Century of Books

My project to read the top 100 English-language books of the twentieth century.

Location: San Francisco, United States

I am an Australian writer and blogger living in San Francisco. Visit my professional site at caitlinfitzsimmons.com, or my travel and food blog at Roaming Tales or my personal blog at The Niltiac Files. I am also on Twitter as @niltiac. See the full list of books or visit me on BookCrossing.

23 November 2005

One hundred books of the century: The List

On my recent trip to the US, I made a new friend and was inspired by her project to read the top one hundred books of the twentieth century.

I have taken her original list and modified it according to my own tastes and ideas, along with some reference to other published lists and also the BookCrossing community. Some of the books I have read, some I have always intended to read and others, quite frankly, I know very little about. But for one reason or another these are the books that made the cut.

I followed a few rules in compiling this list. Firstly, one hundred books only and each author gets no more than two books each. Secondly, the books must be originally written in English - translated works belong in a different list. Thirdly, the list contains only fiction novels (no short stories, memoirs or biographies). Finally, all books must be published between 1900 and 1999.

Within those parameters, I tried to avoid it being a list solely of dead white males, as many of the published lists tend to be. I wanted to include authors from all over the English-speaking world, women and minorities, genre writers and ensure a selection from the early, middle and late decades of the century. However, the primary factor was merit, in so far as I can judge it without having read all the books in question.

So here's the list. It's a work in progress and I'd be glad to hear your feedback. It's not in any particular order.

1 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
2 The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
3 The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
4 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
5 The Color Purple Alice Walker
6 Ulysses James Joyce
7 Beloved Toni Morrison
8 The Lord of the Flies William Golding
9 1984 George Orwell
10 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
11 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
12 Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man James Joyce
13 Catch-22 Joseph Heller
14 The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
15 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
16 Animal Farm George Orwell
17 As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
18 A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
19 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
20 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
21 The Heart of the Matter Graham Greene
22 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey
23 Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
24 Ironweed William Kennedy
25 On the Road Jack Kerouac
26 The Call of the Wild Jack London
27 To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
28 A Passage to India E.M. Forster
29 The House of Mirth Edith Wharton
30 The Fountainhead Ayn Rand
31 The Jungle Upton Sinclair
32 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
33 My Antonia Willa Cather
34 Howard's End E.M. Forster
35 Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie
36 The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing [added 14/3/06 to replace The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway]
37 Sophie's Choice William Styron
38 In Cold Blood Truman Capote
39 Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs
40 Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
41 The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett
42 Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole
43 White Noise Don DeLillo
44 Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
45 Kim Rudyard Kipling
46 The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro
47 A House for Mr. Biswas V.S. Naipaul
48 The Ginger Man P.D. Donleavy
49 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
50 The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck
51 The Naked and the Dead Norman Mailer
52 Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Pynchon
53 I, Claudius Robert Graves
54 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy JRR Tolkien
55 The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
56 Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey
57 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula Le Guin
58 The Magic Pudding Norman Lindsay
59 Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
60 Voss Patrick White
61 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S.Lewis
62 Anne of Green Gables L.M.Montgomery
63 Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
64 The Outsiders S.E.Hinton
65 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler
66 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Graeme
67 A Town Like Alice Neville Shute
68 The Chrysalids John Wyndham
69 Amsterdam Ian McEwan
70 The Pursuit of Love Nancy Mitford
71 Couples John Updike
72 The Bell Iris Murdoch
73 Money Martin Amis
74 Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
75 Possession A.S.Byatt
76 In the Skin of a Lion Michael Ondaatje
77 A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth
78 Waiting for the Barbarians J.M.Coetzee
79 Schindler's Ark Thomas Keneally
80 The Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
81 Native Son Richard Wright
82 Sons and Lovers D.H. Lawrence
83 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
84 Ragtime E.L. Docorow
85 Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham
86 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
87 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
88 From Here to Eternity James Jones
89 Main Street Sinclair Lewis
90 The Way of All Flesh Samuel Butler
91 Darkness at Noon Arthur Koestler
92 Henderson the Rain King Saul Bellow
93 Appointment in Samarra John O'Hara
94 The Wapshot Chronicles John Cheever
95 The Day of the Locust Nathanael West
96 The Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles
97 The World According to Garp John Irving
98 The French Lieutenant's Woman John Fowles
99 Waterland Graham Swift
100 Go Tell it on the Mountain James Baldwin


Blogger Tash said...

Wow, that's a fair endeavour! A you setting yourself a timeframe?
Will they all be BookCrossing copies?

I have a few of those 100 on my TBR pile, if you want them after me...

11/24/2005 01:52:00 pm  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I guess it will be a combination of BookCrossing copies, library copies and ones that either my boyfriend or I already own. I would love to borrow copies of things on your TBR list - what did you have in mind?

11/27/2005 12:35:00 pm  
Blogger Caitlin said...

PS No timeframe but I would probably want at least every second book I read to be from this list.

11/27/2005 12:35:00 pm  
Blogger Satya G said...

Home now so can peruse the list. Have read about 70% of them I think. Can understand why most of them are there but think there are some notable omissions so will gather my info and wokr out what i think you should include and take out to fit them (or produce my own list maybe).
lots of love

1/26/2006 05:53:00 am  
Anonymous Angela Murphy nee Fitzsimmons said...

That list is huge! I think I have read & own about 35% of the books on the list. Maybe a bit less. I'm surprised about the Steinbeck books you chose. My favourites of his are Cannery Row & The Pearl. I probably would have put East Of Eden in before The Grapes Of Wrath. Are the books you've chosen ones that are considered to be the best of that author by society or by yourself or a combination? Also, if you're looking for some more female writers, what about Miles Franklin - My Brilliant Career. It was first published in 1901 (I just checked). You have inspired me to start hunting second-hand bookstores for the rest of the books on your list. Thank you! p.s. Portia and your mum were just here visiting and they let me know about your blogs. I have enjoyed catching up with you (although a bit one sided). I will send you a real email soon. X Ange.

8/23/2006 02:57:00 am  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Hi Angela,
I don't have your email address so hopefully you'll read this comment instead! Really nice to hear from you and I would love to have a real email with all your news some time soon.

I'm impressed that you had already read 35% of the books on the list. Which ones have you read? I had only read 25% of them when I started.

I will think about Miles Franklin and My Brilliant Career. It's been years since I read it. I will have to work out what to take out.

The Grapes of Wrath is actually the first John Steinbeck that I've read so I can't compare, although I've got East of Eden at home waiting to read. My boyfriend liked The Grapes of Wrath better. I was really going off the opinion of 'the experts' in selecting those books since I haven't read them all. The Grapes of Wrath is generally considered his masterpiece and Of Mice and Men is what he won the Nobel prize for. But the experts are not always right (or at least I don't always agree with them, which is the same thing!) so I might think differently when I've read a bit more. I was very impressed with The Grapes of Wrath though.

8/23/2006 10:20:00 am  
Blogger Caitlin said...

PS BookCrossing is a good source of free or cheap books (sometimes you pay for postage). It's fun and a good way to meet people too! Check out my bookshelf at any rate.


8/23/2006 10:22:00 am  
Blogger Susan Tunis said...


That is an excellent list! I've only read about 30 of them. So many books, so little time...

How many have you read now?

7/24/2009 05:04:00 am  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I'd read 25 when I started and I've read 41 now. I keep a running total on each blog post - the most recent one was My Antonia by Willa Cather, though that was six months ago now.

7/24/2009 05:10:00 am  

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