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I’ve done the math. Of the hundred books on this list there are 38 that I have read or want to read eventually. There are 32 that I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever. And most interesting…atleast to me…is that there are 33 books, or about 1/3 of a list of ostensibly greatest of all time, that I’ve never heard of in my half century on the planet. Now, I’ve never claimed to be a top flight intellectual. I’m just a middle class dude in Appalachia with a college education that’s never done me much good, who has made more than enough poor choices and run into my fair share of misfortune. To paraphrase Marlon Brando, I could’ve been a contender…I could’ve been somebody. What might have been will haunt me til my dying day. However, having said all of that, I have a difficult time believing that a ranking like this has nearly three dozen books totally unknown to me.
76 The Hobbit / JRR Tolkien
The final installation of this exercise is off to a great start!! I freakin’ love The Hobbit. Pay no attention to the subpar movies and just read the damn book!!
77 The Man Without Qualities / Robert Musil
Two red flags…a “modernist” novel written in Germany (cause we all know how delightfully fun those wacky Germans are). Also, it spans multiple volumes and nearly 2000 pages. No way. Not happening.
78 Tristram Shandy / Laurence Sterne
It is a “autobiography ” of a completely fictional character set in 18th century France. That just doesn’t sound the least bit interesting to me.
79 JR / William Gaddis
Described as a satirical farce in which a Long Island 6th grader gets rich trading penny stocks thru the mail. It’s a huge 700+ page book, but I am intrigued.
80 As I Lay Dying / William Faulkner
More Faulkner. Described as “a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage” in which a dead woman’s family sets out to fulfill her dying wish to be buried in her hometown. I think I’ll give it a whirl.
81 Steppenwolf / Hermann Hesse
First things first…yes, the 70’s rock band known for hits like Magic Carpet Ride & Born to Be Wild DID take their name from the book, which is cool. In German a steppe wolf is another name for a grey wolf native to the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water that borders both Russia & Iran. The novel is described as “one man’s spiritual journey towards self-knowledge”, with the framing device of a book within a book. It’s pretty short, and I am inclined to check it out.
82 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll
Did I read it as a child?? Probably. I feel like I have a basic knowledge of the plot. Should I read it again as an adult?? Would that be weird, given the fact that I don’t have kids of my own??
83 The Name of the Rose / Umberto Eco
An Italian murder mystery published in 1980 when I was 8 years old. I’ve never heard of it, and since it’s around 600 pages the likelihood of me caring enough to read it is doubtful.
84 Republic / Plato
I always get the Greek philosophers mixed up. The author of this book, Plato, learned from Socrates then went on to teach Aristotle. Philosophy. Ethics. Politics. All subjects that interest me in small doses, but if I haven’t read the whole book by now it is unlikely that I will.
85 The Confessions / St. Augustine
Saint Augustine of Hippo was a 4th century philosopher & theologian in Northern Africa. It is an autobiographical story about the author’s troubled youth & his spiritual growth. It’s one of those books that part of me feels like I should read, but I’m not sure if I can persuade myself to do so.
86 Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
Much like the Greek philosophers, I tend to get the Brontë sisters confused. Emily wrote this one, which is about love, class warfare, & revenge. I’m not sure it’s my cup o’ tea, but it is rather short so I’ll give it a go someday.
87 If On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler / Italo Calvino
Never heard of it. Weird title. It’s a book about a guy trying to read a book, which is very meta. Absolutely nothing about this revs my engine.
88 The Pale King / David Foster Wallace
Wallace’s story intrigues me, but I think I’ll tackle Infinite Jest and be happy with that. An unfinished novel by definition shouldn’t be put on a pedestal simply due to tragic circumstances. I mean, really…it’s not finished 👀.
89 The Tunnel / William H. Gass
I can tell that the readers responsible for these rankings are young since several books emanate from the 1980’s onward. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. The Tunnel was published in 1995, though I’d never heard of it until now. It sounds…complex, but not in a good way. I believe my time is better spent on other things.
90 A Hero of Our Time / Mikhail Lermontov
How many Russian novelists are there?!?!?!?? Atleast this dude isn’t as verbose as Tolstoy & Dostoevsky, but I’m still not interested.
91 The Aeneid / Virgil
It’s like the RC Cola of epic poems. Let me get thru The Iliad & The Odyssey (maybe) and perhaps I’ll give this one a whirl.
92 A Clockwork Orange / Anthony Burgess
The 1971 Kubrick movie is probably more well-known. I tend to go against the crowd though, so I am more likely to read the book.
93 Kafka on the Shore / Haruki Murakami
I’m a little surprised that Murakami’s more recent IQ84 didn’t make the cut, although it is a much lengthier work. Both books are high on my list, and I’ll get around to them eventually.
94 Nausea / Jean-Paul Sartre
What an odd title for a philosophy book. I am somewhat intrigued that it “comprises the thoughts and subjective experiences of a melancholy and socially isolated intellectual” who is experiencing “growing alienation and disillusionment”. I can’t lie…that speaks to me. I’m tempted to call it a maybe.
95 King Lear / William Shakespeare
I’d have thought that Shakespeare would earn more than two spots on this list. It is one of his best plays though. I studied it in college and have seen stage performances. Trust me though…it’s not for the faint of heart.
96 Beyond Good & Evil / Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche has made his presence known in these rankings. It is short, and I wish I would’ve challenged myself to read it three decades ago because it’s just not something that piques my interest at this stage of my life.
97 The Elementary Particles / Michel Houellebecq
A French novel published in 1998. These are very Millenial-centric rankings. Given the title I assumed it had something to with science, but I’m wrong. Why are so many of the protagonists in these books depressed or otherwise mentally ill?? My life has enough melancholy without reading about sadness for fun.
98 Candide / Voltaire
Here we go again!! The protagonist experiences “slow and painful disillusionment” and “great hardships in the world”. Conversely, I just want to relax, have some lighthearted fun, and laugh a little. Is that too much to ask??
99 Jerusalem / Alan Moore
Don’t let the title fool you…it’s a 2016 novel set in England. How in the hell does a book published less than a decade ago rank as one of the best books of all time?!?!?? That’s dumb.
100 Harry Potter / JK Rowling
As mundane & erudite as these rankings have been I am shocked to see something as mainstream popular as Harry Potter make the list. It’s a pleasant surprise though because they are in fact great books. If you’re one of those people who has only watched the movies, a Christian who thinks Jesus will be mad at you for embracing sorcery, or someone who was older than a teenager when PotterMania was running wild so you think it’s adolescent balderdash, then I urge you to reconsider. It’s a big commitment…seven lengthy books…but worth every second of your time.