10 October 2012

A New List for a New Day (1925 was a good year)

After my recent rant about important books that I no longer feel compelled to read, I realized I needed to revamp my A Century of Books list. I thought about abandoning ACOB altogether because it seemed like it was beginning to be a chore. But, revamping the list and getting rid of those literary heavyweights that don't appeal to me, or that I have found too tedious to read, suddenly made the list much more interesting.

Many of you helped me out with ideas for filling in some of the newly created gaps in my list. Someone gave me Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) replacing Ford Madox Ford, someone else gave me Claudine at School (1900) to replace Conrad, which then led me to throw out Kipling in favor of Claudine in Paris. Now I just hope I like Claudine. And then a friend of mine helped me solve the very difficult 1918 with Patricia Brent - Spinster and she even is providing me with a copy of it.

And then there is 1925. I mean what an amazing year for literature. An American Tragedy (Dreiser), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Arrowsmith (Lewis), and The Professor's House (Cather). All of these rank among my favorites. Then we added in Gide's The Counterfeiters, which I also liked as well as The Mother's Recompense (Wharton). So many great things to choose from. But I have read them all. What in the world would I choose? And then Mrs. Dalloway revealed herself. Hooray. Not a huge fan of Woolf, but I haven't read this one and have wanted to since seeing the movie twice (and reading and seeing The Hours). So, woohoo. 1925 solved.

I also updated the 1980s and 1990s to make them a little more representative of those decades. One exception is The Temple by Stephen Spender. It was written in the 1930s but not published until 1988 due to its homosexual content. Normally I would think of this as a 30s book and not appropriate to satisfy 1988. However, I bought my copy of this book in 1989 at Gays the Word bookshop when I was 20 and in London for the first time. It was my first Stephen Spender and I haven't read it since then. So it seemed right to consider it part of my 80s.

Other new additions that I am happy about: Quartet by Jean Rhys--an author just recommended me today by a new fan of the Anita Brookner website; Talented Mr. Ripley which I have always wanted to read; The Name of the Rose; and Postcards from the Edge--what could be more 80s than that?

So here is the updated, and way more fun, list. [UPDATED 12/9/12]

I have already completed the one's that are crossed out. Those marked "ML100" are on the Modern Library's list of the top 100 novels of the 20th century, which I have been working my way through since 1997.

1900 - Claudine at School by Collette
1901 - Claudine in Paris by Collette
1902 - The Immoralist by Andre Gide
1903 - The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
1904 - Peter Camenzind by Herman Hesse
1905 - The Duel by Aleksandr Kuprin
1906 - Young Torless by Robert Musil
1907 - The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1908 - Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson
1909 - Martin Eden by Jack London
1910 - Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett
1911 - Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (ML 100)
1912 - The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens
1913 - T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1914 - Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 - The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
1916 - Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
1917 - Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
1918 - Patricia Brent - Spinster by Herbert George Jenkins
1919 - Consequences by E.M. Delafield
1920 - Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
1921 - Dangerous Ages by Rose Macauley
1922 - The Judge by Rebecca West
1923 - The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
1924 - Some Do Not by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1925 - Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
1926 - Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
1927 - Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards
1928 - Quartet by Jean Rhys
1929 - The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1930 - Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestly or The Deepening Stream by Dorothy Canfield
1931 - The Square Circle by Denis Mackail
1932 - Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1933 - Frost in May by Antonia White or Ordinary Familes by E. Arnot Robertson
1934 - The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1935 - A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1936 - Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner or Eyeless in Gaza by Huxley
1937 - Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
1938 - Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
1939 - Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
1940 - Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1941 - The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
1942 - Clark Clifford's Body by Kenneth Fearing
1943 - Gideon Planish by Sinclair Lewis
1944 - Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp
1945 - The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
1946 - Every Good Deed by Dorothy Whipple
1947 - Not Now, but Now by MFK Fisher
1948 - The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
1949 - Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
1950 - Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
1951 - A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
1952 - The Far Country by Nevil Shute
1953 - Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
1954 - Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
1955 - The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
1956 - The Flight From the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
1957 - Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
1958 - A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
1959 - The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
1960 - The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
1961 - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML100)
1962 - A Clockwork Orange by A. Burgess (ML 100)
1963 - The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy
1964 - Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
1965 - Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
1966 - The House on the Cliff by DE Stevenson
1967 - My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof by Penelope Mortimer
1968 - Sarah's Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
1969 - The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble
1970 - 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
1971 - A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis or My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber
1972 - Augustus by John Williams
1973 - After Claude by Iris Owens
1974 - House of Stairs by William Sleator
1975 - Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Crucial Conversations by May Sarton
1976 - The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 - Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
1978 - The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym
1979 - The Safety Net by Heinrich Boll
1980 - The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
1981 - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (ML100)
1982 - Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
1983 - Look at Me by Anita Brookner
1984 - Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985 - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
1986 - Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
1987 - Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher
1988 - The Temple by Stephen Spender
1989 - A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble
1990 - Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
1991 - The Translator by Ward Just
1992 - Arcadia by Jim Crace
1993 - While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
1994 - The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy
1995 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
1996 - Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
1997 - Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
1998 - The Book of Lies by Felice Picano
1999 - Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson


  1. "Mrs Dalloway" is my only Woolf so far. It was a college class assignment and I quite enjoyed it. I've looked forward to reading more Woolf since but have never quite gotten around to it.

  2. A very interesting list of books. I am also doing the Century Books challenge but at my own pace and adding books that suit my mood as I go. Will look forward to hearing what you think of some of these. Pam

  3. Delighted to see both Nabokov and Priestley on the list as they're both favourite authors of mine and I've just spent a happy half hour finding out more about some of your 1900-1920 choices which I didn't know much about. :)

  4. I've been out of the blogosphere a long time and think this is the first time I've seen this particular list of yours. Such a great idea, Thomas! I might copy the idea in the future, if you don't mind. :)

  5. Glenn: I generally find a Woolf a little dry. But knowing the story behind Mrs D, I hope to be able to focus on and enjoy the prose for its own sake.

    Pam: My list is totally subject to change. I just needed to have a list to go to so I don't end up in duplicate land.

    Alex: I don't know a lot about those years either, so hopefully I have chosen some things I will like.

    Kiss: Well Simon from Stuck in a Book gets credit for the Century of Books challenge, but the contents of my list is certainly mine. Although I have peeked at Simon's list from time to time to get ideas for certain years. He is only listing his as he finishes them. And he will finish all 100 this year. I am giving myself an additional year.

  6. I see you've got Flannery O'Connor on your list. She's possibly my favorite short story writer, and I'll be very interested in what you make of her. (Have you read any of her stories before?) And the Kate Atkinson novel is excellent, but as far as I'm concerned Kate Atkinson can do no wrong, unless she quits writing. That would be very wrong.

  7. You have some lovely books there - Colette is wonderful and I do hope you enjoy her!The Riddle of the Sands is a cracking good read, and anything by Margaret Atwood is worth reading. But well done on reading so many so far!


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