Monday, April 30, 2012

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume
read: 2011
Time 100 Novels

Oddly enough, Never Let Me Go reminded me of Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret.  Specifically, the interplay between Kathy and Ruth is similar to that between the titular Margaret and Nancy Wheeler.  Kathy and Margaret both quickly become friends with Ruth / Nancy, impressed by the other girl's maturity and leadership.  Over time, however, they come to realize that their friends' self-assuredness is just a front, disguising a girl who is just as frightened and uncertain as anyone else.  Obviously I was never a teenage girl, but having seen relatives go through the experience, it seems like this is a fairly universal phenomenon.

Margaret's inclusion on the Time list of greatest novels 1923 - 2005 suggests that it is the greatest children's / young adult book of all time, or at least of the 20th century.  Personally, I'd give the nod to one of Katherine Paterson's works, but this is a good book.  If I have a daughter, I'll be interested to see how she responds to it when she's 11 or so; it requires quite the feat of projection on my part as a 31-year-old male to fully understand the feelings of the characters in the story.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
read: circa 2004

Never Let Me Go reminded me quite a bit of Oryx and Crake, a book I read a few years ago. Like Never Let Me Go, Oryx and Crake takes place in a semi-dystopian alternate reality. Both books also deal with the subject of genetic engineering. The scope of the novels is a bit different; the narrator of Oryx and Crake is involved in the destruction of the world, the creation of new beings, and the establishment of the dystopia, while the narrator of Never Let Me Go is a pawn who never quite sees the full picture of what the world was and what it has become. I enjoyed both books, and I'm looking forward to reading more Atwood as I work through my reading lists.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
read: 2012
Time 100 Novels

WARNING: contains some spoilers

After the end of the version of Never Let Me Go I read, there are some study guide questions to help frame the reader's understanding of the story. One contains a quote from author Kazuo Ishiguro, who says of the students / clones who are the main characters, "How are they are trying to find their place in the world and make sense of their lives? How can they transcend their fate? ... Most of the things that concern them concern us all, but with them it is concertinaed into this relatively short period of time." I think this is the kind of thinking that the novel tries to provoke: when we think about why the major characters pursue love, sex, art, friendship, and meaning even though they are doomed to a life of donating their organs and ultimately dying, it is a short leap to note that our lives are finite in nature and wonder about the value of how we spend our time on this earth.

Beyond that, though, I think the book provides an answer in art. The students at Hailsham all are encouraged to produce art. They are competitive, trying to create works good enough to be placed in Madame's "Gallery." Art services as currency in the Hailsham society, as students barter with each other for their works in "exchanges." Once students have graduated they're encouraged to work on theses while they reside at the Cottages. Art is a core element of their curriculum. Why is art so important to the students? And how does that relate to art as a core theme in Never Let Me Go?
Art is a window to the soul. This point is made explicitly late in the story and is alluded to at other points throughout. It is very interesting that Ishiguro uses the word "soul," as the novel has very few explicitly religious elements. There is no real suggestion of an afterlife or a God. It seems like he is almost using it as a secular term, suggesting a transcendent emotional self and not necessary an immortal spiritual self. Still, it's clear that art created in the story or read or viewed by the characters in the story suggests a deeper meaning to the human experience.

Art is a pasttime. Kathy and the other characters rarely watch TV (and she describes television and its effects somewhat disdainfully), but they read, write, and draw quite a bit. Even towards the end of the story, when Kathy and Tommy have given up on art as a literal salvation, they still sit together with Kathy reading and Tommy drawing, simply because they enjoy the process of creating and the journey of discovering what others have created.

Art reinforces memory. Memory is a key element in Never Let Me Go; the whole story is told in flashbacks. Kathy's regrets often focus around art: a source of trauma is the loss of her favorite cassette, and she particularly laments the loss of a calendar with scenes of Hailsham that she had obtained at an exchange. Towards the end of the story, Tommy and Kathy see a painting on the wall at Madame's house and argue about whether it is a scene from Hailsham. It is a curious scene during a charged moment in the story, and it is telling that a piece of art is the focus of it. Lastly, we have the novel itself. It is never clear exactly to whom Kathy is narrating the story or for what purpose, but it seems to be an attempt to preserve her memories and make sure the legacies of Ruth, Tommy, and Hailsham live on.

Art provides a source of emotional communication. The characters in Never Let Me Go are not strong communicators, rarely addressing even matters of life-and-death directly. In art they find some outlet; it's no coincidence that Tommy, who is unable to produce art, has temper problems and is prone to outbursts. Art is seen as an emotional language most clearly when Kathy is listening to the song "Never Let Me Go" and dancing by herself. The interesting thing is that her interpretation (a mother singing to a baby) of the song doesn't match the lyrics, but she still feels the power of the music. Later we find out that Madame, who saw her dancing to the song and also felt a profound sense of loss, had a third interpretation: that Kathy was trying to hang on to innocence in an increasingly cruel world. Here we see that power of art: even when cannot understand or misunderstand it consciously, it affects us emotionally. This ability of art to affect us emotionally can be a bridge between disparate people even if they have differing interpretations. The novel itself also functions this way: the reader is affected by the horror and the tragedy in the story even though those feelings are not the thrust of Kathy's narration.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


by Vladimir Nabokov
read: circa 2007
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #4, Guardian 1000 Novels

I might not give Lolita a perfect 10, but it gets the highest possible score for degree-of-difficulty.  How many authors try telling a love story about a pedophile?  Still, while I love moral ambiguity in my novels, Lolita might be a bridge too far.  It is one thing to tell the story of a pedophile, it is another to tell it from a first-person perspective in a manic style, comic and even gleeful at times.  Part of this is my limited perspective; this is the only novel of Nabokov's I've read, and I think this limits my ability to distinguish between Vladimir Nabokov the author and Humbert Humbert the narrator.

The other element of Lolita that doesn't quite resonate with me is its relationship with the written word.  This is a stupid and ignorant criticism of a novel, I know.  In 2012 (or even 1955 when Lolita was written), the novel has been surpassed in immediacy by other forms, especially television and film.  All art involving the written word is on some level a statement about the written word.  Authors almost have an obligation to answer the question, "why write this as a book?"  Professor Amy Hungerford of Yale (this is the third book for her class The American Novel Since 1945) notes how the prose is steeped in literary references to romantic stories (such as Edgar Allen Poe's "Annabelle Lee") and likens Lolita to the chess problems Nabokov was so fond of.  But the art I love best is not just clever; it carries a meaning beyond itself, striking universal chords in the human experience.  At its best (such as when Humbert realizes to his own surprise that he really does love Dolores), Lolita does this, but often it feels clever for its own sake.  Professor Hungerford references Martin Amis describing Nabokov's prose as akin to "a muscle-bound man, a man whose body is bulked up purely for aesthetic reasons, for only the purpose of looking a certain way, that the bodybuilder is not that person who's going to go out and use their muscles to do some job."  It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of that than Nabokov did here, but for me personally, that ain't what I'm looking for in a novel.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Portnoy's Complaint

Portnoy's Complaint
by Philip Roth
read: circa 2001
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #52, Guardian 1000 Novels

I didn't read a lot in college, and sadly what I did read I remember little of.  Having read and enjoyed Goodbye, Columbus, I picked up Portnoy's Complaint, often considered Roth's masterwork.  I recall liking it but few of the specifics.  I love Roth and rarely feel this way about his work, but: I do think this is a novel that might have resonated with me more were I Jewish.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbye, Columbus

Goodbye, Columbus
by Philip Roth
read: circa 2000
National Book Award

Caution: contains spoilers.

I read this back in college, for fun.  It was after Time had named Philip Roth the greatest living American author in their millennium issue.  Most critics have read this as a tale of a lower-middle-class Jewish young man trying to assimilate into upper-class life.  I read it as a love story.  In that vein, two parts stand out: when Neil confesses his love after playing a night-time game in the pool that is possibly an innocent lover's flirtation, possibly a manipulative effort to coax emotion by making Neil feel insecure and abandoned, and likely something in between.  The second part that stands out is the climactic, "If she had only been slightly not Brenda…but then would I have loved her?," which in a deft non-sentence sums up the course of nearly every failed relationship in human history.  Roth is one of my favorite writers, and this was a fine introduction to his work.

There were other stories in this collection, but I honestly don't remember a thing about them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wise Blood

Wise Blood
by Flannery O'Connor
read: 2012

What a weird book.  I must have uttered that phrase aloud a dozen times while reading Wise Blood, and thought it to myself at least twice as often.  It's not that it's complex structurally or features bizarre phrasing or supernatural occurrences; it's the basic behavior of its characters.  Everyone in the story is odd, unlikeable, hypocritical, terrible at communicating, lost, and lonely.  There is a lot of humor in the story - I laughed out loud a few times - but it is often at the characters' expense.  The prime example is when Enoch Emery shakes hands with a gorilla and poignantly realizes that "it was the first hand that had been extended to Enoch since he had come to the city," then immediately after discovers it's just a man in a suit, a man who tells Enoch to "go to hell."

