Looking for the Best 100 Books…

So what are the 100 best books of all time?

Google “100 Best Books” and you’ll get plenty of results. About 1.4 billion as of today.

That’s a lot of lists to choose from.

The most popular seems to be the Modern Library’s list of top 100 novels.

What do they know about the subject? A lot, we presume, although their list suffers from at least a little selection bias. Arthur Schlesinger, a member of the selection panel, described the panel as “entirely white, predominately male, and somewhat doddering”. Seems true of a panel made up of literary types with an average age of 69.

Understandably, the Modern Library list was met by some disagreement, derision, and even disgust by readers, who cast nearly 250,000 votes for their own list of the best novels of all time. The two lists agree on just 32 books. That’s a lot of disagreement between the doddering old men and thousands of opinionated readers. On the other hand, the reader’s list includes some pretty dubious selections. Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard makes the top-10, for example. Forgive us for saying this LRH fans, but, um, no.

Of course, there are other lists.

Time magazine came up with a list of the top novels published since the fist issue of Time hit the newsstands.

Not to be out done, NPR’s literary critic, Dick Meyer, published his own list.

Here’s the Penguin Classic’s 100 Classic Books You Must Read Before You Die.

Or, The Best 100 Novels.

Or, The 100 Essential Books You Should Have Read in College (unless you were a math major, one supposes).

And Bookcrossing’s List of the Top 100 Books of all Time. Or BookStove’s List. Or The World Library’s List. Or BookRiot. Or The Reading Room. Or this guy.

This is perhaps our favorite: The Essential Man’s Library. Who doesn’t love a book list that includes Teddy Roosevelt’s The Rough Riders and Kurt Vonnegut’s Blue Beard?

And then there’s Newsweek, which took 10 different lists and combined them into their own. Oddly, that link to Newsweek‘s description of the list doesn’t include the actual list, or even a link to it, which you can find by clicking here.

So what about the READ THE 100 list?

We took the Newsweek approach to creating our list. We combined several of the lists above (plus the Pulizter winners). Any book that made at least 3 of the lists automatically made our list. But of those books, three were by Faulkner and E.M. Forester. That seems like too many from just two authors on a list of 100. While several authors had two books on the list, three is too many. And we’re just not willing to give E.M. Forester more than one spot (and that is generous). So out went A Room with a ViewHoward’s End and As I Lay Dying. In addition, we took out the Illiad and the Odyssey, which really don’t fit our list. Last to go was Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Same reason, though we are quite fond of Vogon poetry. That left us with 72 books.

Then we compared our list to Newsweek‘s and added a few. After that, we cherry-picked more of the books from our combined list that didn’t get the necessary 3 votes for automatic inclusion. That took us to 80.

The last 20 books on our list are a combination of books that appeared on the lists we compared, or favorites that we are surprised aren’t on any of the lists. Like Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

There you have it. Our selection methodology.

So where’s the list? Right here.


Books Mentioned in this Post:

Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt
Blue Beard by Kurt Vonnegut
A Room with a View by E.M. Forester
Howard’s End by E.M. Forester
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Illiad by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


One Comment

  1. […] Here’s how we picked the books on the list. […]