The Guardian’s 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list (from 2009)

How many of these books have you read? How many would you like to read? I’ve read a small fraction of the books on this list, but a whole lot more authors and books are missing in action. Admittedly, this list is pretty heavy on British authors.

Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.

via 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list | Books |

Under the Comedy heading, some of the books I’ve read on this list – favorites are in bold.

  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Main character is British, makes funny faces.
  • Queen Lucia by EF Benson. Main character is British, puts on airs
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. “Hunger is the best sauce.”
  • The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin. HILARIOUS British mystery. Entire series excellent.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. The book AND the movie.
  • Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding – read in college
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgkins – family member had it
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy TooleA lifetime of funny.
  • Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout (actually by Kurt Vonnegut, SF porn goodness!)
  • The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse

Under Crime, there’ll probably be a lot of listings:

  • The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren
  • Trent’s Last Case by EC Bentley
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  • Cover Her Face by PD James
  • A Taste for Death by PD James
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers
  • Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers
  • Native Son by Richard Wright – read in high school

WHAT? 5 books by Agatha Christie, and nothing by Ngaio Marsh, none of Emund Crispin’s books listed as mysteries and not comedies, and the best of Sayers, Tey, and Grisham missing? Odd.

The next category is Family and Self, so, uh.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – had to, he brought in dry cleaning to me!!
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

Strange, I read books by many of these authors, but not these particular books

Next, a category called Love. Meh.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – visited the home of the Brontes and a farm on the moor
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  • A Room with a View by EM Forster
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Pamela by Samuel Richardson
  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  • Love Story by Eric Segal

Hmm. Again, I read a lot of other books by the authors on the list. Also, a lot of dutiful assigned reading from college and high school (pretty much anything from the 18th-19th centuries was assigned, but I enjoyed most of them (Pamela and Clarissa, not so much). There are a LOT of books on this list that got made into movies, so though I may not have read them, I was familiar with them.

At last! Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here’s where I get to the good stuff.

  • The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
  • A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Erewhon by Samuel Butler
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
  • The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – what an enjoyably strange book!
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
  • Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  • The Magus by John Fowles
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein – didn’t really grok this book.
  • Dune by Frank L Herbert – I once watched Herbert make an ass of himself.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • The Earthsea Series by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin – Frank Herbert was an ass to her.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett – should read more. GREAT Second Life sim!
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – an inspiration of Second Life
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien SO much a part of my life
  • The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien Even bigger part of my life
  • Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Time Machine by HG Wells

Wow. A lot of omissions on this list. Granted, I don’t expect Keith Laumer to have fans outside of the US, but I was expecting some of the female authors, like Cherryh, Tiptree, McCaffrey, Norton, and a shipload of others.

Next, the State of the Nation. I don’t think there’s a lot here for me…

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Sister Carrie by Theodor Dreiser
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • A Passage to India by EM Forster
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovtich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

More reading assignment books, and more missing authors and titles.

Next, a category for War and Travel. Really?

  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – NOW I see why this was missing earlier
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – and this one, too
  • Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser – What a loathsome asshole Flashman is
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – Another selfish asshole. The woman dies.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope – way less interesting than the title sounded
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – my first encounter with magic realism
  • Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson – what’s this doing here?
  • A Sentimental Journey by Lawrence Sterne
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

Harrumph. I started out thinking I’d find a lot more literary friends on this list when I spotted Edmund Crispin’s “The Gilded Fly” on the Comedy list – but each list came up short on some of my favorite authors, or their most representative books. Also, the categories are somewhat arbitrary. Still, an interesting exercise.

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One thought on “The Guardian’s 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list (from 2009)

  1. At least two-thirds of the novels have been written in English, if we take into account that English-speaking about 400 million, and the world population is 7000 million. So sorry, but this list is just crap.

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