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Ranking The First 45 Novels

Not long after I started this blog, I thought it would be a good idea to start ranking the books based on my opinions.

When I interviewed Lev Grossman, he explained why Time didn’t rank the books, which makes sense. But I’ve kept at it anyway, fully realizing these are completely subjective and, most likely, pointless rankings.

Every five books, I take a little time to explain my thoughts on where I’ve ranked each novel. This last batch of five was one of the best groups of books I’ve read yet.

Three of the five are in my top 10, with Under The Volcano being the only real stinker of the bunch.

Here’s how I broke them down:

Book #41: Under The Volcano (Current Rank: 39): I read this one while on vacation at the beach. I pretty much hated it. It’s a dense, heady novel that I might have appreciated had I not read it on vacation. On the bright side, I learned a lot about Malcolm Lowry while researching Under The Volcano.

Book #42: Wide Sargasso Sea (Current Rank: 22): About as middle of the road as it gets. Having not read Jane Eyre, it’s hard for me to compare this prequel to its inspiration. As a stand-alone novel, it wasn’t bad, but I doubt I’ll ever read it again.

Book #43: Things Fall Apart (Current Rank: 4) Brilliance. I love Achebe’s simple style. Combine that with an engaging story that provides a glimpse of a culture most of us will never experience. Wonderful novel.

Book #44: An American Tragedy (Current Rank: 7) This is a novel that people either love or hate. I loved it, despite it’s antiquated style. An American Tragedy has been called the “worst written classic novel in literature.” And that sums it up. Dreiser is a wordy and stiff writer, but he tells an amazing story. Surprisingly, his writing style didn’t bother me like I thought it might.

Book #45: The Bridge Of San Luis Rey (Current Rank: 10) Outstanding, short novel. On the heels of the Aurora tragedy, The Bridge Of San Luis Rey really struck a chord with me. Thornton Wilder tells a complex story with very few words. Great stuff.

So that’s how I see the last five novels. Visit the My Rankings page for my complete rankings.

Upcoming reads look like this: Currently reading book #46, The Grapes of Wrath, as you probably know. Book #47 will be Atonement by Ian McEwan. Book #48 will be Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

After that, I’ll select the next five books. The only one that will definitely be in the next five is The Great Gatsby, which I’ve saved for the halfway point at #50.

So do you agree or disagree with my current rankings?

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Absolutely agree with Under the Volcano. I don’t even want to think of a time and place dark enough to inspire its reading. American Tragedy – as you said a matter of taste. Not mine. I didn’t get through it. Yes, Wide Sargasso Sea is in the middle of the pack. I put Things Fall Apart there, too. Fabulous tale (is that redundant?), well written – but just didn’t beat out the books above it. As for The Bridge of San Luis Rey – I really liked it – read it twice, back to back. For me, it is in the top third, but not in the top ten – there are a lot of great books there it has to compete with.

    As for my top ten … Mrs Dalloway continues to hold the lead and the Sound and the Fury is not far behind (Take THAT I, Claudius!). I also was completely taken by The Blind Assassin and it is in 7th place. Otherwise, our lists are similar.


    August 20, 2012
    • It’s so funny that we are polar opposites on Woolf and Faulkner. They both still have one more chance, though.


      August 20, 2012
      • I read To The Lighthouse a few weeks ago. Aside from 50 pages buried deep in the book of some of the sweetest prose I’ve ever read, it was not a favorite of mine. Not sure what that means for you.


        August 20, 2012
  2. Amy #

    I am currently almost done (finally!) with An American Tragedy. I actually don’t love or hate it. Maybe might be more accurate to say, at times I have hated it and at other times I have loved it. The story is certainly compelling, the telling leaves much to be desired at points. I was riveted during most of the actual commission of the crime and the trial. Before and after that it was so incredibly slow. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a slow starting novel! I am a sucker for a true story though.


    August 20, 2012
    • Me too. Love true stories…are at least “based on” true stories. It did drag at times, though. Think it could have been about 200 pages short.


      August 20, 2012
  3. Becky #

    Where you currently draw the line between “liked it” and “didn’t like it?”


    August 21, 2012
    • Good question. For most of the novels, I couldn’t say I disliked them. They are all so good, for the most part. Somewhere around 38-39, I might start getting into dislike territory though. Everything lower than “Under The Volcano” for sure.


      August 21, 2012

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