The List of Books


We awarded points for each selection – 10 points for a first place pick, nine points for a second place pick, and so on. Then we totaled up all the points and ranked them accordingly. Here are all the books ordered by the number of points each earned. In the parentheses are the initials of the authors that selected them and the points earned. Click on their initials to see their list. 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877). Anna’s adulterous love affair with Count Vronsky—which follows an inevitable, devastating road from their dizzyingly erotic first encounter at a ball to Anna’s exile from society and her famous, fearful end—is a masterwork of tragic love. What makes the novel so deeply satisfying, though, is how Tolstoy balances the story of Anna’s passion with a second semiautobiographical story of Levin’s spirituality and domesticity. Levin commits his life to simple human values: his marriage to Kitty, his faith in God, and his farming. Tolstoy enchants us with Anna’s sin, then proceeds to educate us with Levin’s virtue.

Total Points: 231 (MB 10) (JBarn 7) (CB 7) (JBud 6) (BMC 1) (PCap 4) (PC 5) (CD 7) (BEE 9) (GG 7) (RG 9) (HaJ 10) (DLod 4) (MMCPH 4) (MM 10) (NM10) (PM 2) (CM 6) (SM 10) (SO’N 7) (TP 9) (RPri 8) (FP 10) (APat 10) (JSalt 3) (LShriv 8) (AMS 10) (SS 2) (ST 9) (EWhite 10) (TW 7) (SY 10)

Madame Bovary  by Gustave Flaubert (1857). Of the many nineteenth-century novels about adulteresses, only Madame Bovary features a heroine frankly detested by her author. Flaubert battled for five years to complete his meticulous portrait of extramarital romance in the French provinces, and he complained endlessly in letters about his love-starved main character— so inferior, he felt, to himself. In the end, however, he came to peace with her, famously saying, “Madame Bovary: c’est moi.” A model of gorgeous style and perfect characterization, the novel is a testament to how yearning for a higher life both elevates and destroys us.

Total Points: 214 (RB 3) (JBarn 10) (BMC 5) (PCap 6) (PC 10) (MCunn 9) (MD 8) (BEE 5) (EF 10) (MGait 6) (DG 2) (MGri 6) (JGil 9) (RG 6) (LG 10) (KHarr 3) (JI 1) (DLod 2) (TM 8) (VM 9) (EM 6) (JMEND 6) (CM 7) (LM 10) (RM 4) (RPri 10) (AMS 4) (LS 1) (JSalt 5) (SS 9) (BU 7) (AW 8) (MW 5) (SY 4)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869). Mark Twain supposedly said of this masterpiece, “Tolstoy carelessly neglects to include a boat race.” Everything else is included in this epic novel that revolves around Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Tolstoy is as adept at drawing panoramic battle scenes as he is at describing individual feeling in hundreds of characters from all strata of society, but it is his depiction of Prince Andrey, Natasha, and Pierre—who struggle with love and with finding the right way to live—that makes this book beloved.

Total Points: 167 (PA 9) (RB 4) (AB 9) (SCraw 4) (RFD 9) (JF 9) (PF 10) (BH 1) (AHas 8) (HaJ 8) (KK 8) (TK 6) (NM 9) (PM1) (JMEND 6) (CN 5) (APhil 4) (IR 8) (RR 10) (LDR 4) (GS 8) (CS 8) (MSimp 6) (AMS 9) (MW 4)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955). “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” So begins the Russian master’s infamous novel about Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who falls madly, obsessively in love with a twelve-year-old “nymphet,” Dolores Haze. So he marries the girl’s mother. When she dies he becomes Lolita’s father. As Humbert describes their car trip—a twisted mockery of the American road novel—Nabokov depicts love, power, and obsession in audacious, shockingly funny language.

Total Points: 161 (DAJ 3) (MB 9) (JB 5) (JBud 10) (MCunn 5) (BEE 7) (JF 3) (MGait 9) (AGold 9) (MGri 7) (DH 10) (AMH 1) (JHUMP 4) (WK 6) (ML 4) (MM 7) (VM 8) (BAM 9) (SM 8) (APat 8) (JS 10) (SS 10) (DWall 9)

 Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72). Dorothea Brooke is a pretty young idealist whose desire to improve the world leads her to marry the crusty pedant Casaubon. This mistake takes her down a circuitous and painful path in search of happiness. The novel, which explores society’s brakes on women and deteriorating rural life, is as much a chronicle of the English town of Middlemarch as it is the portrait of a lady. Eliot excels at parsing moments of moral crisis so that we feel a character’s anguish and resolve. Her intelligent sympathy for even the most unlikable people redirects our own moral compass toward charity rather than enmity.

