Wednesday, October 3, 2018

100 Novels, Round 5


Every 100 novels I take a moment to journal what I’ve read, how my reading habits have changed, and crunch some stats. Last round was back in July 2016. I’m back now (Oct 2018) to report on round 5.

Last round I focused on ancient classics and plays. This round I focused on female authors and short stories. A few thoughts on both follow.

Only 29% and 22% of the novels in the previous rounds were written by women. I don’t think of myself as consciously sexist (I’m sure not many people do), but my overall novel reading is very gender skewed. I explicitly try to keep a varied and balanced diet of genre, style, date, country of origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but I’ve probably put more focus on nationality than anything else. (Admittedly, my “balanced diet” claims break down when it comes to non-fiction, an aversion which I can't defend, but isn't about to change.) Reading older books pre-dating when women had even remotely equal opportunities to write and publish, years of “classics” as defined by pre-culture war gatekeepers, and differences in how books are marketed that continue to this day, are my go-to excuses.

This round I decided to maintain at least gender parity; finishing 55% women. I was curious to see if my overall quality ratings would change, more for what it would say about me than about the authors. Two thirds of the books I rated as “excellent” were by women (above what chance would predict), but also two thirds of the books I rated as “bad.” I suspect at least two things were at play: I was reading a lot of masterpieces that I’d previously overlooked because of personal or cultural gender bias, but also taking gambles on less likely bets trawling for overlooked greats. I have very little insight into which works I am failing to connect with because of a gender barrier in how I approach or appreciate literature so feel free to weigh in.

Books let us briefly walk in the shoes of others, but I believe there is also value in ensuring that everyone experiences the recognition of familiar people, practices, and circumstances in books read during schooling. I’m interested in opinions on how curricula and canons can develop with this in mind. Current discourse treats this as a zero-sum game, but some balance is clearly possible. For me, this round included resonating with new favorites Sigrid Undset, Nella Larsen, Eileen Chang, Isabel Allende, and Elena Ferrante while still enjoying “traditionally masculine” (and sometime publicly asshole-ish) authors like Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Marlon James.

As for short stories, here, once again, is a whole medium that I've disregarded and maligned (see previous victims: graphic novels and plays), and to whom I now issue a formal apology. Really diving into short stories, understanding their history, seeing how they differ in pacing, effect, and construction, and experiencing some of the form’s highlights, has been highly rewarding. While I scrupulously logged hundreds of individual stories (because, duh, this is me), I’ll save that for another post. For now I'll just mention that I finally read Rock Springs, the Pulitzer prize-winning short story collection set in the titular town where I briefly lived between rounds 2 and 3. It was fine.

My book club attendance is in a slump at the moment with the only semi-regular gig being Chance’s book club. The ratings there have batted a bit below average, including my own selections, but the friends, discussions, variety, and themed-food compensate.

The stats:
US: 37
UK: 24
Canada, New Zealand, Russia: 3
Austria, Chile, China, France, Japan, Nigeria: 2
Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belize, Botswana, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Senegal, South Korea, Ukraine: 1

This was my first time reading novels from New Zealand, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Botswana, Guatemala, Jamaica, South Korea, and Ukraine. I’m at 59 countries, on my way to my goal of 100, despite an increasing tendency towards English-language novels.

I’ve seen movie adaptation of only 10 of these books, a record low. Of these, I would only strongly recommend three: Rebecca, Arrival (based on Story of Your Life), and The Handmaiden (based on Fingersmith).

