These are the 100 books I’ve chosen for my insane, quixotic reading adventure. Before I bore you with my methodology, here’s the shortlist of the books that didn’t make the cut: (and the reasons why)
First, there’s a long list of books by crime fiction writers like Price, Ellroy, MacDonald, Connelly, Lehane, Pelecanos, etc. While some works from that genre are on the list, one of the reasons for this foolishness is to get beyond my reading comfort zone. Have a seat fellas, I’m sure I’ll be back.
Then there are books and authors I found on multiple Greatest Novels lists whose names might be more familiar to English majors and MFA warriors. Take John Fowles’ The Magus. Of his highly regarded works, this is the one that piqued my interest the most. Yet it seems, by description at least, too steeped in the psycho-babble B.S. of its era for my taste. Pass.
I’m fascinated with the early forms of the novel. While I look forward to finally cracking open Cervantes’ Don Quixote, I had to restrain myself from adding both Shikibu’s Tale of the Genji, and the sprawling Chinese adventure Journey to the West. I’m crazy, not stupid.
I feel like the most glaring omission from this list is Joyce Carol Oates. Blonde is the one work from her bibliography that I find irresistible, nearly. I’m sure I’ll find my way to reading it, but it seemed too close to biography for this exercise.
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was the last to go, mostly because I feel like I have the major early Black intellectual writers covered. Also, researching her work helped me find Percival Everett’s Erasure. I had to cut something loose to make room for one of my most anticipated books on this list.
Which brings me to how I have the nerve, the gall, the arrogance(!) to put this list of books together for the sole purpose of making them compete for the title of My Favorite Novel. Well, I cherry picked titles and authors of interest from several 100 Greatest Novels lists (mostly dead white guys). Then, I did the same thing with literary prize winners from the last 30 years. That gave me 77 novels that I consider to be The Canon, books that are universally recognized as the best and/or most influential examples of the form. I added nine books that I have already read and vaguely remember liking. Finally, I culled the list of books of interest that have been recommended to me, or I read about somewhere, and added those 14 wild cards to the mix, and voila! My own personal 100 greatest books reading list.
Next up: Bracketology, another fine mess…