Total Points: 158 (JE 6) (DAJ 8) (KA 7) (MB 4) (AB 8) (TBiss 10) (PC 6) (JC 6) (SCraw 6) (BEE 8) (KJF 10) (GG 6) (MG 1) (MGri 2) (AG 8) (KHarr 4) (AHas 5) (AHud 3) (SHust 8) (DL 9) (DLod 5) (MMCPH 9) (JMEND 4) (LM 2) (FP 3) (JR 5) (MSimp 4) (EWhite 1)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). Perhaps the most searching fable of the American Dream ever written, this glittering novel of the Jazz Age paints an unforgettable portrait of its day— the flappers, the bootleg gin, the careless, giddy wealth. Self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby, determined to win back the heart of the girl he loved and lost, emerges as an emblem for romantic yearning, and the novel’s narrator, Nick Carroway, brilliantly illuminates the post–World War I end to American innocence.

Total Points: 157 (MB 6) (CB 6) (CBollen 10) (JLB 1) (MCon 10) (MCunn 6) (BEE 6) (AFilip 1) (JF 6) (DG 7) (AHud 1) (TK 3) (WL 4) (CL 3) (BAM 8) (PM 4) (EM 2) (CN 10) (AO 9) (RBP 9) (APat 6) (TP 3) (JPico 8) (VV 3) (SV 1) (AW 5) (RW 9) (MW 10)

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27). It’s about time. No, really. This seven-volume, three-thousand-page work is only superficially a mordant critique of French (mostly high) society in the belle époque. Both as author and as “Marcel,” the first-person narrator whose childhood memories are evoked by a crumbling madeleine cookie, Proust asks some of the same questions Einstein did about our notions of time and memory. As we follow the affairs, the badinage, and the betrayals of dozens of characters over the years, time is the highway and memory the driver.

Total Points: 143 (PA 6) (MC 4) (AFilip 9) (JF 7) (PF 9) (MG 8) (RG 10) (JH 9) (AHas 6) (HaJ 6) (DL 10) (DMe 3) (CM 9) (APhil 5) (RPow 1) (FP 8) (LDR 10) (MSimp 7) (AW 6) (EWhite 9) (SY 1)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884). Hemingway proclaimed, “All modern American literature comes from . . . ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ” But one can read it simply as a straightforward adventure story in which two comrades of conve­ nience, the parentally abused rascal Huck and fugitive slave Jim, escape the laws and conventions of society on a raft trip down the Mississippi. Alternatively, it’s a subversive satire in which Twain uses the only superficially naïve Huck to comment bitingly on the evils of racial bigotry, religious hypocrisy, and capitalist greed he observes in a host of other largely unsympathetic characters. Huck’s climactic decision to “light out for the Territory ahead of the rest” rather than submit to the starched standards of “civilization” reflects a uniquely American strain of individualism and nonconformity stretching from Daniel Boone to Easy Rider.

Total Points: 136 (LKA 9) (KA 2) (RB 8) (MSB 2) (CB 3) (FC 3) (CE 7) (PE 8) (AGold 1) (BH 5) (KH 5) (CH 9) (JHUMP 9) (HK 4) (SK 9) (WK 2) (WL 6) (BAM 4) (JCO 1) (RBP 7) (JR 3) (LDR 1) (GS 9) (CS 4) (MSimp 1) (SS 7) (SV 7)

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851). This sweeping saga of obsession, vanity, and vengeance at sea can be read as a harrowing parable, a gripping adventure story, or a semiscientific chronicle of the whaling industry. No matter, the book rewards patient readers with some of fiction’s most memorable characters, from mad Captain Ahab to the titular white whale that crippled him, from the honorable pagan Queequeg to our insightful narrator/surrogate (“Call me”) Ishmael, to that hell-bent vessel itself, the Pequod.

