Listening to the Listmakers

Admit it: We love lists - serious or silly - and we always have.

Americans declared their independence with a list.

Senator McCarthy threw the nation into turmoil with a list.

And last week, a long list of people were abuzz about the 100 greatest 20th-century novels in English.

The first ranking came from the editorial board of the Modern Library, a division of Random House, which is owned by the German Bertelsmann group. (You should see a list of what they own. But that's another story.)

The Modern Library judges included nine men and one woman, a gender ratio that also shows up in their list of books. Only eight women made the cut.

Their list includes 58 books by Americans, 39 by Englishmen, and three by Irish writer James Joyce. Writers from Canada, India, Australia, South Africa, and other English-speaking countries were eligible, but none was chosen.

Even before the pundits could draw up a list of complaints, students in a six-week publishing course at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., released their own ranking.

The mostly female graduate students agreed with their elders on less than half the titles. Besides including far more books by women and minorities, they also chose three children's novels.

F. Scott Fitzgerald made their list four times. Only Joseph Conrad received such honor from the Modern Library editors.

A Different Vision of the 20th Century

The 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century chosen by students in the Radcliffe Publishing Course.

(*Denotes book that also appears on Random House's The Modern Library's 100 Great Books.)

1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925*

2. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger,1951*

3. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939*

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960

5. The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982

6. Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922*

7. Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987

8. The Lord of the Flies, William Golding, 1954*

9. 1984, George Orwell, 1949*

10. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929

11. Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov, 1955*

12. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937

13. Charlotte's Web, E.B. White, 1952

14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1916*

15. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961*

16. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932*

17. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945*

18. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926*

19. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, 1930*

20. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway, 1929*

21. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902

22. Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926

23. Their Eyes are Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937

24. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952*

25. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison, 1977

26. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

27. Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940*

28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey, 1962

29. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, 1969*

30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940

31. On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

32. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952

33. The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903*

34. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, 1927*

35. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, 1881

36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin, 1953*

37. The World According to Garp, John Irving, 1978

38. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946*

39. A Room with a View, E.M. Forster, 1908*

40. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954,1955, 1956

41. Schindler's List, Thomas Keneally, 1982

42. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, 1920*

43. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand, 1943

44. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, 1939*

45. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906

46. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, 1925

47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank L. Baum, 1900

48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence, 1928

49. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962

50. The Awakening, Kate Chopin, 1899

51. My Antonia, Willa Cather, 1918

52. Howard's End, E.M. Forster, 1910*

53. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1966

54. Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger, 1961

55. Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, 1988

56. Jazz, Toni Morrison, 1992

57. Sophie's Choice, William Styron, 1979*

58. Absalom, Absalom! William Faulkner, 1936

59. Passage to India, EM Forster, 1924*

60. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton, 1911

61. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor, 1955

62. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1934*

63. Orlando, Virginia Woolf, 1928

64. Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence, 1913

65. Bonfire of the Vanities, Thomas Wolfe, 1987

66. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 1963

67. A Separate Peace, John Knowles, 1959

68. Light in August, William Faulkner, 1932*

69. The Wings of the Dove, Henry James, 1902*

70. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, 1958

71. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 1938

72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1980

73. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs, 1962

74. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945*

75. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence, 1921*

76. Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe,1929

77. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway, 1925

78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias, Gertrude Stein, 1933

79. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, 1930*

80. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer, 1948*

81. The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, 1966*

82. White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1985

83. O Pioneers! Willa Cather, 1913

84. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller, 1934*

85. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, 1898

86. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad, 1900*

87. The Bostonians, Henry James, 1886

88. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser, 1925

89. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather,1927*

90. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908

91. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920

92. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957

93. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles, 1969

94. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis, 1922

95. Kim, Rudyard Kipling, 1901*

96. The Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922

97. Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960

98. Where Angels Fear to Tread, E.M. Forster, 1905

99. Main Street, Sinclair Lewis, 1920*

100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, 1981*

Send us your choices for the top 10 novels written in English this century: Books, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Listening to the Listmakers
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today