All-TIME 100 Novels

Critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME.

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214 comments
SeanLedden
SeanLedden

Gone With The Wind??? The Grand Old South??? So it's quintessentially American - like "Mein Kampf" is quintessentially German?  (For the record, I tried reading this some 25 years ago. The appalling condescension it displayed towards its black characters proved too much for me, and I stopped somewhere around page 60. One "adorable" example I remember is how Negroes, children and animals see through Mr. O'Hara's bluster, and understand he's really a softie.)

asexualdynamics
asexualdynamics

I am of the opinion that Narnia and The Lord of the Rings should leave. This is, however, just my opinion. Coetzee's Disgrace deserves a place.

dumbitch
dumbitch

They didn't put Harry Potter on the list because it was written by a WOMAN. Down with the patriarchy!

phillipaj
phillipaj

I'm surprised to see so many people saying Harry Potter belongs on this list...that is laughable to me. Harry Potter is decent enough for 13 year olds to get into reading, but as far as calling it a classic piece of literature that will be read for hundreds of years? Doubtful. Harry Potter is not some deep, profound literature...you can take everything at face value in HP. It's popular sure, but so is Twilight. And DON'T tell me that belongs on here.

FrankBurns1
FrankBurns1

What about "Buylard Bill's Day Off? ?

AdityaSubramaniam
AdityaSubramaniam

I'm not as upset with the absence of Harry Potter (although, it should find a place here, just for its social & literary impact over the past decade or so) as much as some of the others, but I do believe Disgrace by JM Coetzee should find a spot here.

uspandey
uspandey

The list is missing 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', 'A Farewell to Arms', 'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson and 'The Sense of an Ending' byJulian Barnes.

ThomasF
ThomasF

I have abused my meager intellect on this type of list before.So, I took a different approach.Going in, if I had read more than five percent of the books on the list, I would rank myself as a pathetic sot.Well the bad news is that I have read 12 or twelve percent.That makes me either a sot or pathetic but hopefully not both.


I believe Time-Life has offered The Reading Program more than once.Well, I got in one iteration and was introduced to number of books that would have never made it my way without the program.So, half way through perusing the Time’s All-Time 100 Novels, I thought it would be interesting to compare the books in the Reading Program vs. the list of 100.Wait, many of the books in the Reading Program were published prior to 1923 or were first written in another language.The exercise would be pointless.


Truthfully, I have not read all the books put into the reading program.Some I dumped after a few chapters due to the yawn factor.If asked, would I purchase the program again – the answer would be a vigorous yes.The value of the books that I have read is too great to feel bad about the books I have yet and may never read in the program.However, none of the books in the 100 list got me going to the bookstore for a copy.


There were a few authors I have read, for example Philip Roth and Saul Bellow.The choice of titles did not sync with what I have read of their work.With my twelve percent hit rate on the list my ranking them as excellent authors probably does not mean much.


Now I am at the end of the list and pondering the importance of including two of Steinbeck’s books and only one of Hemmingway’s.I can understand not including “The Old Man and The Sea” since this is a mere sketch of a book when compared to a full blown novel.However, the old man, in my mind better captures the essential Hemmingway than any of his books.I am lost.What can be done with this list?Can I pass it to a young adult?If they read say fourteen of the books.Does that make them a better person or more well read?


I actually chuckled when I saw Raymond Chandler on the list.I think I have read nearly every book he published and had fun reading every one.So, how could Chandler be included in the list and Walter Mosley was left off?Neither author made the Reading Program in my time.I did go back and count spines, 37 in total.Two jumped off the shelf.“Reveille in Washington” by Margaret Leach.In hind sight I would reread Reveille three times vs. reading Bruce Catton’s Civil War three volumes.One of my all-time favorites “Voice at the Back Door” by Elizabeth Spencer would not make the list, it was 7 years premature.


I scanned the comments following the list and noticed multiple references to Harry Potter.I am puzzled. Hopefully I will write this correctly.In that I respect the judgment of younger generations, but may not appreciate it.Harry Potter has not really spoken to me.However, I would have given up multiple titles from the same author for more contemporary titles.Maybe, one of these 88 titles would have caught my eye vs. the ones on the list that didn’t.


H. L Mencken was if anything the critic’s critic.To paraphrase him, an idea no matter how preposterous will come to be fact if propounded long enough.In this age of the internet, our greatest asset, younger generations, are at risk of being pummeled in ad finum.Even though Mencken met the criteria of the list, written in English and published after 1923, luckily he did not make the cut.We can only hope that the sheer volume of data on the net will give the Time’s All-Time 100 Novels a proper burial.

AaronWilkins
AaronWilkins

J.m Coetzee's Disgrace should be on this, Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces- criminal that it isn't here. Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Passion of New Eve.... much better than Wide Sargasso Sea, Narnia books etc

warnovelist3
warnovelist3

What?  All Quiet on the Western Front is not on this list?  Time does not know a great book when they read it!  This book by Remarque should be at least in the top 50 for greatest war story ever told, but instead they have war stories of less caliber, like Atonement.  Did you know Remarque's book, All Quiet on the Western Front, is actually the most gripping of works written almost in its entirety in first person present?