Total Points: 128 (PA 8) (RB 9) (JB 6) (AB 3) (BMC 4) (MC 7) (DAD 7) (BEE 1) (JH 7) (JHUMP 10) (AHas 3) (TLeClair 8) (JI 8) (NM 4) (BAM 2) (PM 10) (RM 6) (JCO 2) (RPow 1) (FP 4) (IR 1) (RRash 7) (LDR 2) (SY 8)

The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904). The son of a freed Russian serf, Anton Chekhov became a doctor who, between the patients he often treated without charge, invented the modern short story. The form had been overdecorated with trick endings and swags of atmosphere. Chekhov freed it to reflect the earnest urgencies of ordinary lives in crises through prose that blended a deeply compassionate imagination with precise description. “He remains a great teacher-healer-sage,” Allan Gurganus observed of Chekhov’s stories, which “continue to haunt, inspire, and baffle.”

Total Points: 128 (DAJ 7) (ABrav 4) (SCraw 5) (MGait 4) (AG 9) (KH 9) (EH 10) (HaJ 7) (VM 5) (DMe 7) (JMEND 7) (SM 1) (DM 10) (SO’N 8) (RR 9) (APhil 3) (FP 7) (GS 4) (JS 7) (MSimp 5)

Ulysses by James Joyce (1922). Filled with convoluted plotting, scrambled syntax, puns, neologisms, and arcane mythological allusions, Ulysses recounts the misadventures of schlubby Dublin advertising salesman Leopold Bloom on a single day, June 16, 1904. As Everyman Bloom and a host of other characters act out, on a banal and quotidian scale, the major episodes of Homer’s ­Odyssey—including encounters with modern-day sirens and a Cyclops—Joyce’s bawdy mock-epic suggests the improbability, perhaps even the pointlessness, of heroism in the modern age.

Total Points: 127 (PA 5) (JB 8) (TBiss 9) (CB 9) (BEE 4) (MGait 10) (LG 6) (JH 6) (KK 7) (TLeClair 7) (DLod 7) (DMe 2) (RM 3) (JCO 9) (RPow 1) (RP 6) (IR 6) (RRash 4) (LDR 9) (IWelsh 10) EWhite 3)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600). The most famous play ever written, Hamlet tells the story of a melancholic prince charged with avenging the murder of his father at the hands of his uncle, who then married his mother and, becoming King of Denmark, robbed Hamlet of the throne. Told the circumstances of this murder and usurpation by his father’s ghost, Hamlet is plunged deep into brilliant and profound reflection on the problems of existence, which meditations delay his revenge at the cost of innocent lives. When he finally acts decisively, Hamlet takes with him every remaining major character in a crescendo of violence unmatched in Shakespearean theater.

Total Points: 124 (DAJ 4) (CE 10) (KH 8) (AHud 6) (KK 9) (HK 8) (DLod 9) (VM 10) (BAM 10) (SO’N 10) (RBP 8) (APhil 6) (RRash 9) (GS 6) (SV 9) (AW 2)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615). Considered literature’s first great novel, Don Quixote is the comic tale of a dream-driven nobleman whose devotion to medieval romances inspires him to go in quest of chivalric glory and the love of a lady who doesn’t know him. Famed for its hilarious antics with windmills and nags, Don Quixote offers timeless meditations on heroism, imagination, and the art of writing itself. Still, the heart of the book is the relationship between the deluded knight and his proverb-spewing squire, Sancho Panza. If their misadventures illuminate human folly, it is a folly redeemed by simple love, which makes Sancho stick by his mad master “no matter how many foolish things he does.”

Total Points: 109 (SA 6) (PA 10) (RB 10) (PC 7) (FC 9) (CE 9) (KJF 8) (AGold 8) (WL 9) (RM 8) (TP 10) (LDR 5) (PShreve 10)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61). Dickens gives a twist to an ancient storyline—of the child of royal birth raised in humble surroundings. Looking back on his life, Pip describes his poor youth near marshes in rural England—his chance encounter with a murderous convict, his experiences with the strange Miss Havisham, who always wears a wedding dress, and his love for her beautiful adopted daughter Estella. As he approaches adulthood, Pip learns that he has a secret benefactor who arranges opportunities for him in London, wherein lies the tale, and the twist.

