Greatest 20th Century Novels: Which Have You Read?

Not that any literary “canon” should be accepted uncritically (there are some books on the following list I think were awful), but… of the books on the following ist created by the Modern Library, which have you read?

(As of now, I’ve read 30 of them, myself.)

Following list, following list. Wherefore art thou, following list?

And, yes, that’s not how Shakespeare used “wherefore”. I use the material I can, dammit.

I’m assuming it’s a very sarcastic commentary on the quality of 20th Century Novels.

Not read enough of them, sadly, and many sit on our shelves. On the other hand, I don’t feel my life is poorer for it.

I’ve only read about ten. I only enjoyed about five. And I counted Heart of Darkness although technically I couldn’t force myself through the last few pages.

I don’t have any plans to read the others.

Thirty. I guess I’m a Yankee through-and-through - I just don’t get what people think is so great about Women in Love, or Old Wives’ Tale. Or Kim.

I’ve completed 12. There are several others that I attempted to read but gave up on: Catch 22, Ulysses, Sound and the Fury, and Passage to India. Next in my queue is Slaughterhouse Five.

  1. I didn’t count the ones I started but didn’t finish because they bored me to tears (Lolita, On The Road, Invisible Man, Midnight’s Children) or were just bullshit not worth finishing (Finnegans Wake).

I voted for 19 of them. I wasn’t sure what to do about Tropic of Cancer and Portnoy’s Complaint, where I…ahem…skimmed them as a young teenager. So I voted “yes” on Portnoy and “no” on Tropic.

I have only read 5 and of those, *Catch 22 *was the only one I thought was horrible. There are probably 30 or so of those sitting on my shelf. I could probably name 10 or so novels that should be on that list, but obviously couldn’t tell you what they should replace.

Crap, I missed a couple. Start the poll over again!

Not too many. Seven of them. Though at least two of them, while I know I read long ago, I couldn’t tell you thing-one about them. And there are a few others which I’ve either started and never finished, or bought and never started.

And now that I think about, at least one that I’m not sure if I ever read or not (I think I might have (Heart of Darkness)). But it’s weird, because I know all about the story, plot, characters etc, but I can’t swear I actually read it. It’s like Gone With The Wind – I never saw it, but I could probably win a trivia contest about it.

I’ve read 36. It pays to have taken at least a dozen novels courses in college.

Almost all of the “great” novels are written by white people?

Fuck that noise. I don’t know why that’s making me angry - it’s irrational to say the least - but it is.


I’m glad there’s at least a few non-white people there.

But um, yeah. 12. I’ve read 12.

Only 31. And I really enjoyed most of them–let’s hear it for Ford Madox Ford!

I need to read a more–but doubt I’ll make it to 100%…

Just seven. I don’t read many novels.

15 and a few I tried to start but they were just shit.

Out of the ones that I read from this list, The Good Soldier was by far the dullest.

I ended up with seven, although there are one or two others that I may have read but am not sure. I also didn’t count Tobacco Road, which I really tried to read but gave up about a quarter of the way through. Honestly, it reads like a parody of its own genre. (See Thurber’s “Bateman Comes Home” for an actual parody that is almost indistinguishable from the original.)

Is anyone else surprised that To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t on this list?