This is the second book for the Yale class on post-World War II American novels, and it is an interesting study.  Flannery O'Connor suffuses the novel with symbolism.  Religion is the most obvious; protagonist Hazel Motes' theological struggle is the central conflict in the book, and there are symbols of Jesus, God, The Holy Spirit, the cross, etc., everywhere he looks.  Sight is another big symbol: glasses, blindness, eyes are everywhere.  Professor Hungerford argues that the novel can be read through the prism of Southern racism or sexism, and that body parts are often described as having an agency apart from the person they are connected to.  Bottom line: there's a ton of subtext and context here.

The thematic element I latched on to was the role of faith in the story.  Motes rejects his Christian upbringing, but rather than turning into a doubting agnostic, he becomes emphatically atheist.  He proselytizes his nihilism from the roof of his car outside movie theaters.  His rejection of God is characterized by an absolute and unyielding faith in nothing.  He sins and blasphemes out of a conviction that there is no sin or blasphemy.  Yet he shows faith in other things, notably his car, which he believes to be a superior automobile despite unrelenting evidence that it is a lemon.  Faith is crucial to the other characters, too: Enoch Emery has faith in own "wise blood" and is driven by his instincts to undertake endeavors he doesn't rationally understand.  Sabbath has a kind of perverse faith in sin and blasphemy.  Her father Asa is defined by his lack of faith; at his moment of testing he was found wanting.  Haze's landlady Mrs. Flood has a mundane but unshakable belief that she is being taken advantage of even when it becomes clear that is impossible.  Each character is defined and shaped by his or her faith (or lack thereof) in the unseen and unknowable, whether that takes a Christian form or some other.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
read: circa 2006
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #2, Guardian 1000 Novels

I may be the only person who feels this way ... I think Tender Is the Night is a better book.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tender Is the Night

Tender Is the Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
read: circa 2005
Modern Library #28, Guardian 1000 Novels

Like A Farewell to Arms, Tender Is the Night is a book I was supposed to read for my English class in college but did not until years later.  I read it in two or three days while sailing with my aunt and uncle and cousins along the coast of Maine.  It was a devastating book to read in that short a time, and I walked around for hours after finishing it with a profound sense of loss.  The story is heartbreaking and Fitzgerald renders it beautifully.  Nobody writes better prose than Fitzgerald; it's simultaneously readable and poetic.

It was the empathy that amazed me most.  Dick and Nicole Diver are married, and Dick is pursuing an affair with young Rosemary Hoyt, yet all three are sympathetic characters.  I'm not a huge fan of novels running out-of-sequence, but here it works perfectly.  The first third of the book, written in third-person but largely focusing on Rosemary, gives us the perspective to want what Rosemary wants: to get together with Dick despite his marriage.  The Divers' relationship seems rocky and Nicole seems odd; wouldn't Dick be so much happier with a starlet like Rosemary?  But the second third is a flashback to how Dick and Nicole got together in the first place, and we see how special their courtship was and how much they were both willing to sacrifice to be together.  The organization serves to make the reader feel for all the characters in the story.

I later read that this was a happy accident.  Fitzgerald had intended Tender Is the Night to expose the decadence of expatriate life on the French Riviera.  But partway through writing that story, his wife Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown.  He kept most of what he had written, leaving it as the first part of the story, but for the remainder he shift gears to something more personal.  The sequencing was a product of this disjointed style, not a deliberate design, and Fitzgerald left notes to the effect that the story should be re-arranged to read chronologically.  How much do his author's intentions matter?  Ultimately he wrote it the way he write it; if he didn't write it out-of-sequence for the same reason I like it out-of-sequence, does it make a difference?

The sense I have just reading through the Wikipedia entry on Tender Is the Night is that Fitzgerald was a deeply troubled individual.  Apart from his wife's nervous breakdown, Fitzgerald struggled with alcoholism.  He died six years after Tender Is the Night was published; it was the last novel he finished.  The tragedy in his life is mirrored in Dick Diver's disintegration over the final third of the novel.  That makes reading Tender Is the Night a unique and moving experience; it starts as one kind of book and as Fitzgerald's personal demons become more prevalent it becomes a different sort of book.  It is one of my favorite novels ever.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
read: 2010
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #17, Guardian 1000 Novels

I read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter around the same time as Go Tell It on the Mountain, and I link them in my mind as semi-autobiographical coming-of-age stories.  That's a disservice to both works, as they're bigger in scope than the characters (in Heart's case, the tomboyish Mick Kelly) that parallel the lives of the authors.  The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has great, tragic characters - the widower who tends bar, the proud black doctor who is estranged from his children, the Communist drunkard.  And they all find solace on John Singer, the patient deaf-mute whose world is crushed when his only friend goes insane and is sent to an asylum.

As the book goes on, though, Mick Kelly assumes a larger role.  The prevailing mood in the story is a seeping loneliness and hopelessness, and the other characters are all doomed.  The characters are isolated and unable to connect with each other; they find solace in the companionship of Singer, who is limited in his ability to communicate.  We know where they will be in ten years, and is the same place they are now, perhaps with a few more scars.  Their tragedy is not a huge downfall but Thoreau's "quiet desperation."  But Mick Kelly has youth on her side, and a chance to make something better for herself.  She represents hope.  So perhaps it is fitting that my enduring memory of the novel is her story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Go Tell It on the Mountain
by James Baldwin
read: 2010
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #39, Guardian 1000 Novels

Black Boy reminded me some of another coming-of-age story with a black male protagonist, James Baldwin's Go Tell it on the Mountain.  Baldwin's story is fiction but draws a considerable amount from his life and that of his family.  It is less overtly about race than Black Boy, dealing more in personal, psychological struggles than in sociological conflict.

Another interesting difference is the role of religion.  Young Richard Wright is intuitively and immediately disdainful of the church.  He does not believe in a Christian God and does not have much patience for attending church, praying, or the other rituals of organized religion.  John, Baldwin's alter-ego, is more conflicted.  He sees the church partly as an extension of his father (actually step-father), who he dislikes, but he also associates it with his friend Elisha, who stirs up sexual feelings in John.  Arguably (and ironically) this nascent homosexuality provides the emotional impetus for his ultimate religious transformation and acceptance of the church.

Baldwin's perspective in writing this story with such autobiographical elements is fascinating.  The novel ends when he is still just 14 years old, but Baldwin was 29 when Go Tell It on the Mountain was published and had distanced himself from the people and the places in that story.  He had expatriated to Paris where he felt he could be freer as a black and gay man.  Yet while the childhood portrayed in the novel is far from a happy one, Baldwin does not wholly condemn the parents who raised him (/ John), the society that surrounded him, or the church that played such a central role in those years.  One can ponder whether the physical and temporal distance resulted in enough emotional distance to treat the characters in Go Tell It on the Mountain with empathy and compassion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Black Boy

Black Boy (American Hunger)
by Richard Wright
read: 2012

I recently discovered iTunes U and I decided to follow a Yale English course taught by Amy Hungerford, "The American Novel Since 1945."  The first book covered in the class is Richard Wright's Black Boy (American Hunger), which is unusual as it's normally classified as an autobiography, not fiction.  Professor Hungerford points out two things: 1) there are elements of the book that are fictionalized, exaggerated, or happened to other people, and 2) an autobiographer has to make many of the same decisions a novelist does.  What stories should be included, and which should not?  How much of the subject's internal thoughts should be revealed?  Even the voice of the work is subject to manipulation, as the autobiographer can write about early events from his perspective at the time or from his perspective now, looking back.  And in both the novel and the autobiography, there is the fundamental question behind all art: why make it at all?  What is the artist trying to convey?

Wright mentions throughout the novel that he is looking for a model for how a young black man can live of a life of dignity in American, but he cannot find it.  The books he takes his refuge in are the classics as written by Dead White Men.  While he finds some kindred spirits in the Communist organizations he joins in Chicago, he finds their oppression of the individual for the sake of the party's goal nearly as constricting as the overt racism he encountered in the South.  He is looking to grow as a man, but it does not seem inevitable that he will do so; he is surrounded by people who gave up on the path to self-actualization, whether the submissive religion of his family, the accepted ignorance of his co-workers (most clearly rendered in the elevator man who literally let a white man kick his ass for a dollar), or the blind allegiance of the Communists.  Black Boy suggests that perhaps the quest itself is a triumph in its own right.