NickHoekstra
NickHoekstra

It's funny, for this list to have any real meaning to people they must be quite well read, or at least be looking for something to read.  Yet from the comments below, it seems very few people actually READ the description at the top of the page.


"100 best ENGLISH-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME."  Maybe part of the confusion is that their use of "TIME" is referring to the magazine as a play on words?  Of course, if that has you confused, don't bother reading anything on this list as you're sure to miss the point!

awethor
awethor

This list is just weak - so many holes in it I don't even have time to start naming.  Then again, trying to pick only 100 books is a fool's errand.  That's a small number given all the important and high-quality works that have been created since '23.

ohlolness
ohlolness

As a science fiction fan, I must protest the exclusion of the following books from this list: 

Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (Best sci-fi/fantasy novel of all time)

Frank Herbert's Dune (not as good as Stranger, but superior to Lord of the Rings)

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game


As a pulp fiction fan, I must protest the exclusion of any Elmore Leonard novels.

As a fan of satire, I must protest the exclusion of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.


And finally, as a fan of gonzo journalism, I must protest the exclusion of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.

AceSmooth
AceSmooth

How is Enders Game not on here?? I know the movie sucked but the book was good!

BFerraz
BFerraz

Should "Atlas Shrugged" be in this list?

fife
fife

Truman Capote ?

cern078
cern078

Does anyone else think that "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo should be on this list? 3 of the greatest movies of all time were based off this book

eric2auburn
eric2auburn

One of the most accurate accounts of the Northern terrorism taking place during the Civil War ever written...nothing mythological about it.

kellynicola
kellynicola

Unsure of whether the disheartening lack of female authors is due to the 20th century's general cultural misogyny, or the fact that this list was written by two men.

Makkarii
Makkarii

I feel as if Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" will slowly be creeping on to lists like this soon. wordymadness.blogspot.com

thamimzolo
thamimzolo

Would have been cool to see something from Stephen King. I'm thinking The Stand, It, The Gunslinger (not the series just the first book) and Salem's Lot...

BoerJan
BoerJan

It's an interesting list to see. Must've been hard to choose these books, in particular which books by P. Roth. I seem to be missing any work by D. Coupland, however. 'Generation X' may be the most well-known, but some of his other books might even be better ('Hey, Nostradamus', 'Girlfriend in a Coma'). 

Apart from other suggestions in the comments, Y. Martel's 'Life of Pi' needs be considered for such a list, in my opinion. I'd personally like to have seen Asimov's 'I, Robot' in this list as well. It may basically be a collection of short stories (someone in this comments section pointed out a lot of SF novels shouldn't have been extended beyond being short stories), but it contains a lot that may actually be, or become, relevant, e.g. what rules should robots, if they ever come to existence, obey? What problems could still follow from these rules?

disgruntledchicklitlover
disgruntledchicklitlover

Well you've got it wrong haven't you. Where is the chick-lit and Harry Potter? You've got absolutely no representation for modern classics, and granted those aren't going to be making any school reading lists anytime soon, but they are truly excellent books, and you can't tell me you wouldn't want to take Harry Potter through some world-devasatating event so the children on the other side had some truly great literature to read. Besides Narnia is all veiled propaganda for the Church and that's biased. Harry Potter is better because there's no religious preference. 

SaumyaAwasthi
SaumyaAwasthi

I guess the list should include "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Albom and the Harry Potter series too

ninyanerisa
ninyanerisa

Never Let Me Go is really depressing. 

defarge.therese
defarge.therese

2 guys are not going to pick novels that resonate with females, I thought. And yeah, mostly male authors and mostly what has been called the canon, heritage picks. 


A favorite of mine however dealing with existential position of women in historical context, "The French Lieutenant's Woman", was included. Thanks for that. The technique of the male focus was a delicious irony.


I just reread Gatsby after reading Ignacious's update "The Sun King." Liked Ignacious's better. But on the theme of obsessive love "Lolita" tops them both. Fitzgerald is lightweight. Nabokov is heavy duty.


I love Chandler and Hammett, read everything they wrote, but when it comes to writers transcending the detective genre P.D. James is better, as is Elmore Leonard, who could carry a story almost entirely in snappy dialogue. Loved "Pagan Babies" and "Cuba Libre". 


I love LeCarre but would have picked different--"Tailor of Panama", "Perfect Spy," "Absolute Friends" because of characterization and wit. 


Atwood is underrepresented and the choice off. "Handmaid's Tale" was powerful and topical, and "Cat's Eye" brilliant. Structurally it appears to climax about 2/3s in, yet the brilliance of the writing carries the reader on to the end. 


And where is Kingsolver? The epic "Poisonwood Bible" or my fav "Animal Dreams"?