Total Points: 96 (CB 8) (PC 8) (EDon 7) (AH 9) (JI 10) (TK 7) (JL 10) (CN 1) (RPow 1) (RPri 9) (PShreve 8) (MSimp 8) (ES 10) (SS 8)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967). Widely considered the most popular work in Spanish since Don Quixote, this novel—part fantasy, part social history of Colombia— sparked fiction’s “Latin boom” and the popularization of magic realism. Over a century that seems to move backward and forward simultaneously, the forgotten and offhandedly magical village of Macondo— home to a Faulknerian plethora of incest, floods, massacres, civil wars, dreamers, prudes, and prostitutes— loses its Edenic innocence as it is increasingly exposed to civilization.

Total Points: 93 (LKA 1) (RB 1) (PCle 10) (ED 6) (CD 4) (KJF 2) (MGri 8) (AH 4) (JH 3) (JI 3) (LL 2) (WL 1) (MM 9) (CN 8) (APat 9) (FP 2) (JS 9) (PShreve 2) (AMS 3) (SY 6)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866). In the peak heat of a St. Petersburg summer, an erstwhile university student, Raskolnikov, commits literature’s most famous fictional crime, bludgeoning a pawnbroker and her sister with an axe. What follows is a psychological chess match between Raskolnikov and a wily detective that moves toward a form of redemption for our antihero. Relentlessly philosophical and psychological, Crime and Punishment tackles freedom and strength, suffering and madness, illness and fate, and the pressures of the modern urban world on the soul, while asking if “great men” have license to forge their own moral codes.

Total Points: 92 (PA 7) (AFilip 5) (DG 3) (AMH 2) (JL 1) (NM 8) (TM 7) (BM 10) (JCO 10) (FP 1) (IR 7) (RRash 6) (VV 9) (AW 7) (SY 9)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927). The Ramsays and their eight children vacation with an assortment of scholarly and artistic houseguests by the Scottish seaside. Mainly set on two days ten years apart, the novel describes the loss, love, and disagreements of family life while reaching toward the bigger question—“What is the meaning of life?”—that Woolf addresses in meticulously crafted, modernist prose that is impressionistic without being vague or sterile.

Total Points: 85 (DAJ 5) (MCunn 7) (MD 2) (MGait 5) (MG 3) (SHust 4) (HK 6) (SM 9) (RM 2) (SO’N 4) (RPri 3) (RR 8) (LS 6) (MSimp 10) (MW 9) (SY 2)

Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64). Full of violence, mordant comedy, and a fierce Catholic vision that is bent on human salvation at any cost, Flannery O’Connor’s stories are like no others. Bigots, intellectual snobs, shyster preachers, and crazed religious seers—a full cavalcade of what critics came to call “grotesques”—careen through her tales, and O’Connor gleefully displays the moral inadequacy of all of them. Twentieth-century short stories often focus on tiny moments, but O’Connor’s stories, with their unswerving eye for vanity and their profound sense of the sacred, feel immense.

Total Points: 83 (JLB 6) (JC 1) (MCunn 1) (CE 5) (CH 2) (BH 7) (KH 4) (JHUMP 3) (WK 10) (WL 2) (BM 1) (DMcF 7) (EM 1) (MM 4) (RRash 3) (JS 4) (PShreve 4) (LS 4) (DWall 4) (BW 10)

King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605). Considered one of Shakespeare’s four “core tragedies”—with Hamlet, Othello, and ­Macbeth—King Lear commences with Lear, having achieved great age but little wisdom, dividing his kingdom among his three daughters in return for their proclamations of love for him. Two of his daughters, evil to the core, falsely profess their love, while Cordelia, his good and true daughter, refuses his request. Enraged, Lear gives his kingdom to his evil daughters and banishes Cordelia. Lear pays a dear price for this rash act. The play systematically strips him of his kingdom, title, retainers, clothes, and sanity in a process so cruel and unrelenting as to be nearly unendurable.

Total Points: 81 (MCunn 10) (MG 5) (WL 8) (AHas 10) (JMEND 9) (IP 10) (RP 8) (AP 5) (IR 10) (SS 6)

The Odyssey by Homer (ninth century b.c.e.?). Where The Iliad tells of war, The Odyssey is the story of survival and reconciliation following the ten-year battle with Troy. Where Achilles was defined by warrior brutality, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, is defined by his intelligence and wit. This epic poem follows Odysseus on his adventures as he struggles—against the threats of sea monsters and the temptation of the sirens’ song—to be reunited with his son Telemachus, his faithful, clever queen Penelope, and their kingdom.

