his is the best of times and the worst of times for passionate readers. We are living in a Golden Age, as online retailers make millions of books just a click away. Never before have so many works been within such easy reach. But when anything is possible, choice becomes torture. What to pick? Where to start? This one? That one? How about this—and that? What will I like? What's worth my time?
To answer these questions, we turned to the experts, asking 125 top American and British authors to list their 10 favorite works of fiction of all time. The results were published in "The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books." Edited by J. Peder Zane, "The Top Ten" is the ultimate guide to the world's greatest books. As Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, Margaret Drabble, Michael Chabon, Peter Carey and others celebrate the books that have meant the most to them, you'll be reminded of books you love and introduced to works awaiting your discovery.
This Website is expanding the book. In addition to posting annotated versions of all 125 lists from "The Top Ten," we are gathering new lists from prominent authors. We are highlighting lists submitted by our readers — maybe even yours! And our blog will include updates on the wrld of classic books. Through it all we will help you answer that most pressing literary question: What should I read next?
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Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945). Waugh was one of the twentieth century’s great satirists, yet this novel, widely considered his best, is not satiric. It is, instead, an examination of Roman Catholic faith as it is used, abused, embraced, and rejected by the Flytes, an aristocratic English family visited by alcoholism, adultery, and homoeroticism.
How German Is It by Walter Abish (1980). Abish wields not pen, but scalpel, vivisecting Germany’s cult of appearances and culture of denial. His protagonist is Ulrich, whose father was executed for plotting against Hitler.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980). This is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt.
1982, Janine by Alasdair Gray (1984). In a fleabag Scottish motel, divorced and depressed, Jock McLeish once again seeks consolation and strength through massive doses of alcohol and sadomasochistic sexual fantasies (some starring a woman named Janine). Through frank, complex language Gray takes us inside the addled mind of a powerless man seeking to impose some control over his life.
1984 by George Orwell (1948). Orwell’s reputation as an antiauthoritarian arises in large part from this novel set in a totalitarian future in which citizens are constantly reminded “Big Brother is watching” as they are spied upon by the Thought Police and one another. In this landscape, Winston Smith is a man in danger simply because his memory works.
A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul (1979). A fictionalized account of the violence and political tyranny that gripped Zaire after its independence from Belgium, the novel focuses on an African of Indian descent named Salim who opens a small store at a bend in the Congo River.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962). The linguistic virtuosity of this futuristic tale—told in nadsat, a russified English—lures us into an unwilling complicity in the drug-fueled bouts of ultraviolence committed by Alex and his droogs (comrades).
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980). “The funniest novel of the twentieth century,” said Donald Harington of this sprawling picaresque, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize after Toole’s suicide. Its blustering, bumfuzzled antihero is Ignatius J. Reilly, an unintentionally hilarious, altogether deluded, and oddly endearing student of man who lives with his mother in New Orleans.