Overall favorite: The Naked and the Dead
Best SF: The Wall & The Stories of Your Life and Other Stories
Best fantasy: The Name of the Wind
Best crime fiction: Rebecca & A Brief History of Seven Killings
Best romance: The Bone People, Kristin Lavransdatter & (with only a tinge of guilt) The Time Traveler's Wife
Best horror: The Willows
Best graphic novel: Beautiful Darkness
Best play: How I Learned to Drive
Best short story collection: Interpreter of Maladies & Burning Chrome
Best obscurity: The Seven Who Were Hanged (a Russian silver age novella revisiting Tolstoy’s themes from The Death of Ivan Ilyich. A wealthy politician, five terrorists, a criminal sociopath, and a violent madman confront death.)
Best premise: S. (Two aficionados of a reclusive author begin a friendship in the margins, literally, of his mysterious adventure tale), Beggars in Spain (Genetics creates a generation that no longer needs sleep), & Death and the Penguin (An obituary writer and his adopted penguin, a refugee of a Soviet state-run zoo, become entangled with the mafia)
Most wasted premise: The Invisible Library
Best story: Possession
Best character: Oblomov
Best prose: The Shipping News
Best structure: The Luminaries & The President
Most difficult: Blood and Guts in High School & 2666
Longest: 2666 & Kristin Lavransdatter
Funniest: The Code of the Woosters
Angriest: A Thousand Acres
Weirdest: The Palm-Wine Drinkard
Most fun: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Most depressing: The Seven Who Were Hanged & Rickshaw Boy
Most energetic: Like Water for Chocolate & Satanic Verses
Most emotional: The Neapolitan Quartet (sidenote: the individual volumes are in a 4-way tie for worst cover art) & Half a Lifelong Romance
Most ambiguous: The Luminaries
Most decadent: Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli
Most disappointing: Primeval and Other Times
Best title: Some Prefer Nettles

Key:
** Excellent
* Very Good
[blank] Fair to Good
^  Bad  

The List:

1353: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (Italy) ^
1778: Evelina by Frances Burney (UK) ^
1794: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (UK) ^
1818: Persuasion by Jane Austen (UK) *
1846: The Devil's Pool by George Sand (France) ^
1852: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (USA)
1859: Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov (Russia) **
1873: The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskov (Russia) ^
1876: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (UK) *
1890: The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen (UK)
1907: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood (UK) *
1908: The Seven Who Were Hanged by Leonid Andreyev (Russia) **
1920: Cheri by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (France)
1922: The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (New Zealand) *
1922: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (Norway) **
1926: Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli by Ronald Firbank (UK) *
1927: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (Germany) *
1928: The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (UK) *
1929: Passing by Nella Larsen (USA) **
1929: Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japan) *
1931: The Waves by Virginia Woolf (UK)
1932: Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (Austria) *
1933: The President by Miguel Angel Asturias (Guatemala) *
1933: Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers (UK)
1933: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (USA) ^
1936: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (USA) ^
1937: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (Azerbaijan) *
1937: Rickshaw Boy by Lao She (China) *
1938: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (UK) *
1938: The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse (UK) *
1939: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (UK)
1941: Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (USA) ^
1948: Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang (China) *
1948: The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (USA) **
1952: The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola (Nigeria)
1953: Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (UK)
1954: Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandala (India) *
1956: A Death in the Family by James Agee (USA) **
1956: Zama by Antonio di Benedetto (Argentina) ^
1957: The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi (Japan) *
1957: The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (USA) *
1960: The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien (Ireland) *
1962: The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer (USA) *
1963: The Wall by Marlen Haushofer (Austria) **
1964: The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning (UK) ^
1967: Ice by Anna Kavan (UK)
1969: Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock (UK)
1969: Them by Joyce Carol Oates (USA) **
1970: Time and Again by Jack Finney (USA) ^
1972: The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty (USA) **