And if it is, if Wright succeeds in creating a model for young black men to pursue a live of dignity and a never-ending quest for self-improvement, does it detract from the accomplishment that he plays fast-and-loose with the truth at times?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway
read: circa 2007
Guardian 1000 Novels

Like George Orwell's Homage to CataloniaFor Whom the Bell Tolls  is interesting for the devotion that foreigners have to the Spaniard's cause and how much they are willing to sacrifice.  Hemingway paints that willingness to sacrifice as an ideal.  The characters in the novel, particularly the protagonist Robert Jordan, have an unwavering commitment to their cause to the point of sacrificing everything.  They also have many characteristics we look for in a war hero: courage, determination, honor, an understanding of what must be done and how to do it.  But For Whom the Bell Tolls is not a pro-war novel.  Hemingway doesn't shy away from the horrors of war; even the townsfolk throwing out their corrupt former rulers do so with a sickening bloodlust.  So it is not that war brings out the best in Jordan, it is that he is so pure in his intentions and laser-focused in his commitment that he is willing to wage war, willing to endure and participate in it, willing even to lead men into battle and plan missions, even when he is convinced it will lead to his own death.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
read: circa 2006
Modern Library #74, Guardian 1000 Novels

When I took an English class in college, I was supposed to read a lot of books.  I only read four, already reviewed here, but years later I went back and read a few more.  This is one.

I didn't like A Farewell to Arms as much as The Sun Also Rises, which is kind of praising by faint damnation.  Still, the central emotional core of the story - the relationship between Frederic Henry and nurse Catherine Barkley - doesn't quite ring true.  In the three Hemingway books I've read, I don't think any of the romantic relationships are entirely convincing, and story suffers to the extent to which it relies on identifying with that feeling of love.  (If I were to levy a specific criticism it would be that the characters seem to hop into sex without any development of a relationship and barely any conversation beforehand.  Certainly some relationships start that way.  I suspect that if Hemingway had not been confined by the taboos against more vivid descriptions of copulation he might have added detail that would have made the romances more convincing.  But I don't think it's a coincidence that the relationship between Jake and Brett in The Sun Also Rises, where consummation is physically impossible, is arguably his most fully-realized.)

Also, I don't think pregnant women should drink that much.

But the last paragraph of the book is outstanding.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway
read: circa 2005
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #45

Hemingway loved boxing, and I think his writing mimics that sport.  He jabs at you with terse, almost pulp-dialogue, dances around with poetic descriptions of scenery, and then out of nowhere he lands a haymaker that staggers you.
She was looking into my eyes with that way she had of looking that made you wonder whether she really saw out of her own eyes.  They would look on and on after everyone else's eyes in the world would have stopped looking.  She looked as though there were nothing on earth she would not look at like that, and really she was afraid of so many things.
I don't know if there's been a better paragraph written in the English language.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Light in August

Light in August
by William Faulkner
read: 2010
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #54

I've read four Faulkner books.  Two, As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, featured lots of stream-of-consciousness writing and I didn't really enjoy them.  Two, Absalom, Absalom! and Light in August, were written in a more straightforward narrative style, and both blew me away.  Light in August is one of Faulkner's more accessible works, with story elements that could have been ripped from a soap opera: a love triangle, a forbidden affair, a mysterious stranger, and a manhunt for a murderer and arsonist.  But there is real depth and complexity here, as the novel deals with loneliness, race, identity, and honor.

There's a bunch of high-falutin' novel-as-craft stuff here.  Per Wikipedia:
Joe Christmas, whose name is obviously symbolic, showed up in front of the orphanage on Christmas Day, symbolic of Jesus' birth. Faulkner has 66 total characters in his book, and there are 66 books in the Bible. Christmas's death (at age 33) is described in terms of rising and serenity. The bullets from Percy Grimm's gun pierce the wooden table behind which Christmas crouches like nails through a cross. Lena and her fatherless child parallel Mary and Christ. Byron Bunch acts as the Joseph figure, acting as father for Lucas Burch/Joe Brown. Christian imagery can be found throughout.
I rarely care about that stuff.  I love the human moments here: Lena walking along the road at the beginning of the novel (and the way the end parallels this), Byron desperately confronting Lucas Burch out of a sense of honor and unconditional love, Joe Christmas never really understanding his own racial composition or how he fits into either the white or black world.  Faulkner is great at hitting on those core feelings of the human experience; even though none of those situations are familiar to me, the feelings they evoke are.  I guess that's what great writing, and all great art, is all about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury
by William Faulkner
read: circa 2004
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #6, Guardian 1000 Novels

Since I absolutely loved Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury also features Quentin Compson, I expected to love it.  It's nearly universally considered Faulkner's masterpiece ... but I didn't get it.  Like As I Lay Dying, this book features chapters written in stream-of-consciousness, including a sizable fraction of the book written from the perspective of a mentally disabled person.  Maybe someday I will be able to appreciate that, but I didn't when I read it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom!
by William Faulkner
read: circa 2001

This was the last book I read for the English class I took in college.  I had procrastinated in the finals period and I was facing down the barrel of a 10-page paper due in 48 hours ... and I was only 50 pages into Absalom, Absalom!  There was nothing to do but start reading.  I sat in my bed and read.  I got tired and moved out to the couch outside my room and read.  I got sick of that and I went to the library and read.  I didn't quite read the book in one sitting, but it was pretty close.

There are books where reading it in that fashion would be a travesty, but Absalom, Absalom! was not one of them.  Sure, I'm sure there are subtleties I would pick up on in a more careful re-reading, but blazing through it in such a fashion gave me a great feel for the book.  I noted previously that one of the class' themes was the "voice" of the novel.  Absalom, Absalom! is told as oral history.  The entire book is basically a half-dozen dialogues, as Quentin Compson has a series of conversations with various people to try to determine what happened to Thomas Sutpen.  Some of those get nested; at one point Quentin is talking to his father, and Quentin's father relates a conversation he had with his father, which in turn features a conversation Quentin's grandfather had with Sutpen directly.  The way the novel is constructed, I argued in my final paper, mimics the oral tradition of the South.  The basic story of Sutpen is repeated throughout, filling in more details each time, just as the traveling bards would repeat stories in ye olden times.  The story is passed down from Rosa Coldfield and Quentin's descendents to Quentin.  As a result, Absalom, Absalom! is not only about the themes of Southern racism and the dangers of hubris, but also a primal quest for truth and understanding.

There are very few books that I can say changed my life, but a couple weeks after I handed in my paper my sister and I drove up to a family house in Maine.  There I found photo albums and genealogical information on my own family history.  Memories of my ancestors, whether I knew them or they died before I was born, stay with me wherever I go.

Monday, April 9, 2012

As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying
by William Faulkner
read: circa 2001
Modern Library #35, Guardian 1000 Novels

Another book I read for my college English class.  One of factors we were encouraged to analyze for that class was the "voice" of each novel: who is the narrator?  First-person or third-person?  Omniscient or limited?  Does the narrator change?  Why did the author decide to tell the story this way?

As I Lay Dying is an interesting book to read through this lens, as Faulkner tells the story through the eyes of several characters.  Moreover, the prose style changes to reflect the voice of the narrator and we are led into each character's thoughts, in a "stream-of-consciousness" style.  So there are different perspectives, and that's interesting, in theory.  In practice, however, I've almost never enjoyed stream-of-consciousness writing, and Faulkner taking me into the mind of people in varying degrees of craziness wasn't the sort of story I respond to.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sister Carrie

Sister Carrie
by Theodore Dreiser
read: circa 2001
Modern Library #33, Guardian 1000 Novels

Another book I read for that college English class and don't remember.  Professor Doody (really his name) said of Dreiser, "He was not a good writer.  I expect there are several of you, maybe even half of you, in this class who are better writers."  Then, almost as afterthought, "But Sister Carrie is a good book."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Ambassadors

The Ambassadors
by Henry James
read: circa 2001
Modern Library #27, Guardian 1000 Novels

I took one English class in college (American Fiction 1900 - 1940).  The Ambassadors was the first book we had to read for class.  Our Professor was big on the idea that our writing should have a natural voice, like we were speaking.  I think we might have had an exercise where we had to read our papers aloud to another student.  One thing he told us was that Henry James dictated this novel to a secretary rather than writing it down himself.  This gives it that natural voice.

I remember little about the novel itself.

Friday, April 6, 2012


by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
read: circa 2003
Time 100 Novels, Eisner Award

What, a comic book?  On a list of 100 greatest novels?

Truth be told, it was the inclusion of Watchmen that probably intrigued me the most about Time's list of 100 greatest novels (written in English 1923 - 2005).  I had read the graphic novel (graphic novel is what adults call comic books when they don't want to be stained by the "you read comic books?" stigma) a couple years before the list came out and I was completely blown away.

