The Radcliffe Publishing Course's "100 Best Novels of the 20th Century"

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On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels to counter the "Modern Library’s own top 100 novels" list.

(As a student at RPC in the Summer of 1997, I participated in the creation of this list. In case anyone is curious, here is the method by which the list was created: all of the students in the course that year – reasonably intelligent kids who’d just finished undergrad degrees, primarily English majors, but there were a couple of older students and a few from other disciplines – were asked to submit a list of their 10 favorite works of fiction. These were all compiled and the 100 which appeared most often among the submitted favorites ended up on this list. And I think some of the books may have shown up if they received even 2 or 3 votes, because there were simply not that many students. So, basically, it’s a reflection of the top-of-mind tastes (and sometimes the elitist bravado) of fresh-out-of-college English majors heading into the publishing industry. There was no discussion or debate about the merits of including any of the books over others. It was just a compilation of the favorites we submitted. I still think it’s an interesting list, but I do think it’s relevant to take into consideration how it came to be.)

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  1. 51.
    My Antonia
    by Willa Cather

  2. 52.
    Howards End (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
    by E. M. Forster

  3. 53.
    In Cold Blood
    by Truman Capote

  4. 54.
    Franny and Zooey
    by J. D. Salinger

  5. 55.
    The Satanic Verses: A Novel (Bestselling Backlist)
    by Salman Rushdie

  6. 56.
    Jazz
    by Toni Morrison

  7. 57.
    Sophie's Choice
    by William Styron

  8. 58.
    Absalom, Absalom! (Modern Library)
    by William Faulkner

  9. 59.
    A Passage to India
    by E. M. Forster

  10. 60.
    Ethan Frome (Penguin Classics)
    by Edith Wharton

  11. 61.
    A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
    by Flannery O'Connor

  12. 62.
    Tender Is the Night
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  13. 63.
    Orlando: A Biography
    by Virginia Woolf

  14. 64.
    Sons and Lovers (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
    by D.H. Lawrence

  15. 65.
    The Bonfire of the Vanities
    by Tom Wolfe

  16. 66.
    Cat's Cradle: A Novel
    by Kurt Vonnegut

  17. 67.
    A Separate Peace
    by John Knowles

  18. 68.
    Light in August (The Corrected Text)
    by William Faulkner

  19. 69.
    The Wings of the Dove (Everymans Library, 230)
    by Henry James

  20. 70.
    Things Fall Apart
    by Chinua Achebe

  21. 71.
    Rebecca (Longman Fiction Series)
    by Daphne du Maurier

  22. 72.
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    by Douglas Adams

  23. 73.
    Naked Lunch
    by William S. Burroughs

  24. 74.
    Brideshead Revisited (Everyman's Library)
    by Evelyn Waugh

  25. 75.

  26. 76.
    Look Homeward, Angel
    by Thomas Wolfe

  27. 77.
    In Our Time
    by Ernest Hemingway

  28. 78.
    The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
    by Gertrude Stein

  29. 79.
    The Maltese Falcon
    by Dashiell Hammett

  30. 80.
    The Naked and the Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition
    by Norman Mailer

  31. 81.
    ?
    Wide Sargasso Sea: A Novel
    by Jean Rhys

  32. 82.
    White Noise (Contemporary American Fiction)
    by Don DeLillo

  33. 83.
    O Pioneers! (Vintage Classics)
    by Willa Cather

  34. 84.
    Tropic of Cancer
    by Henry Miller

  35. 85.
    The War of the Worlds
    by H. G. Wells

  36. 86.
    Lord Jim
    by Joseph Conrad

  37. 87.
    The Bostonians (Penguin Classics)
    by Henry James

  38. 88.
    An American Tragedy (Signet Classics)
    by Theodore Dreiser

  39. 89.
    Death Comes for the Archbishop (Vintage Classics)
    by Willa Cather

  40. 90.
    The Wind in the Willows
    by Kenneth Grahame

  41. 91.
    This Side Of Paradise
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  42. 92.
    Atlas Shrugged
    by Ayn Rand

  43. 93.
    The French Lieutenant's Woman
    by John Fowles

  44. 94.
    Babbitt (Bantam Classics)
    by Sinclair Lewis

  45. 95.
    Kim (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
    by Rudyard Kipling

  46. 96.
    The Beautiful and Damned
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  47. 97.
    Rabbit, Run
    by John Updike

  48. 98.
    Where Angels Fear to Tread (Vintage Classics)
    by E.M. Forster

  49. 99.
    Main Street (Signet Classics)
    by Sinclair Lewis

  50. 100.
    Midnight's Children
    by Salman Rushdie

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Created by Robot Co-op on Nov 30, 2005.
 

Comments

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many books started .... unfinished on this list — 8 years ago

This is more great inspiration to actually go back and read the books I started, yet never finished.

Not finishing them wasn’t always because I didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes you get distracted by other things in your life. Or other great books.

There are other books on this list and others, which I’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t.

And there are several books I’ve read and wish to re-read.

Decisions: Do I re-read the ones already read? Or move onto ones I haven’t? Maybe I’ll do as I like and go with my whim.

One book which I must confess I noted as having consumed it completely and said it was worth it:

“In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote.

I read this book years ago.

The writing is superb. Really. It’s incredibly engaging and utterly raw.

I couldn’t finish this book, and never will because it was simply too real; the scenes too horrific.

If one can stomach it, this is an incredible book to read.



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