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Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels: The Board and the Reader’s Lists


Why I can’t go on Amazon anymore…

So, we all know that top 100 book lists get people riled up. Everyone has an opinion on what should and shouldn’t qualify a book for being on a booklist, and sometimes the titles that pop up on lists–even if they do meet that list’s qualifications–are a bit…befuddling (remember how Fifty Shades of Grey was #100 on Book Riot’s Zero to Well Read list? Yeah. Befuddling.). And while the Internet has made it easier for people to voice their discontent over the contents of various lists, bickering and arguing about what books should be placed on lists is hardly a recent phenomenon. In fact, back in the late 90s, people disagreed enough on top 100 book lists that there was, in essence, a battle of the book lists between Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels and Radcliffe’s Rival 100 Best novels.

Modern Library’s list was first published in July of 1998 with the intention of getting people to talk more about great books. Well, mission accomplished on that front; according to their website, over 400,000 readers went online to cast votes for getting their favorite books put onto their own Reader’s 100 list. Not only that, but students at the Radcliffe Publishing Course quickly put out their own rival top 100 list.

I’ve included both the Modern Library Board’s top 100 list as well as the Reader’s list, which was published in October of 1998, and bolded the titles that I’ve read. Both lists feature books published in the English language after 1900, so it will be missing some regular titles on these lists like Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations. Definitely compare the two and see what you think. I was personally fascinated by the Reader’s list, as there were a number of writers whose works popped up again and again. Ayn Rand, for instance, has four of her books listed right off the bat, and Charles de Lint has a whopping eight (eight!) listed.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out on Thursday for when I post Radcliffe’s Rival Top 100 list, so you can see what titles that board chose. Enjoy!