The reaction of different fans when the movie came out a couple years ago is a testament to the depth of this work.  Everyone I talked to or read was convinced the movie would suck (I haven't seen it) because there was no way to put everything in there.  There's a comic-within-a-comic (Tales of the Black Freighter, with the idea that in a world where superheroes are real, pirate comics would rule) that was great but expendable; others saw this as the emotional core of the story and something that could not be removed without crippling Watchmen.  One of friends reacted with "But the whole story was about sex; how could they possibly do that in a movie?," which was an angle I hadn't considered at all but made perfect sense when I thought about it.  From Night Owl getting turned on by wearing costumes to Rorschach being emotionally stunted by his mother's promiscuity to Sally Jupiter's insecurity over her mother's relationship with The Comedian, all the characters are touched by the darkest elements of sexuality.

My point is: there's a ton here.  I haven't read it in a few years, and if I did I'm sure I could keep finding new things, new angles, new themes to explore.  Its inclusion in the Time Magazine list was controversial, but in my opinion warranted.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


by Paul Harding
read: 2012
Pulitzer Prize

Tinkers is a member of a particular tribe of novel that rubs me the wrong way.  The prose borders on free-verse poetry, trying to get me to really intensely experience every scene in a way some readers probably like but I find tiring.  Although it's quite a short novel, it's packed with imagery and metaphor and characters spouting philosophy to the point where it loses much of its meaning.  A little more humor would help, too (A welcome exception is a series of encounters between Howard and Gilbert, a hermit in the woods, who turns out to be a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorne's).  It's also got a lot of "the novel as craft" elements to it.  Get this: George, the main character, is a clock repairman, and so there are passages describing the working of clocks and the passage of time, but the narrative is told non-chronologically, with the plot spiraling out of itself backwards before ultimately regrouping in the conclusion.  It's like, a metaphor for the movement of a clock!  How clever!

There were a lot of things I liked about Tinkers, though.  A major theme is the way family history is passed between the generations and how they are connected to each other.  The novel has a few different story arcs, but a repeated pattern is the disconnect between father and son.  George Crosby is repulsed as a boy by his father Howard's Grand Mal seizure and tries to run away from home.  Later on we see Howard, as a boy, searching desperately through the woods looking for his own father, a former minister who's been taken away to an asylum for the insane.  The generations are cheated out of an opportunity to understand each other, father and son, as men.

Another element that worked for me was the element of "magic realism."  There are elements of unreality throughout the novel that are presented as fact and not really explained.  How could Gilbert the hermit really be old enough to be a classmate of Hawthorne's?  What did Howard really see in the woods when he saw the fish jump directly into the Indian's mouth?  This element of magic infuses other events, making it unclear whether descriptions are literal or metaphors.  When Howard describes his father fading away, it seems like it must be a metaphor, yet he describes the fading so visceral that it's ambiguous.  The reader is left guessing whether descriptions are poetic, reflective of derangement brought on by epilepsy or impending death, or magic.

I feel as if I've contradicted myself in the above paragraphs, but I really am ambiguous about Tinkers.  There are elements I liked about it, scenes or moments that spoke to me.  At the same time, parts of it felt high-falutin' and too precious.  There are undoubtedly readers who would absolutely love this book, and others who would hate it.  I fall somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers
by D.H. Lawrence
read: 2012
Modern Library #9, Guardian 1000 Novels

I read this not too long after The Age of Innocence, and for a while I thought it was on par with Wharton's masterpiece.  At no point was it fair to compare the novels, and Sons and Lovers is a terrific work even if it didn't resonate with me quite to the degree of The Age of Innocence.  It is probably the best novel I've read this year.

Like The Age of Innocence, Sons and Lovers is a work first and foremost of empathy.  Characters in the book ruin other character's lives.  Protagonist Paul Morel treats his lovers very badly, feeling bored or squashed by their presence until he finally abandons them.  But he is that way because his mother played such a central role in his life and he feels in loving a woman he is being disloyal to his love for his mother.  Paul's mother is overbearing, but that stems from being distraught at the death of her first son, William, and feeling unfulfilled in her marriage.  This tragic chain is no one's fault, but the emotional harm reverberates through it.  Each actor has his or her flaws and strengths, and Lawrence shows both sides.

The central conflict is subtly but importantly different from The Age of Innocence.  One could say that The Age of Innocence is a sociological work while Sons and Lovers is psychological.  Newland Archer struggles against the constraints of a rigid New York aristocracy; the conflict is between his desires and the limitations imposed by the society around him.  Paul Morel's struggle is to define his desires in the first place.  He falls in love twice, but is never sure exactly what he wants out of his relationships.  He carries daunting baggage from his close relationship with his mother.  His unhappiness stems from this internal, psychological tension rather than any external force.

Guardian 1000 novels everyone must read

1615 - Don Quixote (series), Miguel de Cervantes
1704 - A Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift
1735 - L'Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (Gil Blas), Alain-René Lesage
1742 - Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding
1748 - The Adventures of Roderick Random, Tobias Smollett
1749 - Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
1751 - The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Tobias Smollett
1753 - The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, Tobias Smollett
1767 - The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (series), Laurence Sterne
1771 - The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, Tobias Smollett
1780 - Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, Denis Diderot
1809 - Ennui, Maria Edgeworth
1837 - The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
1842 - Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
1843 - Handley Cross, R.S. Surtees
1844 - Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens
1844 - The Luck of Barry Lyndon, William Makepeace Thackeray
1857 - Barchester Towers (part of a series), Anthony Trollope
1859 - Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov
1881 - Bouvard et Pécuchet, Gustave Flaubert
1889 - Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
1892 - Diary of a Nobody, George Grossmith
1902 - Brewster's Millions, Richard Greaves (George Barr McCutcheon)
1902 - The Westminster Alice, Saki
1908 - The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
1909 - Tono Bungay, H.G. Wells
1911 - Zuleika Dobson, Max Beerbohm
1912 - The Unbearable Bassington, Saki
1914 - Penrod, Booth Tarkington
1915 - Something Fresh, P.G. Wodehouse
1916 - The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain
1917 - Caprice, Ronald Firbank
1918 - Piccadilly Jim (part of a series), P.G. Wodehouse
1922 - Just William (part of a series), Richmal Crompton
1924 - Augustus Carp, Esq., Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man, Henry Howarth Bashford
1925 - The Polyglots, William Gerhardie
1926 - The Castle, Franz Kafka
1928 - Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh
1930 - Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
1930 - Cakes and Ale – Or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard, W. Somerset Maugham
1932 - Black Mischief, Evelyn Waugh
1932 - Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
1932 - Topper Takes a Trip (part of a series), Thorne Smith
1933 - England, Their England, A.G. Macdonell
1933 - Heavy Weather, P.G. Wodehouse
1933 - Cheese, Willem Elsschot
1934 - A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
1934 - Thank You Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
1938 - Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
1938 - The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse
1939 - Before Lunch, Angela Thirkell
1939 - Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
1939 - Mister Johnson, Joyce Cary
1940 - The Provincial Lady (series), E. M. Delafield
1941 - No Bed for Bacon, Caryl Brahms and SJ Simon
1942 - A Time to be Born, Dawn Powell
1944 - The Case of the Gilded Fly (part of a series), Edmund Crispin
1944 - The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary
1946 - Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood
1946 - Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, Eric Hodgkins
1947 - Whisky Galore, Compton Mackenzie
1947 - Charade, John Mortimer
1947 - Joy in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse
1948 - The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh
1948 - Hurrah for St Trinian's (part of a series), Ronald Searle
1951 - A Dance to the Music of Time (series), Anthony Powell
1951 - Molloy, Samuel Beckett
1952 - Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
1953 - The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
1954 - Under the Net, Iris Murdoch
1954 - Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
1954 - Pictures from an Institution, Randall Jarrell
1955 - Less Than Angels, Barbara Pym
1955 - A Fairy Tale of New York, J.P. Donleavy
1956 - Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Angus Wilson
1956 - The Towers of Trebizond, Rose Macaulay
1956 - The Ascent of Rum Doodle, W.E. Bowman
1957 - Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov
1958 - Molesworth (series), Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
1958 - Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
1959 - Zazie in the Metro, Raymond Queneau
1961 - Catch-22, Joseph Heller
1961 - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
1962 - Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
1963 - The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark
1963 - Puckoon, Spike Milligan
1966 - Office Politics, Wilfrid Sheed
1967 - A Season in Sinji, J.L. Carr
1967 - Towards the End of the Morning, Michael Frayn
1968 - The Little World of Don Camillo (series), Giovanni Guareschi
1969 - La Disparition, Georges Perec
1969 - Travels with My Aunt, Graham Greene
1969 - Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth
1970 - The Driver's Seat, Muriel Spark
1970 - Fireflies, Shiva Naipaul
1972 - Les Revenentes, Georges Perec
1972 - The Harpole Report, J.L. Carr
1973 - Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
1974 - The Bottle Factory Outing, Beryl Bainbridge
1974 - Tropic of Ruislip, Leslie Thomas
1974 - Porterhouse Blue (part of a series), Tom Sharpe
1975 - Changing Places, David Lodge
1975 - Venus on the Half-Shell, Kilgore Trout
1975 - The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury
1975 - Squire Haggard's Journal, Michael Green
1975 - Blott on the Landscape, Tom Sharpe
1976 - The Hearing Trumpet, Leonora Carrington
1976 - Alms for Oblivion (series), Simon Raven
1978 - La Vie Mode d'Emploi, Georges Perec
1980 - A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
1981 - Loitering with Intent, Muriel Spark
1981 - A Good Man in Africa, William Boyd
1983 - The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Fay Weldon
1983 - Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, Peter De Vries
1983 - My Search for Warren Harding, Robert Plunkett
1984 - Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
1984 - The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
1984 - Flaubert's Parrot, Julian Barnes
1984 - Money, Martin Amis
1985 - Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor
1985 - Illywhacker, Peter Carey
1987 - Belles Lettres Papers: A Novel, Charles Simmons
1987 - The Commitments (part of a series), Roddy Doyle
1988 - Nice Work, David Lodge
1988 - A Far Cry from Kensington, Muriel Spark
1989 - A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, Julian Barnes
1989 - Solomon Gursky Was Here, Mordecai Richler
1990 - I Served the King of England, Bohumil Hrabal
1990 - Titmuss Regained, John Mortimer
1990 - The Wimbledon Poisoner (part of a series), Nigel Williams
1995 - Moo, Jane Smiley
1995 - The Information, Martin Amis
1995 - High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
1996 - Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov
1996 - Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
1996 - Bridget Jones's Diary (part of a series), Helen Fielding
1996 - The Debt to Pleasure, John Lanchester
1997 - Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf, David Madsen
1997 - Great Apes, Will Self
1998 - The Restraint of Beasts, Magnus Mills
1999 - The Mighty Walzer, Howard Jacobson
2001 - According to Queeney, Beryl Bainbridge
2001 - The Lecturer's Tale, James Hynes
2003 - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
2005 - The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, Victor Pelevin
2006 - White Man Falling, Mike Stocks
2007 - The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
2010 - Tales of the City (series), Armistead Maupin

