Sorry to those who are here for the Japan stuff – not much is happening to me right now (though I hopefully will be going to Tokyo next weekend), so I’ve decided that it’s book week here at Haecceity. It was that or B movie week and literature is at least marginally more sophisticated than John Carpenter movies. I talked about The Beautiful and Damned last night, along with my top 5 American novels, so today I’m back with my personal list of the top 10 greatest novels in the English language. It’s biased, obviously, but these are the novels I think are well and truly exceptional.
So, these are my top 10, in no particular order:
1. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (American, 1925)
2. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller (American, 1961)
3. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (English, 1925)
4. On the Road – Jack Kerouac (American, 1957)
5. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (Canadian, 2000)
6. Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon (American, 1973)
7. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (English, 1932)
8. A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh (English, 1934)
9. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut (American, 1969)
10. Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence (English, 1913)
And, just for funsies, my top 10 favorite novels, which aren’t the same:
1. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (English, 1945) *
2. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (American, 1925)
3. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller (American, 1961)
4. Dune – Frank Herbert (American, 1965)
5. Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner (American, 1994)
6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami (Japanese, 1997)
7. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (English, 1890)
8. American Gods – Neil Gaiman (American, 2001)
9. Orlando – Virginia Woolf (English, 1928) **
10. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut (American, 1969)
*Despite the fact that the other 9 are in no particular order, Brideshead Revisited goes at the top because it is undisputed as my favorite novel of all time. You will note, however, that while Waugh is on the first list, it’s for another one of his novels. A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited are very different, but if you’re only going to read one of his books, go for the satire.
**When deciding which Woolf novel to put on the first list, I went with Mrs Dalloway because I think it arguably is a better novel. I, however, love Orlando just a bit more.
So those are my picks for the general English language category, and the books-I-never-get-sick-of category. Clearly these are not objective by any means, but there was a really wide range to choose from. Some, like The Berlin Stories (Christopher Isherwood) and White Noise (Don DeLillo), were close, but just didn’t quite make the list.