1973: A Question of Power by Bessie Head (Botswana)
1981: So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (Senegal)
1982: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Chile) **
1982: Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell (Belize) *
1984: Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker (USA) ^
1984: The Wasp Factory by Iain M. Banks (UK)
1984: Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (UK) *
1984: The Bone People by Keri Hulme (New Zealand) **
1985: Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade by Assia Djebar (Algeria)
1986: Burning Chrome by William Gibson (Canada) *
1986: Replay by Ken Grimwood (USA) *
1987: Rock Springs by Richard Ford (USA)
1987: The Bonfire of the Vanitites by Tom Wolfe (USA) **
1988: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (Canada) **
1988: Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (UK) *
1989: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico) *
1990: Possession by A.S. Byatt (UK) **
1991: Regeneration by Pat Barker (USA) *
1991: Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold (USA)
1991: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (USA) **
1993: Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress (USA)
1993: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (USA) **
1995: The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (Canada) *
1995: The Door by Magda Szabo (Hungary) *
1996: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine) *
1996: Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland) ^
1997: Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill (USA) *
1999: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (USA) **
2000: Pastoralia by George Saunders (USA)
2002: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (USA) **
2002: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (USA) *
2002: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (UK) *
2003: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffengger (USA) *
2004: 2666 by Roberto Bolano (Chile) *
2005: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (USA)
2006: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) *
2007: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea) *
2007: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (USA) *
2009: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (UK)
2011: Wool by Hugh Howey (USA)
2011: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (USA) ^
2012: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (USA) **
2013: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (New Zealand) **
2013: S. by Doug Dorst (USA) *
2014: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Jamaica) *
2015: The Sellout by Paul Beatty (USA)
2015: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (UK) ^
2015: The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante (USA) **
2015: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (USA) ^
2016: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (USA) *

Plays

1518: The Mandrake by Niccolo Machiavelli (Italy) ^
1623: The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare (UK) *
1773: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (Ireland) *
1779: Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (Germany) **
1892: The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen (Norway) *
1902: The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky (Russia)
1908: The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgium) *
1924: Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey (Ireland) ^
1953: Picnic by William Inge (USA) ^
1955: The Trojan War Will Not Take Place by Jean Giraudoux (France) *
1956: Look Back in Anger by John Osborne (UK) ^
1960: A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt (UK) *
1970: Dream on Monkey Mountain by Derek Walcott (Saint Lucia)
1972: Information for Foreigners by Griselda Gambaro (Argentina) ^
1975: American Buffalo by David Mamet (USA) *
1978: Buried Child by Sam Shepard (USA) *
1997: How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel (USA) **
2004: Fat Pig by Neil Labute (USA)

Graphic Novels:

1989: Batman: Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison (UK)
2004: We3 by Grant Morrison (UK)
2005: Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott (Switzerland) ^
2006: The Photographer by Emmanuel/Didier Guibert/Lefevre (France)
2006: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan (USA) *
2007: Laika by Nick Abadzis (UK)
2012: Dockwood by Jon McNaught (UK)
2014: Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann/Kerascoet (France) **


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

100 Novels, Round 4

Hey all! Back after 2 years with another round of 100 novels. I wish I was reading more consistently, but this probably represents a pace I can actually maintain.

Over the course of round 3 I took part in my first two book clubs: Kelly Pappageorge’s excellent Women Authors book club and the small Vacek-Josh book club, consisting of only my father, brother, friend Josh and myself. With both Kelly and Josh having moved away, these closed shop, but other doors opened. I joined the St. Louis Science Fiction book club at the Clayton public library, met the wonderful Chance and joined his book club, and started GNIFty, a graphic novel and interactive fiction club, along with friends Sarah S. and Emre.


In addition, I enjoyed reading and discussing 2015’s Hugo nominees for science fiction with friends Ben and Katie W. It was the first year I’ve taken part in voting. Though it was inspired by a low-point in the SF community (a sabotage campaign by embittered right-wing internet trolls), it was fun to get back into my favorite genre. I managed 20 SF works and 6 fantasy; more than in recent memory.

This last round I also delved deeper into plays than ever before. For several months I was reading them exclusively, although I've found foreign plays very hard to track down in libraries. I’ve also made graphic novels a major part of my reading diet. I’ve decided to start listing them separately.

I fulfilled a goal of reading several major ancient classics by the likes of Homer, Virgil and Milton, as well as modern works that rely on an awareness of these and more prose poetry in general. I'd like to get into some ancient Eastern works at some point in the future (but they're all so long!).

