August 20, 2012: To read an introduction to this project, click here.
August 20, 2012 (by Bethany): In no particular order and with no attempt to make this a conclusive list, here are some of my nominations for relatively recent books that might someday make the list:
Flannery O’Connor, Collected Stories
Alice Munro, The Beggar Maid
William Styron, Sophie’s Choice
John Irving, The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany
Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
Zadie Smith, On Beauty
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon and Beloved
Kathryn Stockett, The Help
Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King
James Dickey, Deliverance
J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
E.L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel
Mary Doria Russell The Sparrow and Children of God and Dreamers of the Day
Philip Roth, Operation Shylock
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
Pearl Abraham, American Taliban
Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz
Larry Watson, Montana 1948
Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Chaim Potok, The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev and In the Beginning
Oh, and Jill – what SHOULD we do about genre? Do we lump everything together, or do we create separate lists for different genres?
August 20, 2012 (by Bethany): Some List-related links:
The Modern Library’s Top 100 English-Language Novels of the 20th Century (includes the Modern Library’s “Reader’s List” of 20th Century English-Language Novels – created in response to Complaints of Elitism and Profit-Motive after the list above was published)
The Modern Library’s Top 100 English-Language Nonfiction Books of the 20th Century (includes the Modern Library’s “Reader’s List” of 20th Century English-Language Nonfiction Books – ditto)
The List of all Nobel Laureates in Literature
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in Fiction
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in Nonfiction
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in History
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in Poetry
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in Drama
The List of All Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists in Biography and Autobiography
August 20, 2012 (by Bethany): Hey Jill – what about children’s literature? Does it get its own list, get mixed in with the adult books, or left out altogether?
August 20, 2012 (Jill):
This is my “shelf” from www.goodreads.com called “Book Loves of My Life.” These are the books I love most in the world (less the ones that were written prior to ~1960, but there weren’t a ton of those, surprisingly). They’re in alphabetical order, because that’s easy. Please bear in mind that these books were not chosen entirely for their literary merits. Such A Pretty Fat is a wonderful memoir, but is certainly not of the same caliber as Middlesex. But they both resonated with me, and have recommended them to others.
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy
Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
A Handbook to Luck, Cristina García
The Known World, Edward P. Jones
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey*
Great House, Nicole Krauss
An Acceptable Time, Madeline L’Engle
Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin
Beloved, Toni Morrison*
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffeneger
The Rapture of Canaan, Sheri Reynolds
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell*
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, Randy Shilts
The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese*
*Books that made Bethany’s preliminary list as well as my list.
August 22, 2012 (Bethany): So if you’ve read the comments below you’ll know that Jill and I have decided to divide up the last 50ish years by odds and evens and investigate which books by Nobel Laureates might make it onto our list. This is a huge task, I know – but after all, we have all of our time in Purgatory to complete it, and that ought to be enough, right?
Right now I’m scrambling to finish a number of books and reviews before PAT CONROY MONTH! begins. And once we’re into September, I don’t expect to have a whole lot of time for Great List research. But in October I plan to investigate two recent Nobel Laureates from the even years: Mario Vargas Llosa (2010) and Naguib Mahfouz (1988). These are both authors that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I also want to read at least two books by Iris Murdoch in October, since she’s an author who might deserve to make it onto our list and has intrigued me for a long time.
Also, I want to add V.S. Napaul’s A Bend in the River, Norman Rush’s Mating and Mortals, and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces to my overall recommendation list.
August 23, 2012 (Bethany): I just found out that this exists. While betting on the Nobel Prize for Literature interests me exactly not at all, this is actually a good resource for learning about new authors from around the world who might deserve to make our list.
September 2, 2012 (Jill): Here’s a list of authors whose new books I will always buy in hardcover, no matter what, in no particular order. Pat Conroy, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende, Jen Lancaster, Kim Harrison, Jeffrey Eugenides, Anne Rice, Louise Erdrich, Lisa Lutz, Christopher Moore, JK Rowling, Jasper Fforde, Deborah Harkness.
RE children’s lit or no: I say we start with everything and organize as we go. I’m going to add some stuff now too.
I have to add more too. And then I guess we have to at least make an attempt to read the titles on one another’s lists that we haven’t yet read. This could interfere with PAT CONROY MONTH!…
Nothing interferes with PAT CONROY MONTH!!
Agreed. When one is the intellectual conscience of a nation, one must learn to prioritize.
Jill – what do you think about this: as far as looking at some of the Nobel Laureates and other prize winners, what if we divide up the years into odds and evens and each take charge of one set? So if I have the odd years, I would scan through the award recipients and finalists in those years, read whatever I think might end up being listworthy, and so forth. Obviously this is a process that will take forever, but you can’t rush a great list.
Sure sounds good. We’re never going to finish this list, are we? 🙂 Hopefully I own some of them.
Of course we’ll finish it – in Purgatory! Do you care if you get the odds or the evens? I have a slight preference for the evens but will be happy with either. I also think it would be fun if we allow ourselves to swap – so if I have the evens but I don’t like one of the writers, I can swap with you for one of yours. There really ought to be Nobel Laureate trading cards, don’t you think?
I like evens too. But I will take odds because it’s your idea.
Are you sure? I don’t mind odds.
No, odds are fine. I have this stupid dislike of odd numbers that predates literacy. It will be good for me.
OK – but let me know if you want to swap any authors
Oh, and also – did you see that someone found our blog using the search terms “dumb book house of the spirits”? Hahaha! I don’t think I ever called it a dumb book, but maybe I did.
I think you might have used the word dumb in a post. That’s funny though. I always forget about it. I need to look at the search terms thing more often.
Just found the beginnings of your list. I started with Bethany’s and then started scrolling around and thinking about what I would put on it. I chose Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, and was delighted to find it on Jill’s list. At first I was afraid that I would have not read any of the books, but now I feel that maybe I underestimated my reading history. Maybe I am not a hopeless science person. That said, I admit that I am skimming past sections in John Steinbeck’s writing that are probably the ones I would have had to write an essay on for an English class. I just want to get back to the story…
Anita, you are far from a hopeless science person!! 🙂
I’ve read lots of the BBC Big Read books…. A few years ago, Jeff said that he could get through the Pulitzer list before I did. I won, because I was the only one who read any of them (I read one. Ha).
I can’t believe there’s betting on who will win the next Nobel Prize! Hilarious!
Even better than the fact that the betting exists… scroll all the way to the bottom of the list of writers and see who the last one on the list is.
Well at least she is at the bottom of the list.