The Board’s List

  1. Ulysses~James Joyce
  2. The Great Gatsby~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man~James Joyce
  4. Lolita~Vladimir Nabokov
  5. Brave New World~Aldous Huxley
  6. The Sound and the Fury~William Faulkner
  7. Catch-22~Joseph Heller
  8. Darkness at Noon~Arthur Koestler
  9. Sons and Lovers~D. H. Lawrence
  10. The Grapes of Wrath~John Steinbeck
  11. Under the Volcano~Malcolm Lowry
  12. The Way of All Flesh~Samuel Butler
  13. 1984~George Orwell
  14. I, Claudius~Robert Graves
  15. To the Lighthouse~Virginia Woolf
  16. An American Tragedy~Theodore Dreiser
  17. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter~Carson McCullers
  18. Slaughterhouse-Five~Kurt Vonnegut
  19. Invisible Man~Ralph Ellison
  20. Native Son~Richard Wright
  21. Henderson the Rain King~Saul Bellow
  22. Appointment in Samarra~John O’Hara
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy)~John Dos Passos
  24. Winesburg, Ohio~Sherwood Anderson
  25. A Passage to India~E. M. Forster
  26. The Wings of the Dove~Henry James
  27. The Ambassadors~Henry James
  28. Tender is the Night~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. The Studs Lonigan Trilogy~James T. Farrell
  30. The Good Soldier~Ford Madox Ford
  31. Animal Farm~George Orwell
  32. The Golden Bowl~Henry James
  33. Sister Carrie~Theodore Dreiser
  34. A Handful of Dust~Evelyn Waugh
  35. As I Lay Dying~William Faulkner
  36. All the King’s Men~Robert Penn Warren
  37. The Bridge of San Luis Rey~Thornton Wilder
  38. Howards End~E. M. Forster
  39. Go Tell it on the Mountain~James Baldwin
  40. The Heart of the Matter~Graham Greene
  41. Lord of the Flies~William Golding
  42. Deliverance~James Dickey
  43. A Dance to the Music of Time (series)~Anthony Powell
  44. Point Counter Point~Aldous Huxley
  45. The Sun Also Rises~Ernest Hemingway
  46. The Secret Agent~Joseph Conrad
  47. Nostromo~Joseph Conrad
  48. The Rainbow~D. H. Lawrence
  49. Women in Love~D. H. Lawrence
  50. Tropic of Cancer~Henry Miller
  51. The Naked and the Dead~Norman Mailer
  52. Portnoy’s Complaint
  53. Pale Fire~Vladimir Nabokov
  54. Light in August~William Faulkner
  55. On the Road~Jack Kerouac
  56. The Maltese Falcon~Dashiell Hammett
  57. Parade’s End~Ford Madox Ford
  58. The Age of Innocence~Edith Wharton
  59. Zuleika Dobson~Max Beerbohm
  60. The Moviegoer~Walker Percy
  61. Death Comes for the Archbishop~Willa Cather
  62. From Here to Eternity~James Jones
  63. The Wapshot Chronicles~John Cheever
  64. The Catcher in the Rye~J. D. Salinger
  65. A Clockwork Orange~Anthony Burgess
  66. Of Human Bondage~W. Somerset Maugham
  67. Heart of Darkness~Joseph Conrad
  68. Main Street~Sinclair Lewis
  69. The House of Mirth~Edith Wharton
  70. The Alexandria Quartet~Lawrence Durell
  71. A High Wind in Jamaica~Richard Hughes
  72. A House for Mr. Biswas~V. S. Naipaul
  73. The Day of the Locust~Nathanael West
  74. A Farewell to Arms~Ernest Hemingway
  75. Scoop~Evelyn Waugh
  76. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie~Muriel Spark
  77. Finnegans Wake~James Joyce
  78. Kim~Rudyard Kipling
  79. A Room with a View~E. M. Forster
  80. Brideshead Revisited~Evelyn Waugh
  81. The Adventures of Augie March~Saul Bellow
  82. Angle of Repose~Wallace Stenger
  83. A Bend in the River~V. S. Naipaul
  84. The Death of the Heart~Elizabeth Bowen
  85. Lord Jim~Joseph Conrad
  86. Ragtime~E. L. Doctorow
  87. The Old Wives’ Tale~Arnold Bennett
  88. The Call of the Wild~Jack London
  89. Loving~Henry Green
  90. Midnight’s Children~Salman Rushdie
  91. Tobacco Road~Erskine Caldwall
  92. Ironweed~William Kennedy
  93. The Magus~John Fowles
  94. Wide Sargasso Sea~Jean Rhys
  95. Under the Net~Iris Murdoch
  96. Sophie’s Choice~William Styron
  97. The Sheltering Sky~Paul Bowles
  98. The Postman Always Rings Twice~James M. Cain
  99. The Ginger Man~J. P. Donleavy
  100. The Magnificent Ambersons~Booth Tarkington

