: 40 (SA 1) (BMC 7) (JC 2) (ED 5) (DAD 10) (DG 4) (DH 3) (AH 6) (HK 2)

The Oresteia by Aeschylus (458 b.c.e.). Before Freud there was Aeschylus, who revealed the mind’s darkest impulses through this trilogy of plays mapping the mad round of retaliations that bring down the royal house of Atreus. In the first play, the Greek King Agamemnon— who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to appease the gods before setting sail for the Trojan War— and his slave, Cassandra, are slain by his wife, Clytemnestra. In the second play, Clytemnestra is slain by her son, Orestes (egged on by his sister Electra to avenge their father’s murder). In the final play, Orestes is freed from the Furies (or the curse) because, unlike the other characters— who search for scapegoats— he admits his own culpability, ending the cycle of violence through personal responsibility.

Total Points: 40 (PCap 10) (JMEND 10) (BU 10) (AW 10)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916). In this semiautobiographical novel, hero Stephen Dedalus rejects the world of his youth—Ireland in its provincialism, nationalism, Catholicism, and sexual guilt—for art. From its stream of consciousness technique to its descriptions of expatriate life in Paris, Portrait inspired nearly all the touchstones of twentieth-century modernism, the most important of which is the artist as a misunderstood god.

Total Points: 38 (DAJ 6) (JGil 5) (GG 3) (TK 5) (BAM 7) (ST 10) (SV 2)

Pages

New List

Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).

 

Classic List

Craig Nova

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
2. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915).
3. Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford (1928).
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880).
6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
7. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927).
8. Jazz by Toni Morrison (1992).
9. The Plague by Albert Camus (1947).
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61).

 

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