Agree about Dreiser's novel. A long time favorite of mine. Didn't know it was written that late into the last century.


I have more but I also have a life. Thanks for the op to sound off.

Winchestermom
Winchestermom

Have any books changed from 2010 to the present?

MLDK
MLDK

John Steinbeck - East of Eden

Ernest Hemingway - The Sun also rises

... would be nice to see on your list

P.T.
P.T.

Something from Coetzee, perhaps In the Heart of the Country.

Opera_G
Opera_G

No Harry Potter?  I mean, it's the first book series in a long time that really defined a generation and a movement.  Kids grew up with Harry.  They, like I did, started reading when they were ten and he was ten and grew up with him and all the characters as the series progressed.  I know that book series has saved lives and given hope to a lot of readers, as well as made millions of kids around the world readers when they weren't interested in books previously.  I'm just saying everyone underestimates how much this series means.  Not to mention the fact that it spawned 8 movies, a musical movement called Wizard Rock, it's own convention, LeakyCon, and other things.  

AaronWilkins
AaronWilkins

@warnovelist3 Atonement is actually one of the most cleverly structured novels ever written. So it should be here. The book is a riddle of identity, a contemplation upon the reliability of memory and authorial intent. It is so good that I am struggling to find words to expand on the argument that it is a 'playful text'.

therapfiend
therapfiend

@awethor  Go make your own list. At least this is better than Modern Library's xenophobic list.

chanstar6
chanstar6

@kellynicola Books should be included because the authors are female, or that makes us wife beaters.

Khanthulhu
Khanthulhu

@disgruntledchicklitlover Don't think that Grossman isn't a fan of Harry Potter. If you've read his Magician's series it is very evident that he's a fan. Putting modern books on lists like this are difficult though because in order to be a truly great piece of literature then they have to endure. It's hard to tell what books will be popular in 20 years, especially since many books are sleeper hits. Many of the classics that we have now weren't popular when they first came out. It's the nature of making subtle art.

thetitaniumdragon
thetitaniumdragon

@disgruntledchicklitlover It is worth noting that most lists like this are going to be at least 20 years out of date given who tends to write them, if not more - most such lists are heavily biased towards books that the people who assembled the lists read in school. Maybe by 2040 we'll be able to make a reasonable list of the best novels of the 20th century.


That being said, Harry Potter doesn't belong on the list. Popularity and greatness are two different things; there are many, many very popular novels which have existed over time, but very few of them were great - they were easily consumed and forgotten. The Lord of the Rings will be better remembered in 2100 than Harry Potter.


Harry Potter is a sort of pulp fiction - easily read and easily forgotten. Great novels endure.


In a hundred years, I think people will find things like The Giver far more interesting than Harry Potter.

EternalSkeptic
EternalSkeptic

@Opera_G just because something is popular, doesn't mean it's well written. typically novels selected for lists like these are ground-breaking, show outstanding use of the English language, and shed light on important issues or characteristics of our time. if the list was "best fantasy novels" or, more accurately, "best-loved fantasy novels" then I'm sure Mr. Potter would be in the top 10.

thamimzolo
thamimzolo

@anotherintro you need to consider the impact the HP movies have had on the popularity of the novel and the possible reason it is the most requested...

anotherintro
anotherintro

@thetitaniumdragon @grapefruityentl @EternalSkeptic Work in a children's library and see how that book has impacted young readers (as often it is the most requested book) and then make that statement. And ANY book that causes a cultural zeitgeist isn't bound to be "forgotten" to the annals of history; in the very very least it deserves a serious exploration for why it has become a black swan in the literary world. And before you start patting yourself on the back for well-read and overly-confidant elitism, David Foster Wallace taught a class on genre fiction and why it is worth exploring (he was on the list, no?). 


Harry Potter was one of the first instances in a large expanse of time where adults took considerable notice of children's literature (outside of the standard teachers and librarians that read YA and children's literature). 


Maybe it doesn't deserve to be on this list, but discouragement of that kind is ridiculous. All of these lists are sole opinion. Who is to say that Lord of the Rings will be culturally relevant in one hundred years? Literary popularity and changes to the canon comes and goes. 

thetitaniumdragon
thetitaniumdragon

@grapefruityentl @EternalSkeptic No, it wasn't. It was forgettable and will be forgotten. It is like the pulp fiction of the past; easily consumed and easily forgotten.


There's nothing great about the Harry Potter books. They're popular, but popularity and greatness have little to do with each other I'm afraid. A lot of things which are very popular are also very transient, and Harry Potter had no real impact. The Lord of the Rings forever changed fantasy; Harry Potter didn't, and won't. It wasn't anything new, it wasn't anything especially well-written, and it wasn't anything especially interesting - it was just a popular story.


This is why such lists will almost never include anything which was published in the last decade, and vastly overrepresent older books whose value is more well-established.


It isn't elitism - it is just reality. The longer you have to look back, the easier it is to tell what mattered and what was a flash in the pan.


Harry Potter will be forgotten.