Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Book Lists

As a rule, I've never met a "top # of anything" list that I agreed with. But just like those old VH1 countdowns, lists are great for stimulating discussion and reminding us what holes  we may have in our movie/book/music consumption. So for kicks, I've posted two lists that I use to help occasionally guide my reading. One is a list of 20th century novels in English--its compiled by the Radcliffe publishing course, whatever that is, in response to the white-man-heavy Modern Library list. 

The other is modified by me from a Columbia concentration on the 19th century british novel. It shows me which major novels in that category I have yet to read ("Barchester Towers, for one, and the non-"Vanity Fair" Thackeray stuff). I put them on the web with the novels I've read highlighted, so you can see the embarrassing gaps  and impressive things I've read.

Now I need to find a list of 50 or so pre-1900 American and European classics to round it out. Are there any?

Here's the 20th century one.


  1. Anonymous4:33 PM

    Hello! I've been a long-time lurker on your blog, and I laughed when I saw your inclusion of the Radcliffe Publishing Course's Modern Library list. I'm a graduate of the course, but now it's called that Columbia Publishing Course and it's part of Columbia's J-School. The program trains college grads to go into book and magazine publishing. I became an editorial assistant at a major publishing house when I finished the course. Here's a link:

  2. Thanks for enlightening my ignorant butt, Anonymous. the course looks really interesting. and thank you so much for reading the blog. Hope you're weathering the publishing shitstorm (just as I'm attempting to weather the journalism shitstorm ;))

  3. Hello. Outside of the usual 19th c. suggestions (Twain, Fenimore Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, H. James, Wharton, etc.), I'd suggest Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Yellow Wallpaper is a bit heavy-handed, but a novel(la) about psychology's pathologizing of women is pretty cool. Oh, and Uncle Tom's Cabin--not cuz its good; just cuz its important. Though is "important" a criterion for these lists, or are the list-builders (faceless, all-knowing) going for more...transcendental (not a 19th c. pun) notions of greatness?

  4. Also, I'm an idiot! I thought you were asking for list suggestions--as in suggestions to fill your list. But upon re-reading your post, I see that you want actual lists! My bad! I'm scouring around for a 19th c. list, though. 19th c. fiction is my bete-noir and I hope to slay it this summer.

  5. Anonymous8:58 PM

    For now: keep this on your PBS Calendar and sorry for the over-commenting:

  6. Not at all! I welcome the over-commenting. I agree re: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and uncle tom's Cabin, I actually enjoyed Uncle Tom's a lot when I first read it. Yes it's not brilliant, but it's written so fervently. As for 19th C. American fiction, there's just not as much going on there as there was across the pond...but Hawthorne and Melville were the bomb. And I have a fondness for LM Alcott, too, both her thrillers and children's lit.

    Thanks for the PBS link. that sounds awesome.

  7. Those are great lists and I believe I shall borrow them for myself. I already have quite a few of these on my Cybook (free public domain texts FTW) and I read quite a few on the 20th century list in college, when my reading preferences were rather different than they are now (and I was taking classes in 20th century American literature, which believe it or not was my concentration).

    Here's a book that might be helpful:

    I might have to get it myself. :-) I've really developed an interest in the literature of that time period.

  8. @Mags
    1-It's hilarious that you majored in 20th century American lit.
    2-I'm getting in to the 18th century too. I've basically only read Defoe and although I've read a lot about books like Clarissa and Tristram Shandy and Tom Jones I haven't tackled them. It would be a great summer project. Thanks for the heads up on that book.

  9. My major actually was English with a concentration in fiction writing, but they expected us to concentrate in one area in our lit studies. I was going through an enthusiasm for The Great Gatsby at that time and was trying really hard to like Hemingway and Faulkner so I kind of stayed around the same area. I didn't read any Jane Austen till I was nearly 30--though I had read the Brontes and dabbled in other 19th century authors.

    A couple of years ago I was going to read the 18th century authors Jane Austen would have read (Burney, Richardson, Edgeworth, etc.) as a summer reading program but didn't follow through. I'm still working my way through the Horrid Novels, too.

  10. "trying really hard to like Hemingway and Faulkner" LOLOL. that sums up so much.

  11. I KNEW I'd seen an online list of great books...might not be comprehensive but it's a place to start. has the links to the pages with the lists:

    And here's the 18th century list:

    A lot of those books are available as free downloads from Manybooks and other ebook sites.