Monday, February 25, 2013

A New Challenge

After completing the 52 Book Challenge in 2012, I found myself on the lookout for a new, different challenge.  I loved reading so many books in one year and felt an immense sense of satisfaction in doing so.  However, I wanted a new adventure, one directed more toward quality than quantity. 

As a byproduct of all the reading I do, I am often reminded how many "classics" have yet to hit my bookshelf.  Books like Reading Lolita in Tehran only aggravate this feeling.  I want to continually expand my literary horizons, especially as I look to graduate school in the near future.  A list of the greatest novels of all time should do that, right?  After spending several hours perusing various websites and searching for a definitive list, I have settled on one which was compiled by Modern Library in 1998.  It is one of the most prominent lists of its type, as evidenced by its exposure through The New York Times.  While Time Magazine also compiled a list, their list only includes works which have been published since the conception of the magazine.  Drawing the line there leaves out the critically acclaimed work Ulysses by James Joyce.  This work has been touted by many as the best novel of all time, so it hardly seemed right to not include it in my endeavor.

I do still have some hesitations about the Modern Library list.  For one thing, I immediately noticed the glaring lack of female authors.  This definitely bothers me.  It also startled me how many books on the list I did not recognize at all.  I consider myself fairly well read and have had an excellent liberal arts education.  Yet, there I still see more than a dozen novels of which I have never heard.  I suppose since my intent is to expand my education and knowledge, I should view this as a positive.  Still, I was hoping for a few more, well, classic classics.  Does that makes sense?  I am already ruminating about tackling the Radcliffe's Rival 100 Best Novels List after I complete the Modern Library one.  The lists contain some overlap, which would speed the process of the second list.  Also, the Radcliffe list has more familiar works and a few more works by women.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.  First, the task at hand.

And a large task it is.  I do not expect to finish this list in a year - or perhaps even two.  I want to take my time and appreciate these works fully.  If these novels are truly the best ever written, they deserve to be read with an attentive and discerning eye.  As always, I will keep you updated on my journey!  You can track my progress in the new tab at the top of the page: 100 Best Novels.  And, never fear, if classics are not your thing, I will still be reading plenty of other books as well.  Not even the best classic could keep me away from a good young adult dystopian novel or an in depth non-fiction look into a historical guilty pleasure topic.  I will continue to read the wide variety I have over the past year with the hope that anyone could find something enjoyable to read here.

What's the best novel you have ever read?  Not necessarily your favorite, but the best written.  Is it considered a "classic"? Should it be?  Is it at least worth putting on my ever expanding to-read list?  What makes it the best?

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