The usual statistics:
US: 33
UK: 19
France: 5
Russia: 4
Canada: 3
Argentina, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Sweden: 2
Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Zimbabwe: 1

This was my first time reading novels from Belgium, China, Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. At this point I’m half way to my goal of reading a novel from 100 countries. I’m seriously considering a Novel Atlas (similar to the Film Atlas), though it is a very long term project.

I’ve seen movie adaptation of 19 of these books. Of them, I might argue that Casino Royale, Tom Jones, and The Guide are better than their sources. The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne (adapted from Jacques the Fatalist), several of the many Dangerous Liaisons adaptions and Doctor Zhivago are also quite good. The 15 hour Berlin Alexanderplatz miniseries, however, was a colossal waste of time.

I find that despite a conscious effort to read more women authors, authors of color and authors who identify as LGBT, I’m still not doing a terribly good job. Of the 100 novels in this round, only 29 are by women (which is at least up from 22 last round, despite being in a women author book club). I’ve recently started tracking my progress on two awesome lists: Feminista’s 100 20th century novels by women and The Publishing Triangle’s 100 best lesbian and gay novels, which are filling in some of my blind spots.


Overall favorite: Voss
Best SF: Permutation City and The Sparrow
Best fantasy: American Gods and A Game of Thrones
Best crime fiction: Shadow without a Name and Kiss of the Spider Woman
Best graphic novel: Are You My Mother? and Ghost World
Best play: The Tragedy of Man (tragedy) and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (comedy)
Best romance: Dangerous Liaisons and The Passion
Best obscurities: Aniara (Swedish existentialist epic poem about a runaway spaceship) and Pointed Roofs (Unfairly neglected modernist work that gave birth to the “stream of consciousness” style)
Best premise: Zoo City (A Johannesburg detective and her sloth work a missing persons case in a future where criminals are bonded to animal familiars)
Most wasted premise: Accelerando
Best story: The Goldfinch and House of Suns
Best prose: Independent People and The Summer Book
Best structure: A Visit from the Goon Squad and I’m Not Stiller
Most Difficult: The Recognitions and The Death of Virgil
Longest: A Dance to the Music of Time (3013 pages)
Funniest: Cold Comfort Farm and The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Angriest: The Elementary Particles and Woman at Point Zero
Weirdest sex: Bear
Most fun: The Martian
Most depressing: The Land of Green Plums
Most energetic: The Sot-Weed Factor
Most emotional: Independent People
Most ambiguous: Pedro Paramo and The Southern Reach Trilogy
Most decadent: Against Nature
Most disappointing: The Castle
Best bookclub discussion of a book I liked: Are You My Mother?
Best bookclub discussion of a book I disliked: Geek Love
Best title: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

Key:
** Excellent
* Very Good
[blank] Fair to Good
^  Bad  

The List:

