Thursday 4 July 2013

The 100 Greatest American Novels

Heyyyyy guys! It's the fourth of July! Happy Birthday America, and well done for shattering the chains of British Imperialism and being your own people. Nice job! Had I been more organised, I would have posted my review of America today and written something about Canada on Monday (I missed Canada Day! Sorry Canada, I still like you plenty) but I didn't and LUCKILY Book Riot posted a list of the 100 Greatest American Novels (1893-1993) yesterday and so I had an insta-post. Cause let's face it, who doesn't love a list?! Oh, you don't?
I consider 20th Century American Literature to pretty much be my jam, not out of any conscious I-Must-Read-20th-Century-American-Writers urge, but just because those are the books that I seem to like the most, and those are the ones I tend to go for. Since this list is kiiind of done by author rather than actual books though (one of the conditions of the list is that each author only gets one entry) I'm not that convinced I've read that many of them- I've tended to go 'Steinbeck, you fucking genius' and read EVERYTHING by him (I don't think I'm far off that) rather than going further afield with ALL THE WRITERS. But, this is pretty much how I read anyway (that is, by author) and
So here goes. I'm going to bold the books I've read, italicise the ones I own (and so intend to read) and also underline ones where I've read something else by the author, just to make myself feel better when I've read not-that-many books. It sounds good, I know.

Maggie, Girl of the Streets- Stephen Crane (1893)
The Country of Pointed Firs- Sarah Orne Jewett (1896)
The Awakening- Kate Chopin (1899)
The Call of the Wild- Jack London (1903)
The Golden Bowl- Henry James (1904) (I've read The Europeans, The Turn of the Screw and What Maisie Knew, so I think I'm doing fine with James)
The House of Mirth- Edith Wharton (1905)
The Jungle- Upton Sinclair (1906)
Three Lives- Gertrude Stein (1909)
My Antonia- Willa Cather (1918)
The Magnificent Ambersons- Booth Tarkington (1918)
Winesburg, Ohio- Sherwood Anderson (1919)
Main Street- Sinclair Lewis (1920)
Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man- James Weldon Johnson (1921)
Cane- Jean Toomer (1923)
The Great Gatsby- F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
An American Tragedy- Theodore Dresier (1925)
The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway (1926)
The Bridge of the San Luis Rey- Thornton Wilder (1927)
Home to Harlem- Claude McKay (1928)
The Sound and the Fury- William Faulkner (1929)
Look Homeward, Angel- Thomas Wolfe (1929)
The Maltese Falcon- Dashiell Hammett (1930)
Flowering Judas and Other Stories- Katherine Porter (1930)
The Good Earth- Pearl S Buck (1931)
Call it Sleep- Henry Roth (1934)
The Tropic of Cancer- Henry Miller (1934)
Appointment in Samarra- John O'Hara (1934)
The USA Trilogy- John Dos Passos (1936)
Gone With The Wind- Margaret Mitchell (1936)
Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
Day of the Locust- Nathaniel West (1939)
The Big Sleep- Raymond Chandler (1939) (I don't own this but I REALLY want to read it)
The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck (1939) (And the rest...)
Native Son- Richard Wright (1940)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers (1940)
The Fountainhead- Ayn Rand (1943)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith (1943)
All the King's Men- Robert Penn Warren (1946)
Tales of the South Pacific- James Michener (1947)
The Naked and the Dead- Norman Mailer (1948)
The Sheltering Sky- Paul Bowles (1948)
The Lottery and Other Stories- Shirley Jackson (1949)
The Catcher in the Rye- JD Salinger (1951)
Invisible Man- Ralph Ellison (1952)
Go Tell It On The Mountain- James Baldwin (1953)
The Adventures of Augie March- Saul Bellow (1953)
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury (1953)
Andersonville- MacKinley Kantor (1955)
On the Road- Jack Kerouac (1957)
Gimpel the Fool- Isaac Bashevis Singer (1957)
The Wapshot Chronicle- John Cheever (1957)
Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov (1958)
The Magic Barrel- Bernard Malamud (1958)
Goodbye, Columbus- Philip Roth (1959)
Naked Lunch- William Burroughs (1959)
The Little Disturbances of Man- Grace Paley (1959)
Browngirl, Brownstones- Paule Marshall (1959)
To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee (1960)
Rabbit, Run- John Updike (1960)
The Sot-Weed Factor- John Barth (1960)
The Moviegoer- Walker Percy (1961)
Catch-22- Joseph Heller (1961)
Revolutionary Road- Richard Yates (1961)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest- Ken Kesey (1962)
The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath (1963)
A Sport and A Pasttime- John Salter (1967)
The Confessions of Nat Turner- William Styron (1967) (Not... Sophie's Choice?)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?- Philip K Dick (1968)
Slaughterhouse 5- Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
House Made of Dawn- N Scott Momaday (1969)
them- Joyce Carol Oates (1969) (I haven't read them, but Joyce is my HOMEGIRL)
The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford (1969)
Play it as it Lays- Joan Didion (1970)
The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor (1971)
Mumbo Jumbo- Ishmael Reed (1972)
Angle of Repose- Wallace Stegner (1972)
Gravity's Rainbow- Thomas Pynchon (1973)
Ragtime- E.L. Doctorow (1975)
JR- William Gaddis (1976)
Roots- Alex Haley (1976)
Ceremony- Leslie Marmon Silko (1977)
The World According to Garp- John Irving (1978)
Airships- Barry Hannah (1978)
Housekeeping- Marilynne Robinson (1980)
A Confederacy of Dunces- John Kennedy Toole (1980)
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982)
The Color Purple- Alice Walker (1982)
Cathedral- Raymond Carver (1983)
Love Medicine- Louise Erdrich (1984)
Neuromancer- William Gibson (1984)
White Noise- Don Delilo (1985)
Blood Meridian- Cormac McCarthy (1985) (I've read No Country For Old Men and I own The Road)
Lonesome Dove- Larry McMuntry (1985)
City of Glass- Paul Auster (1985)
Beloved- Toni Morrison (1987)
The Joy Luck Club- Amy Tan (1989)
The Shawl- Cynthia Ozick (1989)
The Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien (1990)
How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents- Julia Alverez (1991)
Bastard Out Of Carolina- Dorothy Allison (1992)

