Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 100 Great American Novels, 1891-1991

Update: this post has moved: The Great American Novels, 1891-1991


  1. This is awesome. I am bookmarking it for reference.

  2. What a project. It looks like you've done a great job, thank you for the resource!

  3. Kick Irving out of there are stick in Donald Harington's The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks. It is the American 100 Years of Solitude. Except better. Harington has been called the great undiscovered country in American literature and this book is simply stunning.

  4. This looks like one of the better and most thoughtful lists of the sort that I've ever seen - great work. I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it would be to put something like this together (I've never attempted - I just cross out from others' lists, as I'll do with this one!).

    And THANK YOU, for including these two:
    Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919)
    The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)

    They are, to my confusion and dismay, very often overlooked.

  5. Thanks for putting together this list! And for letting us know your process for picking out books. I always like to know the why.

  6. List making this is no easy task, it is so much easier to criticize the lists of others instead. But I think you have done a fine job and really appreciate that you even included science fiction!

  7. Interesting list. As you said, some of the more recent titles are a bit iffy, and I feel like there are some that are missing, but that have been published post 1991... I guess when you update this list in 10 years, we'll have to see if anything got displaced in order to make room for something else!

  8. This is difficult to do. Good job on assembling. I was pleased to see a few favorites. For me, Doctorow's Ragtime captures much of the social change of the 20th Century and the development of a multicultural society that, although imperfect, works.

  9. A difficult task and some stringent rules, but if I were a student I would like the goal. One addition I would offer is The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic (1896).

  10. Joel-
    I've heard of that book and it sounds interesting. For the purposes of this list though, Irving is more central to story of 20th Century American literature. I am thinking about a follow-up list of under-appreciated novels from the same period.

    Science fiction indeed. Another scifi title was there until the very last round: Robert Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.

    We tend to mis-value the work from our own time, so there's now way to know now. I have my suspicions about what works from the last 20 years will make the grade someday, though.

    If you had to pick one of these to represent the last century, I think RAGTIME would be it.

    Thanks for the recommendation--I read that long ago in a class on American realism but have to admit I've mostly forgotten it now. Time for a refresher.

  11. I', glad that A Tree Grows In Brooklyn made your list...I love that book, it is one of my favorite reads from childhood, and I still try to read it every few years.

  12. "Stefanie-
    Science fiction indeed. Another scifi title was there until the very last round: Robert Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND."

    Oh boy, I'm glad that one was eliminated, if only for reasons of personal bias: I hate it! I wish we could choose a different book to be the zietgeisty '60s sci-fi answer to Lord of the Rings. I understand its merit as a part of genre lit history but... ugh.

    Harington is definitely less well known than Irving, and it is a crying shame (apparently they were friends; hard to say why one became hugely popular and the other didn't, except perhaps subject bias). Do try him if you get a chance.

  13. We all owe you a debt of gratitude for putting this list together, Ape. Thanks very much. Am I correct in concluding that you didn't work in J.P. Donleavy because he's more Irish than American?

  14. Kevin-
    My pleasure. I hope some find it useful.

    It's one of those books that has endured. And that counts.

    I really liked it as a teenager but don't care for it now. I thought the Bradbury/Dick/Gibson triumvirate made including him unnecessary, though he is so influential.

    Yea, thought about THE GINGER MAN, but he left the US in his 20s and stayed in Ireland. Still a damn fine book, just not essential for getting a sense of American fiction.

  15. I love a well-thought out list. Thank you for putting it together.

  16. I would have added Breakfast at Tiffany's to the list, but otherwise it's a fantastic list of amazing works.

  17. Nice list. But no William Gass?

  18. Arguably, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (1900) has been equally as important and influential as "Gone with the Wind."

  19. Love that you have Call It Sleep on there. Thanks for this.

  20. Seems like a resource I can use to boost my understanding to the English literature. Thank you!