1845 - The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
1860 - The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
1862 - Lady Audley's Secret, Mary E Braddon
1866 - Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
1867 - Therese Raquin, Emile Zola
1868 - The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
1875 - The Crime of Father Amado, José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
1887 - A Study in Scarlet (part of a series), Arthur Conan Doyle
1890 - The Sign of Four (part of a series), Arthur Conan Doyle
1894 - Pudd'nhead Wilson, Mark Twain
1901 - Kim, Rudyard Kipling
1902 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (part of a series), Arthur Conan Doyle
1903 - The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers
1905 - The Four Just Men (part of a series), Edgar Wallace
1907 - The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
1911 - Under Western Eyes, Joseph Conrad
1913 - Trent's Last Case (part of a series), E. C. Bentley
1915 - The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
1916 - Greenmantle, John Buchan
1920 - The Mysterious Affair at Styles (part of a series), Agatha Christie
1920 - The Great Impersonation, E. Phillips Oppenheim
1922 - The Secret Adversary (part of a series), Agatha Christie
1923 - Whose Body? (part of a series), Dorothy L. Sayers
1925 - An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
1926 - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (part of a series), Agatha Christie
1929 - The Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley
1929 - Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
1930 - The Murder at the Vicarage (part of a series), Agatha Christie
1930 - The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
1931 - The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett
1931 - Malice Aforethought, Francis Iles
1931 - Sanctuary, William Faulkner
1932 - The Madman of Bergerac, Georges Simenon
1933 - Murder Must Advertise (part of a series), Dorothy L. Sayers
1934 - The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
1934 - The Strange Borders of Palace Crescent, E. Phillips Oppenheim
1934 - The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M Cain
1935 - The Hollow Man, John Dickson Carr
1935 - The League of Frightened Men (part of a series), Rex Stout
1936 - A Gun for Sale, Graham Greene
1936 - Death at the President's Lodging (part of a series), Michael Innes
1937 - Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
1938 - Epitaph for a Spy, Eric Ambler
1938 - Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
1938 - The Beast Must Die, Nicholas Blake
1939 - And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
1939 - The Mask of Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
1939 - Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household
1939 - No Orchids for Miss Blandish, James Hadley Chase
1939 - The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
1940 - Journey into Fear, Eric Ambler
1940 - Native Son, Richard Wright
1941 - Hangover Square, Patrick Hamilton
1943 - The Ministry of Fear, Graham Greene
1943 - Double Indemnity, James M Cain
1949 - The Third Man, Graham Greene
1949 - The Man with the Golden Arm, Nelson Algren
1949 - The Asphalt Jungle, W.R. Burnett
1950 - Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
1951 - My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier
1951 - The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
1953 - Casino Royale (part of a series), Ian Fleming
1953 - The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
1955 - The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
1956 - Cop Hater (part of a series), Ed McBain
1957 - A Rage in Harlem, Chester Himes
1958 - The Pledge, Friedrich Durrenmatt
1959 - Goldfinger (part of a series), Ian Fleming
1959 - The Getaway, Jim Thompson
1959 - The Manchurian Candidate, Richard Condon
1960 - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
1962 - The Ipcress File, Len Deighton
1962 - Cover Her Face (part of a series), P.D. James
1963 - Fantomas (series), Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre
1963 - V, Thomas Pynchon
1964 - The Blue Room, Georges Simenon
1964 - Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (part of a series), Harry Kemelman
1964 - You Only Live Twice (part of a series), Ian Fleming
1964 - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carre
1966 - The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
1968 - The Laughing Policeman, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
1969 - The Godfather, Mario Puzo
1969 - The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton
1970 - Poetic Justice, Amanda Cross
1970 - The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V Higgins
1971 - The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
1974 - 52 Pick-up, Elmore Leonard
1974 - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carre
1975 - Black Sunday, Thomas Harris
1976 - Last Seen Wearing, Colin Dexter
1977 - Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell
1980 - The Bourne Identity (part of a series), Robert Ludlum
1980 - The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
1981 - Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
1981 - Red Dragon (part of a series), Thomas Harris
1985 - Perfume, Patrick Suskind
1986 - A Dark-Adapted Eye, Barbara Vine
1986 - Tourist Season, Carl Hiaasen
1986 - A Rich Full Death, Michael Dibdin
1986 - A Taste for Death (part of a series), P.D. James
1986 - The New York Trilogy (series), Paul Auster
1986 - Live Flesh, Ruth Rendell
1987 - A Fatal inversion, Barbara Vine
1987 - The Neon Rain (part of a series), James Lee Burke
1987 - Misery, Stephen King
1988 - The Big Nowhere (part of a series), James Ellroy
1988 - Ratking (part of a series), Michael Dibdin
1988 - Toxic Shock (part of a series), Sara Paretsky
1989 - A Time to Kill, John Grisham
1990 - Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard
1990 - LA Confidential (part of a series), James Ellroy
1990 - Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
1990 - Vendetta (part of a series), Michael Dibdin
1990 - Bones and Silence (part of a series), Reginald Hill
1990 - Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
1991 - King Solomon's Carpet, Barbara Vine
1991 - American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
1991 - Dirty Tricks, Michael Dibdin
1991 - Postmortem (part of a series), Patricia Cornwell
1992 - The Secret History, Donna Tartt
1992 - Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, Peter Hoeg
1992 - Fatherland, Robert Harris
1992 - Dolores Claiborne, Stephen King
1994 - Dead Lagoon (part of a series), Michael Dibdin
1995 - Sidetracked (part of a series), Henning Mankell
1996 - The Big Blowdown (part of a seires), George Pelecanos
1997 - Enduring Love, Ian McEwan
1997 - Black and Blue (part of a series), Ian Rankin
1998 - The Hanging Gardens (part of a series), Ian Rankin
1998 - My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk
1999 - The Remorseful Day, Colin Dexter
1999 - Nineteen Seventy Four (part of a series), David Peace
1999 - Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem
2000 - Nineteen Seventy Seven (part of a series), David Peace
2000 - True History of the Ned Kelly Gang, Peter Carey
2001 - Silence of the Grave, Arnadur Indridason
2001 - The Constant Gardener, John le Carre
2002 - Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
2003 - Dissolution (part of a series), C.J. Sansom
2003 - The King of Torts, John Grisham
2003 - Blacklist (part of a series), Sara Paretsky
2004 - Hard Revolution (part of a series), George Pelecanos
2005 - No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
2007 - Exit Music (part of a series), Ian Rankin
2007 - The Tin Roof Blowdown (part of a series), James Lee Burke
2007 - A Quiet Belief in Angels, R.J. Ellory
2008 - Lush Life, Richard Price

