Thursday, July 8, 2010

The most influential fiction

Today, I somehow came across this list of the most influential fiction novels of the 20th century (Published in the November 1998 issue of Library Journal). I was looking through it out of interest and saw that I have read quite a few of the books, surprisingly!

The list has 150 books on it, so I obviously won't post the whole thing here. But, I will include the first 10 or so, and I encourage you to go check out the rest of them right here. It's super interesting! The next time I have no idea what to read, I'll pick something off the list. There's just something special about reading a book that affected people the way it did.

#1: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice.

#2: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Holden, knowing he is to be expelled from school, decides to leave early. He spends three days in New York City and tells the story of what he did and suffered there.

#3: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring.

#4: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.

#5: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade.

#6: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This landmark work is Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that also won the American Book Award and established her as a major voice in modern fiction. The New York Times Book Review hailed it an "intense emotional impact", and the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a work to stand beside literature of any time and place".

#7: Ninteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
To Winston Smith, a young man who works in the Ministry of Truth (Minitru for short), come two people who transform his life completely. One is Julia, whom he meets after she hands him a slip reading, "I love you." The other is O'Brien, who tells him, "We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness." The way in which Winston is betrayed by the one and, against his own desires and instincts, ultimately betrays the other, makes a story of mounting drama and suspense.

#8: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Farm is a devastating satire of the Soviet Union by the man V. S. Pritchett called "the conscience of his generation". A fable about an uprising of farm animals against their human masters, it illustrates how new tyranny replaces old in the wake of revolutions and power corrupts even the noblest of causes.

#9: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The classic tale of a group of English school boys who are left stranded on an unpopulated island, and who must confront not only the defects of their society but the defects of their own natures.

#10: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is like no other novel we have ever read. It has its own style, its own rationale, its own extraordinary character. It moves back and forth from hilarity to horror. It is outrageously funny and strangely affecting.

So, there we go! Have you read any of these books? Why do you think they are chosen as the most influential? Are there any other books you think should be recognized?

(All images and descriptions are from the Harris County Public Library website.)


Janet Johnson said...

I've read 4 of those, and didn't particularly like them all. It's interesting to read why they chose what they did. But I have to wonder how they chose the list . . . most read? Their personal favorites? A poll? Just curious.

Juju at Tales of said...

Awesome list!
I'm ashamed to admit how many I need to read.
I LOVED 1984.

Emidy said...

Janet - To be honest, I'm not sure how they chose them! Probably just popularity and the "themes" of the books.

Juju - Don't worry, you're not alone! There are many I haven't read myself. Like 1984, for example!

GMR said...

Interesting post! Let's see, of the ones you listed, I've read part of the first and second, half of the third, and none of the others. *SIGH* Okay, so I might not always read the most influential (thought that first one I am rectifying soon), but I do enjoy most of the ones I read and that's what truly counts..right? I mean each person has their own list of those considered influential...
Thanks for sharing your list....and happy reading!

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I have read 1, 3, 4 and 7 on the list. I wonder what they mean by 'the most influential'. Did it say in the article?

Adriana said...

I've only read two of those 10, but I have heard of all of them before except for Beloved. I'm also curious as to how they chose the books.

Lauren B said...

Just hopping by to say hey. I've read 6 of the 10 and I definitely agree about To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it in fifth grade and even after reading tons of books I haven't found a more deeply moving or poignant novel. It's still my favorite after all these years.

Nymeth said...

I'm surprised that I've read most of these! All except for #4, which is on the "someday" list :P

Hannah Stoneham said...

I have read most of these (which is unusual - usually I am lamentably behind on these kind of lists) and although none of them qualify as favourite reads - I can understand why they have been listed as influential.
Thanks indeed for sharing!

GMR said...

Oh, by the way, just wanted to say...YOU HAVE AN AWARD! ^_^

Emidy said...

GMR - So true! Just because they're on the "most influential" list doesn't mean that everyone will like them.

Becky - No, it didn't mention anything! I wish it did.

Adriana - I haven't heard of Beloved until now, either.

Lauren - I read it a couple of years ago and really liked it, too! 6 out of 10 is pretty good. ;D

Nymeth - Wow, that's great! I have to broaden my reading "horizon" and start reading more of these classics.

Hannah - I can understand that! I have read many of these classics and enjoyed them, but probably wouldn't read them again.

GMR - Aw, thanks so much!

Justine said...

Definitely To Kill A Mockingbird (it's one of the very few I've read in this list). Such a brilliant, amazing classic. I'll never forget it.

Aths said...

Looks like I have read quite a few off that list as well! Yay! I usually find that I've read very few books off a list - any list - which makes me often wonder what do I read?

Thanks for sharing this! :)