Which “10 All Time Greatest Novels” List Is Better?
A few months ago, I vowed that I wouldn’t read a 10 All Time Greatest Novels list that came out on a popular weekly entertainment site. I was pretty sure I’d disagree with the list, and I was also certain that the experts who had compiled the list hadn’t read every book ever published and therefore weren’t qualified to determine what the ten best books of all time were.
Then a couple weeks ago a British publication/site devised its own Top 100 Novels list. Curiosity overcame my integrity, and I decided to go ahead and read the lists. After all, I wanted to know how similar (or different) two competing lists of book rankings could be. Both lists went up to 100, but in the interest of keeping this post short, I’ve cut the lists to their top ten. Maybe, just maybe, the two lists would have the exact same books. If two “best ever books” lists had the exact same books, then maybe those books were truly the best of all time. If a few, or a couple, or even just one book, could make both lists, that one book could be considered the best of all time.
But unfortunately, no single book made both top ten lists.
Author Jane Austen made both lists but with different books. Even Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy couldn’t make both top ten lists with different books. I thought both of them could make both lists with the same books, but I guess not.
One list had a few books that were kind of recent. I have nothing against recent books, but it’s tough to judge them as best ever because we don’t know what people will think of recently published books 50 years from now. If these recently published books are forgotten after 50 years, we can’t go back and pretend that the offending top ten list was never created. If a book published over 50 years ago is still being read, it will probably continue to be read in another 50 years. I’m not saying no recently published book should be included in a “best books ever” list, but maybe the contributors to the list should have been more selective.
I’ve read the exact number of books (five) from each list, so I can’t use that as part of the criteria, either for or against the lists. I think more highly of the books I haven’t read than the ones I have. I think if you take five books from each list, it would be pretty strong, depending on which five books you choose.
So, which list is better? Now you can be the judge.
10 Greatest Novels of All Time from one website
1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
2. Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
4. Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
9. Emma Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
10 All Time Greatest Novels list from another website
1. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
2. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
4. Great Expectations Charles Dickens
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. My Antonia Willa Cather
7. Harry Potter (series) J.K. Rowling
8. The Rabbit Quartet (series) John Updike
9. Beloved Toni Morrison
10. Charlotte’s Web E.B.White
To me, it’s not even close. But which top ten list do you think is better? And what criteria did you use?