SO! What did I do. I've read... 18, read books by 4 more of the authors listed, and I own another 9 of the books. That is... Pretty fucking lame.
Apparently the majority of my reading of the American novels is from the 50s and 60s, and then after 1992, apparently. Because, trust me, I barely ever read things set in England! I really don't! Still. I have this list to work off now, if I really want to, or I can just carry on reading things by authors I know I like and be all happy and stuff. Gee, which shall I do?!

Really quick complaint- No Stephen King? REALLY? I mean, I won't go into whether or not Stephen King is literature (he is. He definitely is.) but I think either The Stand or It really wouldn't be out of place on this list. And then I would have read 19 and that would be way cool. But anyway. Got to go and read some American Classics now, k bye!


  1. Oooh, I love me a good list (and incresingly -and surprisingly since he usually doesn't do anything for me - a good SkarsgÄrd gif).

    I think I counted 16 read, which is a bit meh, but since I tend to gravitate towards more Eurocentric literature, it's understandable. Im surprised at how many novels off the list I actually own, but also ignore.

    Must be remedied (after I finish off all the Russians).

    1. I don't even know how to deal with people for whom Skarsgard doesn't do anything! BUT I feel like he's very gif-able even if you don't LOVE his face. He says and does some fun things with it nonetheless :)

      See, I think 16 is a good amount if you don't think of yourself as reading a lot of American Lit, but I thought I was alllll over it- clearly I was wrong! But anyway, now I have something to work off.

      READ ALL THE RUSSIANS! They're in my group of fastest-growing-love. Because that's an actual group. In my brain.