-710: The Iliad by Homer (Greece)
-700: The Odyssey by Homer (Greece) *
-19: The Aeneid by Virgil (Italy) *
1664: Paradise Lost by John Milton (UK) *
1749: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (UK)
1780: Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (France) *
1782: Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (France) **
1839: The Charterhouse of Parma by Marie-Henri Stendhal (France)
1840: A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (Russia) **
1854: Walden by Henry David Thoreau (USA)
1883: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (UK) *
1884: Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (France) *
1891: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (UK) *
1899: Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (Brazil) *
1904: The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton (UK) *
1908: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (UK) *
1910: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke (Czech)
1911: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (USA)
1914: Kokoro by Natsume Soseki (Japan) *
1915: Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson (UK) *
1926: The Castle by Franz Kafka (Czech) ^
1929: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin (Germany) **
1930: The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov (Russia) ^
1932: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (UK)
1932: Light in August by William Faulkner (USA) *
1934: Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara (USA)
1934: Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (USA) **
1935: Independent People by Halldor Laxness (Iceland) **
1938: On the Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleza (Croatia) *
1940: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (Argentina) *
1945: Pippi Longstockings by Astrid Lindgren (Sweden) ^
1945: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (Canada)
1945: The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch (Austria) *
1946: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (UK)
1951: The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela (Spain) **
1951: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (Belgium) **
1952: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (USA) *
1953: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (UK)
1954: I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch (Switzerland) **
1955: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo (Mexico) **
1955: The Recognitions by William Gaddis (USA) *
1956: Aniara by Harry Martinson (Sweden) *
1956: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (USA) *
1957: Voss by Patrick White (Australia) **
1957: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (Russia) *
1958: The Once and Future King by T.H. White (UK) ^
1958: The Guide by R.K. Narayan (India) *
1960: God's Bit of Wood by Ousmane Sembene (Senegal) **
1960: The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth (USA)
1965: The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o (Kenya)
1966: Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (Sudan) *
1966: To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia (Italy) *
1969: The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (UK) **
1970: Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedikt Erofeev (Russia) ^
1970: Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume (USA)
1972: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Finland) **
1975: A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (UK) *
1975: Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt) *
1976: Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Argentina) **
1976: Bear by Marian Engel (Canada) *
1977: Falconer by John Cheever (USA) *
1979: Kindred by Octavia Butler (USA) **
1979: On Wings of Song by Thomas M Disch (USA) ^
1980: The Color Purple by Alice Walker (USA) *
1984: Cassandra by Christa Wolf (Germany) *
1984: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (USA) **
1985: Eon by Greg Bear (USA) *
1986: The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (USA) *
1987: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks (UK) ^
1987: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (UK) **
1988: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
1989: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (USA) *
1989: Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh (USA)
1989: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (USA) ^
1994: Permutation City by Greg Egan (Australia) **
1994: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller (Romania) **
1996: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (USA) **
1997: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (USA) **
1998: The Elementary Particles / Atomized by Michel Houellebecq (France) *
2000: Shadow Without a Name by Ignacio Padilla (Mexico) **
2000: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (UK) **
2001: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (USA) **
2004: River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Ireland)
2005: Accelerando by Charles Stross (UK) ^
2006: Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan (China)
2008: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (China)
2008: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (UK) **
2010: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (South Africa) *
2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (USA) **
2011: The Martian by Andy Weir (USA) *
2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (USA)
2012: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (USA)
2012: The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan (USA) ^
2013: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (USA) *
2013: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (UK) *
2013: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (USA) **
2013: The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (USA) *
2014: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (USA)
2014: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Canada) *
2014: Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (USA) *

