The BBC polled a bunch of non-British book reviewers and literary scholars to come up with their list. Note that it’s British novels only — so no James Joyce.
I’m a sucker for articles like this. The first thing I want to know is how many of these books I haven’t read — or, in this case, writers haven’t even heard of. I count 13 writers who are completely new to me, most of them from the 1980s on. I haven’t been keeping up! There are probably another 20 or so that I’ve known about forever but never read — Doris Lessing, John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, Paul Scott, Anthony Trollope, George Gissing . . .
Some more thoughts:
- I’m glad to see P.G. Wodehouse on the list, if only at position 100. But another 20 of his novels are just as good as Code of the Woosters and could reasonably have ended up on a list like this.
- I’m also glad to see Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials on the list. Someone at work complained about its being rated higher than The Chronicles of Narnia. That doesn’t bother me a bit.
- I’m not a big Kazuo Ishiguro fan, so I’m annoyed that he takes up two spots on the list. Remains of the Day is #18? Higher than Emma, Persuasion, and Jude the Obscure? Really?
- I liked Ian McEwan’s Atonement, but I don’t think it deserved #15.
- I didn’t like Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, so I have no idea what it’s doing at #12.
- I’m OK with Middlemarch at #1, but I’d put it below Great Expectations, which came in at #4.
- There’s four Virginia Woolf novels on the list. Maybe it’s time to re-read her. I liked To the Lighthouse (#2), but I couldn’t finish Orlando (#66).
I need to read more novels.