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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196 comments
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.  

triceratops23
triceratops23

You can't call a list "best books of all time" and then only include post 1923 novels. That's not what all time means!

PearlCawley
PearlCawley

Where's One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez?????  Are you nuts to leave this out?

sohrabjadli
sohrabjadli

Not sure, How does some of the novels make it to all times, specially neglecting the classics like McBeth or Satanic Verses.

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Phoenicia
Phoenicia

An Article from The New Statesman

The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing: On the need of hyperarticulate people to get raving drunk
The lives of six writers, and the reasons why they drank so much, are explored in this nuanced portrait which give pleasure in every sentence and offers bright collisions with the past.
BY TALITHA STEVENSON PUBLISHED 25 JULY 2013 9:30

My Response:
      They were probably harassed and stalked into deep neurosis and addiction by an army of religious creeps who want to create lots of slander to dish into the world to sway the public opinion of an incredibly stupid audience who should have wised up to the pattern of abuse long before now. The same slander world currently rules our media, as is evident from this propaganda article one of many now brainwashing the public.  Someday, we will read the real story of how artists, composers, musicians, and writers have been persecuted over the centuries by religious bullies who probably started their campaign against all dissidents by murdering the painter Raphael on Good Friday, April 6, 1520. Someday the creative community will be freed from these creeps, and we will have composers who are not deaf and can write more than 9 symphonies without being killed. Creative people of the world unite against the stalkers, saboteurs, murderers, and their slander!

ChrisGodat
ChrisGodat

Just finished all 100--overall great list, and so glad that I finally discovered Tropic of Cancer, Dog Soldiers, Ubik, Money and that I finally did Catch-22 (don't know why I've missed this one for the last 40 years).  

Books I would like to fit into the list: 

William Gaddis JR

William Vollman Europe Central 

Toni Morrison Song of Solomon  

James Joyce Finnegans Wake  

Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose 

Robert Cormier The Chocolate War 

Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible 

Don Dellio Underworld 

Maybe Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet 

And if they are going to count the entire Dance to the Music of Time, count the entire Rabbit series. 



TaterNutts
TaterNutts

Really?  No Great Expectations?

paulschindler
paulschindler

just another vote for Confederacy of Dunces--probably the funniest sad novel ever written.

tides
tides

Where's The Shining??? and of Mice and Men?

JenniferAnneBangstrom
JenniferAnneBangstrom

Seems Farewell to Arms is missing.  I admit, Hemingway could be annoying as hell, but this was a masterpiece.

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.

bennyjbergstein
bennyjbergstein

@ernestnwonton This is a list of the 100 best English-language novels, and it was compiled in 2005. 1Q84 was published in 2009-2010 in Japanese. 1Q84 wasn't even translated into English until 2011, 6 years after this list was published.

TobyKinnear
TobyKinnear

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fife
fife

@paulschindler If you read ours Osvaldo Soriano's "no habrá mas penas ni olvidos"( Argentina) and some others by him, you will know that he wrote them before Kennedy O Toole's one.

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.