Family and self
1724 - Roxana, Daniel Defoe
1761 - Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1762 - The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith
1778 - Evelina, Fanny Burney
1812 - Swiss Family Robinson, Johann David Wyss
1833 - Eugenie Grandet (part of a series), Honore de Balzac
1835 - Le Pere Goriot (part of a series), Honore de Balzac
1848 - Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell
1857 - Tom Brown's Schooldays, Thomas Hughes
1859 - The Ordeal of Richard Feverek, George Meredith
1861 - Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
1862 - Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
1869 - Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
1880 - The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
1880 - Washington Square, Henry James
1890 - Hunger, Knut Hamsun
1891 - The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
1897 - Peace in War, Miguel de Unamuno
1899 - The Awakening, Kate Chopin
1901 - Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann
1902 - The Immoralist, Andre Gide
1903 - The Ambassadors, Henry James
1903 - The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
1906 - The Man of Property (part of a series), John Galsworthy
1908 - The Old Wives' Tale, Arnold Bennett
1909 - Martin Eden, Jack London
1910 - Howards End, E.M. Forster
1910 - The History of Mr Polly, H.G. Wells
1910 - The Vagabond, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
1913 - Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
1914 - The Vatican Cellars, Andre Gide
1914 - The Three Sisters, May Sinclair
1915 - Pointed Roofs, Dorothy Richardson
1916 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
1918 - The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
1922 - Ulysses, James Joyce
1923 - Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo
1924 - The Rector's Daughter, F. M. Mayor
1925 - Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
1925 - The Professor's House, Willa Cather
1926 - Alberta and Jacob (part of a series), Cora Sandel
1927 - Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse
1927 - Remembrance of Things Past (series), Marcel Proust
1927 - To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
1929 - The Good Companions, J.B. Priestley
1929 - Les Enfants Terrible, Jean Cocteau
1929 - The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
1930 - The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, Henry Handel Richardson
1930 - Narziss and Goldmund, Herman Hesse
1930 - As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
1932 - Invitation to the Waltz, Rosamond Lehmann
1933 - Frost in May, Antonia White
1935 - Call it Sleep, Henry Roth
1936 - Ballet Shoes (part of a series), Noel Streatfield
1938 - At-Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien
1939 - The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
1939 - How Green was My Valley, Richard Llewellyn
1940 - The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
1942 - The Outsider, Albert Camus
1942 - The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil
1943 - Lark Rise to Candleford (series), Flora Thompson
1943 - Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles
1944 - The Shrimp and the Anemone, L.P. Hartley
1945 - The Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch
1946 - The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
1947 - Manservant and Maidservant, Ivy Compton-Burnett
1947 - Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
1950 - The Family Moskat, Isaac Bashevis Singer
1951 - The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
1951 - Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
1952 - The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
1952 - East of Eden, John Steinbeck
1954 - The Tortoise and the Hare, Elizabeth Jenkins
1954 - The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir
1955 - The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Brian Moore
1955 - The Tree of Man, Patrick White
1955 - Memet my Hawk, Yasar Kemal
1956 - My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
1956 - Palace Walk (part of a series), Naguib Mahfouz
1956 - The Fountain Overflows, Rebecca West
1956 - A Legacy, Sybille Bedford
1957 - The Assistant, Bernard Malamud
1957 - Angel, Elizabeth Taylor
1957 - The Wapshot Chronicle, John Cheever
1959 - The Face of Another, Kobo Abe
1959 - Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
1960 - The L Shaped Room, Lynne Reid Banks
1961 - The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
1961 - The Chateau, William Maxwell
1962 - The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
1962 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
1962 - A House for Mr Biswas, V.S. Naipaul
1963 - The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
1964 - Herzog, Saul Bellow
1965 - The Millstone, Margaret Drabble
1966 - Silence, Shusaku Endo
1967 - The Manor, Isaac Bashevis Singer
1969 - The Unfortunates, B.S. Johnson
1969 - The Estate, Isaac Bashevis Singer
1970 - The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
1972 - My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
1972 - G, John Berger
1973 - The Black Prince, Iris Murdoch
1975 - Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow
1977 - Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, Kezaburo Oe
1977 - Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
1978 - Who Do You Think You Are?, Alice Munro
1979 - A Married Man, Piers Paul Read
1981 - Good Behaviour, Molly Keane
1982 - The Color Purple, Alice Walker
1982 - The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ (part of a series), Sue Townsend
1982 - Sour Sweet, Timothy Mo
1985 - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson
1986 - The Sportswriter, Richard Ford
1986 - Extinction, Thomas Bernhard
1987 - The Sound of my Voice, Ron Butlin
1988 - Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood
1989 - A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
1990 - The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi
1990 - The Rabbit Omnibus (series), John Updike
1990 - Room Temperature, Nicholson Baker
1991 - Wise Children, Angela Carter
1991 - A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
1992 - Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud
1992 - The Crow Road, Iain Banks
1993 - The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
1993 - A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
1995 - Morvern Callar, Alan Warner
1995 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson
1997 - The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
1997 - Quarantine, Jim Crace
1998 - Death in Summer, William Trevor
1999 - The Blackwater Lightship, Colm Toibin
1999 - Being Dead, Jim Crace
1999 - My New York Diary, Julie Doucet
2000 - Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware
2002 - Unless, Carol Shields
2002 - Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
2002 - Spies, Michael Frayn
2002 - Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
2002 - Any Human Heart, William Boyd
2003 - Epileptic, David B
2003 - We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
2004 - I'll Go to Bed at Noon, Gerard Woodward
2005 - On Beauty, Zadie Smith
2006 - Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
2007 - The Gathering, Anne Enright
2007 - The Three Paradoxes, Paul Hornschemeier

1678 - The Princess of Cleves, Madame de Lafayette
1731 - Manon Lescaut (part of a series), Abbe Prevost
1740 - Pamela, Samuel Richardson
1748 - Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
1774 - The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang Goethe
1782 - Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Pierre-Ambroise-Francois Choderlos de Laclos
1811 - Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
1813 - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
1814 - Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
1815 - Emma, Jane Austen
1818 - Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
1818 - Persuasion, Jane Austen
1847 - Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
1847 - Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
1850 - The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
1853 - Vilette, Charlotte Bronte
1853 - Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell
1856 - Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
1859 - Adam Bede, George Eliot
1860 - The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
1860 - First Love, Ivan Turgenev
1861 - East Lynne, Ellen Wood
1869 - Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore
1874 - Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
1876 - Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
1877 - Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
1879 - The Egoist, George Meredith
1881 - Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
1887 - The Woodlanders, Thomas Hardy
1891 - Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
1895 - Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy
1899 - Dom Casmurro, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
1900 - Claudine a l'ecole, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
1902 - The Wings of the Dove, Henry James
1904 - Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest, W.H. Hudson
1908 - A Room with a View, E.M. Forster
1908 - Maurice Guest, Henry Handel Richardson
1909 - Strait is the Gate, Andre Gide
1912 - Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
1913 - Le Grand Meaulnes, Henri Alain-Fournier
1915 - The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence
1915 - The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
1915 - Victory: An Island Tale, Joseph Conrad
1915 - Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
1918 - My Antonia, Willa Cather
1920 - Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
1920 - The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
1920 - Cheri, Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette
1921 - Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley
1923 - A Lost Lady, Willa Cather
1925 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos
1925 - The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
1928 - Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence
1928 - The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall
1929 - A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
1929 - Living, Henry Green
1932 - Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
1934 - Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
1934 - Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
1935 - Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer
1936 - Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
1936 - Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
1936 - The Weather in the Streets, Rosamond Lehmann
1937 - The Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer
1937 - Ali and Nino, Kurban Said
1937 - Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
1938 - Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
1940 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
1941 - The Snow Goose, Paul Gallico
1945 - At Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Elizabeth Smart
1945 - The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
1946 - Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
1947 - The Reluctant Orphan, Sara Seale
1948 - I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
1949 - The Parasites, Daphne du Maurier
1949 - The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen
1949 - Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
1951 - The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
1952 - Love for Lydia, H.E. Bates
1953 - The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley
1953 - The Echoing Grove, Rosamond Lehmann
1954 - Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan
1955 - Moon over Africa, Pamela Kent
1955 - Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male, Vladimir Nabokov
1956 - Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
1957 - Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
1957 - Arturo's Island, Elsa Morante
1958 - The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen
1958 - Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
1961 - Diary of a Mad Old Man, Junichiro Tanizaki
1961 - Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
1962 - The Garden of the Finzi-Cortinis, Giorgio Bassani
1963 - The Graduate, Charles Webb
1964 - Beauty and Saddness, Yasunari Kawabata
1966 - Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
1966 - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
1967 - A Sport and a Passtime, James Salter
1969 - Patience and Sarah, Isabel Miller
1969 - The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
1970 - Love Story, Eric Segal
1972 - Enemies, a Love Story, Isaac Bashevis Singer
1973 - Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown
1975 - Light Years, James Salter
1976 - The Painter of Signs, R.K. Narayan
1977 - Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
1978 - The Far Pavillions, Mary Margaret Kaye
1978 - The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera
1980 - A Month in the Country, J.L. Carr
1980 - The Transit of Venus, Shirley Hazzard
1980 - So Long, See you Tomorrow, William Maxwell
1982 - Zami, Audre Lorde
1983 - Look At Me, Anita Brookner
1983 - The Piano Teacher, Elfriede Jelinek
1983 - Waterland, Graham Swift
1984 - Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie
1984 - The Lover, Marguerite Duras
1984 - The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
1985 - The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler
1985 - Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1987 - Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
1987 - The Child in Time, Ian McEwan
1987 - The Passion, Jeanette Winterson
1987 - More Die of Heartbreak, Saul Bellow
1988 - The Swimming-Pool Library, Alan Hollinghurst
1988 - Samarkand, Amin Maalouf
1988 - Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler
1988 - Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey
1989 - The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
1990 - Possession, A.S. Byatt
1990 - The Silent Duchess, Dacia Maraini
1992 - A Heart So White, Javier Marias
1992 - The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
1993 - The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
1995 - The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
1995 - The Blue Flower, Penelope Fitzgerald
1999 - The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif
1999 - All Souls Day, Cees Nooteboom
1999 - Music and Silence, Rose Tremain
2002 - Atonement, Ian McEwan
2004 - Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
2006 - The Night Watch, Sarah Waters