Plays

-458: The Oresteia by Aeschylus (Greece)
-442: Antigone by Sophocles (Greece) *
-431: Medea by Euripides (Greece)
-411: Lysistrata by Aristophanes (Greece) ^
400: Shakuntala by Kalidasa (India) *
1510: Everyman by Anonymous (UK) ^
1592: Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (UK) ^
1602: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (UK)
1605: Volpone, or The Foxe by Ben Jonson (UK) *
1619: Fuenteovejuna by Felix Lope de Vega (Spain) ^
1635: Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca (Spain) **
1637: Le Cid by Pierre Corneille (France) *
1666: The Misanthrope by Jean-Baptiste Moliere (France) **
1677: The Rover by Aphra Behn (UK) *
1700: The Way of the World by William Congreve (UK) ^
1721: The Love Suicides at Amijima by Monzaemon Chikamatsu (Japan)
1746: Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni (Italy)
1773: The Barber of Seville by Pierre Beaumarchais (France)
1777: The School for Scandal by Robert Brinsley Sheridan (Ireland) *
1778: The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais (France) *
1799: Wallenstein by Friedrich Schiller (Germany) **
1837: Woyzeck by Georg Buchner (Germany) *
1842: The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol (Russia) ^
1859: The Storm by Alexander Ostrovsky (Russia) ^
1861: The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madach (Hungary) **
1884: The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen (Norway) **
1891: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind (Germany) *
1895: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (Ireland) *
1897: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (France) **
1897: The Round by Arthur Schnitzler (Austria)
1904: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (UK) *
1907: The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge (Ireland) *
1913: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (Ireland) **
1921: The Verge by Susan Glaspell (USA) *
1928: The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman (Russia) *
1930: Private Lives by Noel Coward (UK)
1932: Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca (Spain)
1934: Thunderstorm by Cao Yu (China) *
1934: The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman (USA) *
1938: The Imposter by Rodolfo Usigli (Mexico) **
1943: The Wedding Dress by Nelson Rodrigues (Brazil) **
1944: The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht (Germany) *
1950: The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco (France) *
1957: The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (UK)
1959: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (USA) **
1962: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (USA) *
1964: Tango by Slawomir Mrozek (Poland) *
1964: Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss (Germany) *
1970: The Burdens by John Ruganda (Uganda) *
1973: The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn (UK) *
1975: Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)
1980: True West by Sam Shepard (USA) **
1982: Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (UK) **
1982: Master Harold… and the Boys by Athol Fugard (South Africa) *
1983: Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet (USA) *
1985: Fences by August Wilson (USA) **
1987: The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (USA) ^
1988: M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (USA) **
1990: Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman (Chile) **
1990: Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare (USA) **
1991: Angels in America by Tony Kushner (USA) **
1993: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (UK) **
1994: Art by Yasmina Reza (France) *
1995: Wit by Margaret Edson (USA) **
2001: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (Ireland) **
2004: The History Boys by Alan Bennett (UK) **
2010: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris (USA) **

Graphic Novels:

1959: Tintin in Tibet by Herge (Belgium)
1970: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki (Japan)
1986: Batman (compilation) by Frank Miller (USA) *
1992: Flood by Eric Drooker (USA) ^
1995: The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (UK) *
1996: From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (UK) **
1997: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes (USA) **
1998: Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (UK)
1999: Uzumaki by Junji Ito (Japan) *
2000: David Boring by Daniel Clowes (USA)
2000: Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco (USA) **
2000: Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Spain) **
2002: One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry (USA)
2003: What I Did: Hey, Wait... / Sshhhh! / The Iron Wagon by Jason Saeteroy (Norway)
2003: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran) **
2003: Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar (USA) *
2005: Black Hole by Charles Burns (USA)
2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Australia) *
2008: Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre (USA)
2009: Stitches by David Small (USA) *
2011: Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Brazil) **
2012: Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel (USA) **
2013: Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil (USA) **
2013: The Property by Rutu Modan (Israel)
2014: Here by Richard McGuire (USA) *
2014: Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Canada) *
2015: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua (UK) *

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Favorite 100 Novels

I've been meaning to post this for a while. Years ago I got together with a group of friends to argue over a top 50 novels. It was a great exercise, full of impassioned defenses of various books, authors, and even approaches to literature. I got a lot of recommendations out of it and it started me thinking about which works gave me a thoroughly enjoyable read, changed me as a person, taught me something new, provided a fresh perspective, challenged my intellect, taxed my emotions, tickled my odd sense of humor, confronted or confirmed my opinions, and served as fuel for further discussions.

Years have passed. I've read a lot more books. I've had a lot more discussions about them. Some of my tastes have changed, others remain the same. Many I still haven't had the time to reread and reevaluate. But more than ever, I still love literature and value it.

I finally sat down and created this list alone and without overthinking it (I failed). I didn't try to do "best," "most influential," "most representative" or anything like that. I don't make any claim beyond that these are my favorites at this point in my life.

A lot of my biases are on display, based on what I've been exposed to (more white male English-language writers than a truly well-read person would have) and what I like (science-fiction and 20th century international classics). A few favorite authors didn't make the cut: William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen, Christopher Priest, Franz Kafka. Other big names are absent on purpose: James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur C Clarke, D.H. Lawrence. There will always be more worthwhile books than can fit on a top 100 list.

