Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Greatest Books of All Time, as Voted by 125 Famous Authors

I love lists of all kinds. The problem is only, that I make a list, and then I never use or go back to it. It is just a pleasure to make the list in the first place. Maybe it gives me a sense of being in control of things? When it comes to my book lists, which I share on my blog, I tend to be more careful and go back from time to time to update.

In Pinterest I found this picture which made me a little bit curious. When I clicked on it I came to Brain Pickings where I found the article behind it. 125 writers have chosen their top ten books according to certain criteria. The writers are British and American including among others Norman Mailer, Ann Patchett, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Joyce Carol Oates. They have been asked  “to provide a list, ranked, in order, of what [they] consider the ten greatest works of fiction of all time– novels, story collections, plays, or poems.” 544 separate titles were selected and the writers should choose according to some given definitions. A short list of these definitions could look like:

"1. ‘Great’ means ‘books that have been greatest for me.’
2. ‘Great’ means ‘books that would be considered great by the most people over time.’
3. ‘Great’ has nothing to do with you or me — or people at all. It involves transcendental concepts like God or the Sublime.
4. ‘Great’? I like Tom Clancy.
From David Foster Wallace (#1: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis) toStephen King (#1: The Golden Argosy, a 1955 anthology of the best short stories in the English language), the collection offers a rare glimpse of the building blocks of great creators’ combinatorial creativity — because, as Austin Kleon put it, “you are a mashup of what you let into your life.”


1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
4. Ulysses by James Joyce
5. Dubliners by James Joyce
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
9. The complete stories of Flannery O’Connor
10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov


1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
5. The stories of Anton Chekhov
6. Middlemarch by George Eliot
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
10. Emma by Jane Austen


1. William Shakespeare — 11
2. William Faulkner — 6
3. Henry James — 6
4. Jane Austen — 5
5. Charles Dickens — 5
6. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 5
7. Ernest Hemingway — 5
8. Franz Kafka — 5
9. (tie) James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Mark           Twain, Virginia Woolf — 4


1. Leo Tolstoy — 327
2. William Shakespeare — 293
3. James Joyce — 194
4. Vladimir Nabokov — 190
5. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 177
6. William Faulkner — 173
7. Charles Dickens — 168
8. Anton Chekhov — 165
9. Gustave Flaubert — 163
10. Jane Austen — 161

From the books I have only read:
Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment. From the authors Henry James is a favourite as well as Jane Austen (the only woman among all the men!). I have also read Hemingway, Kafka, and Dickens.

What do you think? Any ideas?

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