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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Top 100 Books … is this possible?

While web surfing literary blog sites, I came across Larry McCaffery’s “response” to the Modern Library’s Top 100 English Language Novels (of the 20th century, released in 1998). I have to say, while any list is idiosyncratic (despite the data net-cast), I do like Mr McCaffery’s 100 for (a) it’s inclusion of “why?” for each entry, and (2) for his ability to look at every decade of the 20th Century and find a strong story.

To list a few of McCaffery’s faves: #1 Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov; #4 The Public Burning by Robert Coover; #10 Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce (“The greatest unreadable novel ever written.”); #25 60 Stories by Donald Barthelme; #40 Crash by J.G. Ballard; #65 The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; #76 American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis; #100 Hogg by Samuel R. Delany.

I compared the two lists — McCaffery’s and Modern Library — and found I’d read 35 and 55 of the listed novels, respectively. Not bad, for as a combination they summed to nearly 80. What I have developed is a further reading list for the next two or three years.

My own Top 100 may be blogged (or asked about) some day, but that day has not come; I am grateful for this because, it would be a difficult task, and the time I’d need to make such a list would take away at least one book’s worth of reading. Nevertheless, here’s a TOP 5 from the last few years:


1. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

2. Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth

3. The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul

4. Mating by Norman Rush

5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (pure genius)


These 5 are not in a true order, but they are the books whose stories have stayed with me over the years. Next year, or in 5 years hence, the list will likely change (to be added upon, also).


What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.


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