Anyway, enjoy! And share a few of your favorites back at me if you get a chance.


And now, in chronological order with a limit of one book per author:
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1767, UK) Comedy
  • Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782, France) Romance
  • Father Goriot by Honore de Balzac (1835, France) 
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (1846, France) Adventure
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851, US) Adventure
  • Bleakhouse by Charles Dickens (1853, UK) 
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862, France) 
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1865, UK) Fantasy
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872, UK) Romance
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877, Russia) Romance
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880, Russia) Crime
  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881, UK) Romance
  • Germinal by Emile Zola (1885, France) 
  • Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902, UK) Crime
  • Nostromo by Joseph Conrad (1904, UK) Adventure
  • Howards End by E.M. Forster (1910, UK) 
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915, UK) 
  • The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (1918, US) War
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920, US) Romance
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1920, US) 
  • The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1921, UK) 
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925, UK)  
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B Traven (1927, Germany) Adventure
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin (1929, Germany) Crime
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929, US) Crime
  • A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (1929, UK) Adventure
  • Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald (1934, US) Romance
  • The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz (1934, Poland) Magical Realism
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936, US) Romance
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (1940, Australia) 
  • The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (1940, Ireland) Fantasy
  • Embers by Sandor Marai (1942, Hungary) 
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945, UK) 
  • All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946, US) 
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947, Canada) 
  • 1984 by George Orwell (1949, UK) SF
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951, US) 
  • The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela (1951, Spain) 
  • Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (1951, Belgium) 
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (1952, US) Southern Gothic
  • I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch (1954, Switzerland) Crime
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955, UK) Crime
  • Voss by Patrick White (1957, Australia) Adventure
  • Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet (1957, France)  
  • Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Boll (1959, Germany) 
  • The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (1959, Germany) Magical Realism
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961, US) War
  • The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes (1961, Mexico) 
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962, US)  
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1962, US) 
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962, UK)  
  • Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe (1962, Japan) 
  • Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar (1963, Argentina)  
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre (1963, UK) Crime
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (1965, US) SF
  • The Magus by John Fowles (1965, UK) Adventure
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967, Colombia) Magical Realism
  • Ubik by Philip K Dick (1969, US) SF
  • Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1971, US) Romance
  • Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (1971, Canada) 
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jannson (1972, Finland)
  • Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973, US) War
  • Past Continuous by Yaakov Shabtai (1977, Israel) 
  • If On a Winter’s Night A Traveler… by Italo Calvino (1979, Italy) Magical Realism
  • A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul (1979, UK) 
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (1980, US) SF
  • Housekeeping by Marlynne Robinson (1980, US) 
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (1980, US) 
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (1981, UK) Magical Realism
  • Startide Rising by David Brin (1984, US) SF
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984, Czech Republic) Romance
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985, US) Adventure
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985, US) Comedy
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987, US) Magical Realism
  • The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1987, US) SF
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988, Australia) Romance
  • The Melancholy of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (1989, Hungary) 
  • Wise Children by Angela Carter (1991, UK) 
  • The Notebook, the Proof, the Third Lie by Agota Kristof (1991, Hungary) War
  • A Heart So White by Javier Marias (1992, Spain) Romance
  • Red Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (1993, US) SF
  • Permutation City by Greg Egan (1994, Australia) SF
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (1995, UK) Fantasy
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996, US) SF
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (1996, US) SF
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997, US) 
  • Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999, South Africa) 
  • Shadow Without a Name by Ignacio Padilla (2000, Mexico) War
  • A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (2000, US) SF
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000, Canada) Romance
  • Under the Skin by Michel Faber (2000, UK) SF
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000, US)
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001, US) 
  • Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald (2001, Germany)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001, US) Fantasy
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001, UK) War
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004, UK) SF
  • Fun Home and Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel (2006, US)
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009, UK)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010, US)