Total Points: 81 (RB 6) (FC 6) (AHud 9) (KK 10) (WL 10) (DLod 10) (BM 8) (RPow 1) (RP 10) (AP 10) (APhil 1)

Dubliners by James Joyce (1916). Although many of these largely autobiographical stories evoke themes of death, illness, and stasis, nearly all offer their characters redemption—or at least momentary self-knowledge—through what Joyce called “epiphanies,” in which defeat or disappointment is transformed by a sudden, usually life-altering flash of awareness. The collection’s emotional centerpiece is its concluding tale, “The Dead,” which moves from a New Year’s Eve party where guests muse about issues of the day—the Catholic church, Irish nationalism, Freddie Malins’s worrying drunkenness—to a man’s discovery of his wife weeping over a boy who died for love of her. A profound portrait of identity and loneliness, it is Joyce’s most compassionate work.

Total Points: 79 (JLB 9) (MCunn 4) (KJF 1) (PF 7) (DG 5) (MG 7) (HK 7) (DMcF 1) (DMe 4) (LM 9) (RBP 4) (JS 5) (LS 10) (MW 6)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936). Weaving mythic tales of biblical urgency with the experimental techniques of high modernism, Faulkner bridged the past and future. This is the story of Thomas Sutpen, a rough-hewn striver who came to Mississippi in 1833 with a gang of wild slaves from Haiti to build a dynasty. Almost in reach, his dream is undone by plagues of biblical (and Faulknerian) proportions: racism, incest, war, fratricide, pride, and jealousy. Through the use of multiple narrators, Faulkner turns this gripping Yoknapatawpha saga into a profound and dazzling meditation on truth, memory, history, and literature itself.

Total Points: 77 (PCap 1) (JF 5) (JGil 7) (AG 5) (JH 4) (AHas 7) (AHud 2) (HaJ 5) (TLeClair 9) (EM 3) (RASH 5) (LDR 8) (LShriv 9) (LS 7)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880). In perhaps the consummate Russian novel, Dostoevsky dramatizes the spiritual conundrums of nineteenth-century Russia through the story of three brothers and their father’s murder. Hedonistic Dmitri, tortured intellectual Ivan, and saintly Alyosha embody distinct philosophical positions, while remaining full-fledged human beings. Issues such as free will, secularism, and Russia’s unique destiny are argued not through authorial polemic, but through the confessions, diatribes, and nightmares of the characters themselves. An unsparing portrayal of human vice and weakness, the novel ultimately imparts a vision of redemption. Dostoevsky’s passion, doubt, and imaginative power compel even the secular West he scorned.

Total Points: 77 (RB 2) (DAD 9) (JF 10) (BH 10) (HaJ 9) (NM 7) (EM 4) (DMe 10) (RM 5) (CN 6) (IWelsh 5)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813). “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” reads this novel’s famous opening line. This matching of wife to single man—or good fortune—makes up the plot of perhaps the happiest, smartest romance ever written. Austen’s genius was to make Elizabeth Bennet a reluctant, sometimes crabby equal to her Mr. Darcy, making Pride and Prejudice as much a battle of wits as it is a love story.

Total Points: 76 (KA 8) (MC 6) (RFD 5) (AH 7) (NM 6) (JMEND 8) (CM 10) (IP 5) (JPico 2) (IR 2) (PShreve 9) (AT 3) (SY 5)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Like Wuthering Heights, this is a romance set in the isolated moors of rural England the Brontës called home. Its title character is an exceptionally independent orphan who becomes governess to the children of an appealing but troubled character, Mr. Rochester. As their love develops, the author introduces a host of memorable characters and a shattering secret before sending Jane on yet another arduous journey.

Total Points: 73 (AB 2) (CB 4) (PC 1) (AFilip 6) (KJF 4) (JGil 10) (EH 3) (CL 6) (ML 10) (SMill 2) (LM 4) (AO 8) (LS 2) (MSimp 2) (AT 9)