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Lord(s) of the Books

Best 20th-Century English Novels

[Poster - Lord(s) of the Books]

The epic fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, 'The Lord of the Rings', has been voted the Book of the Century by the buying public. Many critically acclaimed names such as T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann and Samuel Beckett failed to make it into the top 100 selected by the 25,000 voters.

George Orwell's dystopian 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and his political satire 'Animal Farm' reached second and third places respectively, followed by James Joyce's Ulysses, though many of those who voted for this dense novel may not have read it.

More than 5,000 titles were nominated in a national survey conducted in the autumn by Waterstone's, the booksellers, and Channel 4's Book Choice programme. The public was invited to suggest up to five books.

Auberon Waugh, Editor of The Literary Review, expressed disbelief at Tolkien's win. "It's a little bit suspicious. It's like Mr Major coming out as the most popular man," he said. He suggested that the author's fans might have orchestrated a campaign, a charge rejected by Martin Grossel, a university lecturer in chemistry and leading light of Oxford's Tolkien Society. Tolkien fans "are not that sort of people", he said.

Mr Waugh felt that although Orwell's support was genuine, votes for Ulysses, whatever its merits, were "totally bogus". He suggested that the votes either came from English literature students or from people who were showing off.

Germaine Greer noted: "As a 57-year-old lifelong teacher of English, I might be expected to regard this particular list of books of the century with dismay. I do." Good writers such as Somerset Maugham and J.B. Priestley were among many who had been overlooked, she added.

While Kingsley Amis made the list with Lucky Jim, his son Martin was omitted. Some bestselling authors such as Jeffrey Archer did not make it.

Ross Shimmon, chief executive of the Library Association, said: "It seems to me a very sound selection. It's quite interesting that it's very different from the public lending rights figures."

Jung Chang's Wild Swans, an account of three generations of Chinese women surviving the nationalist and communist regimes, was the highest non-fiction entry at No 11. It was one of only 13 books on the list by women.

Alan Giles, managing director of Waterstone's, said: "Memories fade and therefore there's an over-representation of more recent writing. If we were to conduct the survey again in ten years, I wonder how many of those would still be on the list."

The Lord of the Rings is a tale of good and evil, the story of Frodo the Hobbit's search to return the Ring of Power to its source. First published in 1954, it achieved cult status in the Sixties and has remained in print ever since. On Booktrack's list of the top 5,000 bestsellers in Britain, The Lord of the Rings currently stands at No 537, selling 155 copies a week. Its author, born in 1892, was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford, and an authority on Anglo-Saxon literature. It is perhaps the escapism which its mythology offers that has provided its enduring appeal, the same escapism that has kept Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek going for decades.

Malcolm Bradbury, Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of East Anglia, said that, while he would not consider it a great work of literature, he was not surprised at its triumph. "It has a very special cultural value," he said. "It's a book that crosses the magic line between childhood and adulthood."

Note: Orwell's 'Down and out in Paris and London' also placed in the top 100.


‘Times of London’ as on January 20th, 1997.
by Dalya Alberge, arts correspondent and Erica Wagner, literary editor

* * *

Best 20th-Century English Novels
  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  36. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  52. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  57. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durrell
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  87. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  89. LOVING by Henry Green
  90. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  96. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington


‘The Modern Library's list of the top 100 English novels’
Courtesy of Charles — ‘Charles' George Orwell Links’ []
E-mail: <[email protected]>
Original of this work is on the

Machine-readable version: O. Dag
Last modified on: 2019-12-29

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