  2. I never used to like American lit, but then I discovered Fitzgerald and Cather and I completely changed my mind. You've still read more than me though :)

    1. Ooooh, is Cather good? I have My Antonia (somewhere...) but I just never feel like picking it up... Something something terrible cover something. Also I read SO MUCH Fitzgerald when I was about 16 and have completely forgotten all of it- but I can't tell if that's my fault or if it's just that thing that Fitzgerald does to me. But yeah. Anyway.

  3. 24 read! I agree that it's super silly that each author can only have one book on the list. I've read Didion, Wharton, Philip Roth, etc...just not the books they chose! Come on, now!

    You should check out some Southern lit. O'Connor's stories, A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter are all ridiculously good books in the slightly odd, Southern Gothic style. Love them.

    1. I definitely think that it's stupid to only have one book per author because I feel like you're reaching out for random things that nobody's read at a certain point instead of just putting Of Mice and Men on the damn list already! Also I now own 2 Didion books and I want to read them SO BADLY but I'm scared because I pre-love her in my brain and what if I don't love her?! Scary stuff!

      I should definitely check out some Southern Lit. Right after I re-read Gone With The Wind ;) (No seriously, I am actually doing that today. Well, not the whole book, but you know what I mean.)

  4. 11, lol. 13 if I just go by authors. I kind of suck at this list! But you know, there's a ton there on my to-read-eventually list. And a ton I've never heard of...

    I find it odd that there's no Mark Twain on the list. I haven't read any of his books yet, but Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer are really popular, so you'd think he would've made an appearance.

    1. Sarah, there are SO many I've never heard of! SO MANY. Like, there are more I'd never heard of than those that I *had* heard of and was ashamed I hadn't read. But there you go, such is the nature of things on the internet.

      I thiiiiink Mark Twain is a bit earlier? Like, 1870s-ish? I... Kind of don't like him that much. Huck Finn is fine, but I just had to get rid of Tom Sawyer because OMG it was terrible. Just... in case you wanted my Mark Twain opinion. ALSO having said that I wish that the 19th Century was included in this because I have read more 19th Century Americans! Like The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick and Poe and stuff.

  5. I'm not even looking at that list. NOT EVEN LOOKING. Because I already know I've read woefully few American classics, and I already have a hangover from celebrating America's birthday. So. No need to pile any discomfort on top of THAT.

    I will, however, look most gratefully at Disappointed Gosling and his tiny guitar.

    1. Yeah, but at least you know that! I thought I was doing really well, and then I read this list and I'm like 'oh. So basically I've read the mainstreamest American books and ignored the rest? Ok, cool!' But whatever, East of Eden isn't even on this list and that is maybe THE greatest American Novel, so yeah. It's a stupid list. (She says, bitterly).

      Disappointed Gosling is disappointed with us all. Sigh.

  6. Lists are the best. And I like your way of saying "Well, I've read other stuff by this person so STILL COUNTS" because damn right it does!

    Also you and I have the same final count, although for some different books.

    GOOD POINT about the lack of King. Grr I say. I nominate Misery

    1. It totally counts, especially if they're making a list where each author can only have one entry! I mean, East of Eden should ABSOLUTELY be on that list, along with The Grapes of Wrath. It's just stupid. (I say this because of my poor showing, of course.)

      HOW DO WE HAVE THE SAME NUMBER WE KEEP DOING THAT! It's very cool. And weird. But I like it!

      Misery is so so so good. It might be the best King book in a certain way, but it's not my *favourite*. But it's very good. I realise that you know this. So yeah.

  7. Last year I wouldn't have thought twice about King not being on the list and now it's appalling. I've done a complete 180 on him after some book blogger badgering to read his stuff. So I read The Stand, The Shining, Carrie, The Green Mile, Under the Dome and some novellas... I'm sold. The man is a damn good story teller and one of the most prolific writers of our time. Never thought I'd be a King fan, but it made me realize I'd been a book snob about his stuff.

  8. Hmm. Quite a traditional-looking list, I'd say, but then I guess that's what classics are. I've read 17 of them and I've read other books by several more of the authors, plus there's several on the list I want to read. Not as good a hit rate as I usually have with these lists. Clearly I'm better at British classics than American ones.