Science fiction
1564 - Gargantua and Pantagruel (series), Francois Rabelais
1764 - The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
1786 - Vathek, William Beckford
1794 - The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe
1796 - The Monk, Matthew Lewis
1798 - Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown
1818 - Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
1818 - Nightmare Abbey, Thomas Love Peacock
1820 - Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Maturin
1824 - The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg
1851 - House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
1864 - Uncle Silas, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
1865 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
1871 - The Coming Race, Edward Bulwer-Lytton
1871 - Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll
1872 - Erewhon, Samuel Butler
1885 - After London; or, Wild England, Richard Jefferies
1886 - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
1889 - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain
1890 - News from Nowhere, William Morris
1895 - The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
1897 - Dracula, Bram Stoker
1898 - The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
1898 - The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
1908 - The Man who was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton
1909 - Institute Benjamenta, Robert Walser
1915 - Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
1917 - A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
1920 - A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay
1925 - The Trial, Franz Kafka
1926 - Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend Warner
1927 - We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
1928 - Orlando, Virginia Woolf
1932 - Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
1932 - A Glastonbury Romance (part of a series), John Cowper Powys
1937 - The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
1937 - Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
1938 - The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White
1940 - The Third Policeman, Flann O'Brien
1943 - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
1943 - The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse
1946 - Titus Groan (part of a series), Mervyn Peake
1948 - Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
1951 - Foundation (part of a series), Isaac Asimov
1951 - Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
1952 - The Space Merchants, Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
1953 - Childhood's End, Arthur C Clarke
1953 - The Victorian Chaise-longue, Marghanita Laski
1953 - Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
1954 - The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
1954 - I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
1955 - Lord of the Flies, William Golding
1956 - The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
1956 - The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
1957 - The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino
1957 - The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham
1958 - Non-Stop, Brian W Aldiss
1959 - Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
1959 - The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
1959 - Naked Lunch, William Burroughs
1960 - Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
1960 - A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M Miller Jr
1961 - The Old Men at the Zoo, Angus Wilson
1961 - Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
1961 - Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
1962 - The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard
1962 - The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
1963 - A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
1965 - Dune (part of a series), Frank L Herbert
1966 - Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
1966 - The Magus, John Fowles
1967 - The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
1967 - The Einstein Intersection, Samuel R Delaney
1968 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
1968 - Camp Concentration, Thomas M. Disch
1969 - The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin
1969 - Ada or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov
1970 - The Female Man, Joanna Russ
1970 - Ringworld (part of a series), Larry Niven
1973 - Red Shift, Alan Garner
1973 - Crash, J.G. Ballard
1974 - Memoirs of a Survivor, Doris Lessing
1974 - The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
1975 - Hello Summer, Goodbye, Michael G Coney
1977 - The Passion of New Eve, Angela Carter
1977 - The Shining, Stephen King
1979 - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (part of a series), Douglas Adams
1979 - Kindred, Octavia Butler
1980 - Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
1982 - The End of the World News, Anthony Burgess
1983 - The Book of the New Sun (series), Gene Wolfe
1984 - Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
1984 - The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
1984 - Neuromancer, William Gibson
1985 - The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
1987 - Weaveworld, Clive Barker
1987 - Consider Phlebas (part of a series), Iain M. Banks
1987 - In the Country of Last Things, Paul Auster
1987 - Beloved, Toni Morrison
1988 - Mother London, Michael Moorcock
1988 - The Influence, Ramsey Campbell
1988 - Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
1988 - Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
1989 - Hyperion (part of a series), Dan Simmons
1990 - The Earthsea Series, Ursula Le Guin
1991 - The Famished Road, Ben Okri
1992 - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
1992 - The Children of Men, P.D. James
1992 - The Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabe
1992 - Lost Souls, Poppy Z Brite
1993 - Vurt (part of a series), Jeff Noon
1994 - Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
1995 - The Prestige, Christopher Priest
1995 - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
1995 - Blindness, Jose Saramago
1995 - The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro
1995 - The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter
1996 - Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
1996 - Pig Tales, Marie Darrieussecq
1996 - The Insult, Rupert Thomson
1997 - Ingenious Pain, Andrew Miller
1997 - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (part of a series), J.K. Rowling
1998 - Girlfriend in a Coma, Douglas Coupland
1998 - Atomised, Michel Houellebecq
1999 - Darwin's Radio (part of a series), Greg Bear
1999 - Affinity, Sarah Waters
2000 - Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds
2000 - The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
2000 - House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
2000 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
2000 - Under the Skin, Michel Faber
2000 - His Dark Materials (series), Philip Pullman
2000 - How the Dead Live, Will Self
2001 - Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones
2001 - American Gods, Neil Gaiman
2002 - The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
2002 - Light, M. John Harrison
2003 - The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
2003 - The Scar, China Mieville
2003 - Millennium People, J.G. Ballard
2004 - Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
2004 - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
2005 - Air, Geoff Ryman
2005 - Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel
2006 - The Road, Cormac McCarthy
2007 - Ascent, Jed Mercurio
2007 - Darkmans, Nicola Barker
2008 - The Night Sessions, Ken Macleod
2011 - The Discworld Series, Terry Pratchett