The Reader’s List

  1. Atlas Shrugged~Ayn Rand
  2. The Fountainhead~Ayn Rand
  3. Battlefield Earth~L. Ron Hubbard
  4. The Lord of the Rings~J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird~Harper Lee
  6. 1984~George Orwell
  7. Anthem~Ayn Rand
  8. We the Living~Ayn Rand
  9. Mission Earth~L. Ron Hubbard
  10. Fear~L. Ron Hubbard
  11. Ulysses~James Joyce
  12. Catch-22~Joseph Heller
  13. The Great Gatsby~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. Dune~Frank Herbert
  15. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress~Robert Heinlein
  16. Stranger in a Strange Land~Robert Heinlein
  17. A Town Like Alice~Nevil Shute
  18. Brave New World~Aldous Huxley
  19. The Catcher in the Rye~J. D. Salinger
  20. Animal Farm~George Orwell
  21. Gravity’s Rainbow~Thomas Pynchon
  22. The Grapes of Wrath~John Steinbeck
  23. Slaughterhouse-five~Kurt Vonnegut
  24. Gone with the Wind~Margaret Mitchell
  25. Lord of the Flies~William Golding
  26. Shane~Jack Schaefer
  27. Trustee from the Toolroom
  28. A Prayer for Owen Meany~John Irving
  29. The Stand~Stephen King
  30. The French Lieutenant’s Woman~John Fowles
  31. Beloved~Toni Morrison
  32. The Worm Ouroboros~E. R. Eddison
  33. The Sound and the Fury~William Faulkner
  34. Lolita~Vladimir Nabokov
  35. Moonheart~Charles de Lint
  36. Absalom, Absalom!~William Faulkner
  37. Of Human Bondage~W. Somerset Maugham
  38. Wise Blood~Flannery O’Connor
  39. Under the Volcano~Malcolm Lowry
  40. Fifth Business~Robertson Davies
  41. Someplace to be Flying~Charles de Lint
  42. On the Road~Jack Kerouac
  43. Heart of Darkness~Joseph Conrad
  44. Yarrow~Charles de Lint
  45. At the Mountains of Madness~H. P. Lovecraft
  46. One Lonely Night~Mickey Spillane
  47. Memory and Dream~Charles de Lint
  48. To the Lighthouse~Virginia Woolf
  49. The Moviegoer~Walker Percy
  50. Trader~Charles de Lint
  51. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy~Douglas Adams
  52. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter~Carson McCullers
  53. The Handmaid’s Tale~Margaret Atwood
  54. Blood Meridian~Cormac McCarthy
  55. A Clockwork Orange~Anthony Burgess
  56. On the Beach~Nevil Shute
  57. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man~James Joyce
  58. Greenmantle~Charles de Lint
  59. Ender’s Game~Orson Scott Card
  60. The Little Country~Charles de Lint
  61. The Recognitions~William Gaddis
  62. Starship Troopers~Robert Heinlein
  63. The Sun Also Rises~Ernest Hemingway
  64. The World According to Garp~John Irving
  65. Something Wicked This Way Comes~Ray Bradbury
  66. The Haunting of Hill House~Shirley Jackson
  67. As I Lay Dying~William Faulkner
  68. Tropic of Cancer~Henry Miller
  69. Invisible Man~Ralph Ellison
  70. The Wood Wife~Terri Windling
  71. The Magus~John Fowles
  72. The Door Into Summer~Robert Heinlein
  73. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance~Robert Pirsig
  74. I, Claudius~Robert Graves
  75. The Call of the Wild~Jack London
  76. At Swim-Two-Birds~Flann O’Brien
  77. Fahrenheit 451~Ray Bradbury
  78. Arrowsmith~Sinclair Lewis
  79. Watership Down~Richard Adams
  80. Naked Lunch~William S. Burroughs
  81. The Hunt for Red October~Tom Clancy
  82. Guilty Pleasures~Laurell K. Hamilton
  83. The Puppet Masters~Robert Heinlein
  84. IT~Stephen King
  85. V.~Thomas Pynchon
  86. Double Stat~Robert Heinlein
  87. Citizens of the Galaxy~Robert Heinlein
  88. Brideshead Revisited~Evelyn Waugh
  89. Light in August~William Faulkner
  90. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest~Ken Kesey
  91. A Farewell to Arms~Ernest Hemingway
  92. The Sheltering Sky~Paul Bowles
  93. Sometimes a Great Notion~Ken Kesey
  94. My Antonia~Willa Cather
  95. Mulengro~Charles de Lint
  96. Suttree~Cormac McCarthy
  97. Mythago Wood~Robert Holdstock
  98. Illusions~Richard Bach
  99. The Cunning Man~Robertson Davies
  100. The Satanci Verses~Salman Rushdie

2 thoughts on “Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels: The Board and the Reader’s Lists

  1. Pingback: Radcliffe’s Rival 100 Best Novels | The Bewildered 20-Something Writer

  2. Pingback: Friday Funday: David Bowie’s Top 100 Books | The Bewildered 20-Something Writer

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