State of the nation
1688 - Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave, Aphra Behn
1722 - Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
1800 - Castle Rackrent, Maria Edgeworth
1816 - Headlong Hall, Thomas Love Peacock
1827 - The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni
1830 - The Red and the Black, Stendhal
1839 - Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
1845 - Sybil or The Two Nations, Benjamin Disraeli
1847 - La Comedie Humaine (series), Honore de Balzac
1848 - Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
1848 - Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
1849 - Shirley, Charlotte Bronte
1852 - Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
1853 - Bleak House, Charles Dickens
1853 - Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
1854 - Hard Times, Charles Dickens
1855 - North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
1857 - Little Dorritt, Charles Dickens
1859 - A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
1861 - Silas Marner, George Eliot
1862 - Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
1864 - Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky
1867 - The Last Chronicle of Barset (part of a series), Anthony Trollope
1869 - The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky
1869 - Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert
1872 - Middlemarch, George Eliot
1875 - The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope
1876 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
1879 - The Red Room, August Stringberg
1881 - The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
1885 - Germinal (part of a series), Emile Zola
1885 - Bel-Ami, Guy de Maupassant
1886 - The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
1890 - La Bete Humaine (part of a series), Emile Zola
1891 - New Grub Street, George Gissing
1893 - The Odd Women, George Gissing
1894 - Effi Briest, Theodore Fontane
1899 - McTeague, Frank Norris
1900 - Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
1905 - The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
1906 - The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
1907 - Mother, Maxim Gorky
1914 - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
1916 - The Home and the World, Rabindranath Tagore
1918 - Clayhanger (series), Arnold Bennett
1918 - The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West
1920 - Main Street, Sinclair Lewis
1922 - Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
1924 - A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
1924 - The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
1925 - The Counterfeiters, Andre Gide
1926 - Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis
1929 - The Time of Indifference, Alberto Moravia
1929 - Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin
1929 - The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen
1929 - Passing, Nella Larsen
1930 - USA, John Dos Passos
1931 - Afternoon Men, Anthony Powell
1932 - Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
1932 - The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth
1933 - Love on the Dole, Walter Greenwood
1934 - They Were Counted (part of a series), Miklos Banffy
1935 - Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand
1936 - Novel on Yellow Paper, Stevie Smith
1936 - South Riding, Winifred Holtby
1937 - Rickshaw Boy, Lao She
1939 - The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
1939 - The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
1946 - Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood
1946 - Animal Farm, George Orwell
1947 - The Plague, Albert Camus
1947 - Of Love & Hunger, Julian Maclaren-Ross
1947 - A Girl in Winter, Philip Larkin
1948 - Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton
1949 - The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier
1949 - The Moon and the Bonfire, Cesare Pavese
1950 - The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing
1951 - The Case of Comrade Tulayev, Victor Serge
1952 - Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
1953 - Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin
1955 - The Recognitions, William Gaddis
1956 - The Ragazzi, Pier Paolo Pasolini
1956 - The Lonely Londoners, Samuel Selvon
1957 - Room at the Top, John Braine
1958 - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe
1958 - The Leopard, Giuseppi di Lampedusa
1959 - Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
1959 - Absolute Beginners, Colin MacInnes
1959 - Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse
1960 - This Sporting Life, David Storey
1960 - God's Bit of Wood, Ousmane Sembene
1960 - A Kind of Loving, Stan Barstow
1962 - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovtich, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
1963 - The Group, Mary McCarthy
1964 - Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr
1966 - To Each his Own, Leonardo Sciascia
1967 - Z, Vassilis Vassilikos
1968 - A Kestrel for a Knave, Barry Hines
1968 - Couples, John Updike
1970 - Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion
1971 - Chronicle in Stone, Ismael Kadare
1975 - The Book of Daniel, E.L. Doctorow
1977 - Staying On, Paul Scott
1978 - The Virgin in the Garden (part of a series), A.S. Byatt
1979 - A Dry White Season, Andre Brink
1979 - A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul
1980 - Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess
1980 - Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M. Coetzee
1981 - Lanark, Alastair Gray
1981 - July's People, Nadine Gordimer
1981 - Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
1983 - Shame, Salman Rushdie
1985 - White Noise, Don DeLillo
1987 - Anthills of the Savannah, Chinua Achebe
1987 - The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
1989 - London Fields, Martin Amis
1990 - Amongst Women, John McGahern
1990 - Vineland, Thomas Pynchon
1993 - Remembering Babylon, David Malouf
1993 - Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
1994 - How Late it Was, How Late, James Kelman
1994 - What a Carve Up!, Jonathan Coe
1995 - Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
1995 - Independence Day, Richard Ford
1995 - A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
1997 - Underworld, Don DeLillo
1997 - American Pastoral, Philip Roth
1999 - Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
2000 - The Human Stain, Philip Roth
2000 - White Teeth, Zadie Smith
2001 - The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
2003 - Personality, Andrew O'Hagan
2004 - The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst
2004 - GB84, David Peace

War and travel
1599 - Monkey, Wu Ch'eng-en
1719 - Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
1735 - Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
1751 - The History of Pompey the Little, Francis Coventry
1759 - Rasselas, Samuel Johnson
1759 - Candide, Voltaire
1768 - A Sentimental Journey, Lawrence Sterne
1785 - The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Rudolp Erich Raspe
1820 - Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
1839 - The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal
1844 - The Three Musketeers (part of a series), Alexandre Dumas
1847 - The Children of the New Forest, Frederick Marryat
1851 - Moby-Dick or, The Whale, Herman Melville
1864 - A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne
1869 - War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
1873 - Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
1877 - Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
1883 - Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
1884 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
1885 - King Solomon's Mines (part of a series), Henry Rider Haggard
1886 - Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
1887 - She: A History of Adventure (part of a series), Henry Rider Haggard
1892 - The Debacle (part of a series), Emile Zola
1894 - The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope
1895 - The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane
1896 - The Island of Dr Moreau, H.G. Wells
1900 - Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
1902 - The Virginian, Owen Wister
1903 - The Call of the Wild, Jack London
1903 - Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
1904 - Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
1905 - The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy
1917 - South Wind, Norman Douglas
1920 - Queen Lucia (part of a series), E. F. Benson
1920 - Three Soldiers, John Dos Passos
1921 - Sacaramouche (part of a series), Rafael Sabatini
1922 - Captain Blood (part of a series), Rafael Sabatini
1922 - One of Ours, Willa Cather
1923 - The Good Soldier Svejk, Jaroslav Hasek
1924 - Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford
1924 - The Mark of Zorro (part of a series), Johnston McCulley
1929 - All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
1929 - Death of a Hero, Richard Aldington
1929 - A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes
1932 - Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Celine
1933 - La Condition Humaine, Andre Malraux
1934 - Burmese Days, George Orwell
1935 - The African Queen, C.S. Forester
1935 - Auto-da-Fe, Elias Canetti
1938 - Count Belisarius, Robert Graves
1940 - Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler
1940 - For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
1942 - Put Out More Flags, Evelyn Waugh
1942 - Suite Francaise (series), Irene Nemirovsky
1942 - Darkness Falls from the Air, Nigel Balchin
1943 - The Ship, C.S. Forester
1943 - The Crab with the Golden Claws (part of a series), Georges Remi Herge
1944 - Fair Stood the Wind for France, H.E. Bates
1946 - Williwaw, Gore Vidal
1947 - Tales of the South Pacific, James Michener
1947 - The Slaves of Solitude, Patrick Hamilton
1948 - The Young Lions, Irwin Shaw
1948 - The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
1949 - The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
1950 - A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
1951 - The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk
1951 - The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
1952 - Men at Arms (part of a series), Evelyn Waugh
1952 - From Here to Eternity, James Jones
1955 - Andersonville, MacKinlay Kantor
1956 - The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, Joao Guimaraes Rosa
1957 - The Guns of Navarone, Alistair MacLean
1957 - On the Road, Jack Kerouac
1957 - The Hunters, James Salter
1957 - Justine (part of a series), Lawrence Durrell
1957 - Voss, Patrick White
1959 - The Tin Drum (part of a series), Gunter Grass
1959 - Life and Fate, Vassily Grossman
1960 - Tintin in Tibet (part of a series), Georges Remi Herge
1960 - Fortunes of War (series), Olivia Manning
1961 - Covenant with Death, John Harris
1961 - Asterix the Gaul (part of a series), Rene Goscinny
1963 - The Castafiore Emerald (part of a series), Georges Remi Herge
1964 - The Valley of Bones (part of a series), Anthony Powell
1965 - The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski
1966 - The Soldier's Art (part of a series), Anthony Powell
1967 - One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1968 - The Military Philosophers (part of a series), Anthony Powell
1969 - Slaughter-House Five, Kurt Vonnegut
1969 - Master and Commander (part of a series), Patrick O'Brian
1969 - The Bamboo Bed, William Eastlake
1970 - Deliverance, James Dickey
1970 - Bomber, Len Deighton
1972 - Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
1973 - The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell
1973 - Carrie's War, Nina Bawden
1973 - Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
1974 - History, Elsa Morante
1974 - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
1975 - The Machine-Gunners, Robert Westall
1979 - Confederates, Thomas Keneally
1979 - Sophie's Choice, William Styron
1980 - To The Ends of the Earth trilogy, William Golding
1981 - Sharpe's Eagle, Bernard Cornwell
1981 - A Flag for Sunrise, Robert Stone
1982 - When the Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs
1982 - Schindler's Ark, Thomas Keneally
1982 - An Ice-Cream War, William Boyd
1984 - Empire of the Sun, J.G. Ballard
1985 - Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
1986 - Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
1986 - If Not Now, When?, Primo Levi
1990 - Silver Stallion, Junghyo Ahn
1990 - The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
1991 - Maus (series), Art Spiegelman
1991 - Regeneration, Pat Barker
1992 - All the Pretty Horses (part of a series), Cormac McCarthy
1993 - Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
1994 - The Sorrow of War, Bao Ninh
1995 - Enigma, Robert Harris
1995 - The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald
1996 - The Beach, Alex Garland
1997 - Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
1998 - Master Georgie, Beryl Bainbridge
1998 - The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano
1999 - Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
2001 - Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald
2002 - Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
2003 - The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
2005 - Flashman (series), George MacDonald Fraser
2005 - A Long Long Way, Sebastian Barry
2006 - De Niro's Game, Rawi Hage
2007 - Day, A.L. Kennedy