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The MetaList Book Meme

Newsweek's Top 100 Books List is actually a MetaList, crunched from ten other lists of "greatest books" (in English). The methodology they used is interesting. When I read the comments made about the list itself, it was pretty clear that most of the commenters had not grokked that this is a metalist, made from compiling ten other well-known lists of "100 greatest books", and not Newsweek's own suggestions.

Oddly enough, I haven't seen this list made into a meme yet! So here it is, the MetaList Book Meme:

How well do you know the greatest books of all time?

Bold what you've read. Italicize what you've only skimmed or partially read.
Underline the books you loved. Strike the ones you hated.

Ready? Here's the list:

1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
2. 1984, by George Orwell

3. Ulysses, by James Joyce
4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner (I just can't get through Faulkner's writing style, it irks me.)
6. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
7. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
8. The Illiad and The Odyssey, by Homer
9. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
10. The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri

11. The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

12. Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift
13. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
14. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

17. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
18. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
20. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
21. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
22. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie
23. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
24. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
25. Native Son, by Richard Wright

26. Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
27. On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
28. The Histories, by Herodotus
29. The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
30. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx
31. The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
32. Confessions, by St. Augustine
33. Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes
34. The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
35. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
36. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
38. A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster

39. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
40. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41. The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. (KJV)
42. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

43. Light in August, by William Faulkner
44. The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois
45. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
46. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
47. Paradise Lost, by John Milton

48. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
49. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

50. King Lear, by William Shakespeare
51. Othello, by William Shakespeare
52. Sonnets, by William Shakespeare

53. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
55. Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
56.Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

57.Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
58.One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
59. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
60. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
61. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
62. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
63. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
64. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing

65. Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
66. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
67. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
68. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
69. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
71. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
72. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
73. Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
74. Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
75. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
76. Night, by Elie Wiesel
77. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

78. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
79. Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth
80. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
81. The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West
82. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
83. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
84. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
85. Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
86. The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud
87. The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
88. Quotations from Chairman Mao, by Mao Zedong
89. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, by William James
90. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
91. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, by John Maynard Keynes
93. Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad
94. Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves
95. The Affluent Society, by John Kenneth Galbraith
96. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
97. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
98. Eminent Victorians, by Lytton Strachey
99. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
100. The Second World War (The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate; Closing the Ring; Triumph and Tragedy), by Winston Churchill


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
What if you've listened to the book on tape/CD?

What if you saw the play/movie for the Shakespeare?

You read the whole King James Bible? Go you!

In general I'm not well read so I'm not embarassing myself by doing the meme;)
Jul. 7th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
I'd count listening to the book, or attending the play, sure!
Jul. 7th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Toni Morrison deserved her Nobel Prize, but there is no way she wrote two of the Best 100 Books Evar.
Jul. 7th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't think so either; it's an interesting artifact of this type of meta-study. Almost every one of the ten source lists included one work representing Toni Morrison. But they disagreed on which of her books to include: about half went for Beloved, while others cited Song of Solomon. In that way, both works gathered enough points to be included on the meta-list.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 7th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
I read 8.5 of these as high school assignments, and another 12 as college assignments (undergrad + graduate, hey, I was a lit major).

But there are a lot of children's books and some popular literature here too. What was the one book on the list that you read that wasn't assigned in high school?
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 7th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
Ack, no Charlotte's Web? The Wind in the Willows? Kim? Winnie the Pooh? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?

Pride and Prejudice? Lord of the Rings?


Do we have to sit you down and read books to you?
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 7th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
mutter grumble must sit you down one week and read Lord of the Rings to you mutter yesssss, my precious, mussssst
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
Peter Jackson did a good job on the films, but the books are exceptionally rich and detailed. All the history and mythology was worked out for each culture. Each culture had a language created for it. The books are not overburdened by those background details, but they enhance the impact of the cultural interface.

Part of the books are a depressing slog. But that is what the characters were going through. My seven-year-old self was unable to make it through those parts, so my mother read them to me.

There is humor, wit, literary references and referents scattered throughout the entire work, like gems that are only partly showing. It really is a masterwork.

Try reading The Hobbit. It flows pretty well, and is a fun introduction to the world. Most of the back history was not started when The Hobbit was written, so the rich culture is not apparent. It is still a fun jaunt.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 7th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
The list doesn't seem so Anglo-centric when we consider that 17 of these books are translated from other languages into English (not even counting Canterbury Tales, which is generally read translated into Modern English), and another 6 were written in English by authors whose first language was not English.

But I was surprised that Don Quixote didn't make it.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 7th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
Quotations from Chairman Mao is one of the best-selling, most widely-read books of all time, indeed it is said to be the single most printed book of all time. There are more copies of Mao's little red book than there are Bibles or NYC telephone books. It is certainly one of the most influential books of the 20th century. This got it onto the source lists.

It's fairly rare for any books less than 50 years old to make it to lists like this. Books written by non-native-English authors within the last 50 years on this list include:

Midnight's Children, 1981, written in English by native Urdu speaker Salman Rushdie.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967, written in Spanish

Quotations from Chairman Mao, 1964, Chinese

Things Fall Apart just misses the criteria, being published in 1958. Achebe's native language is Igbo, but he generally writes in English.

Night, written in Yiddish, was first published in 1955. The English translation didn't come out until 1960, though.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
Heh. Technically, that would be the truth.

Is that Mandarin? Where do you learn it?
Jul. 7th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
I read 24 and excerpts of another dozen or so.
Jul. 7th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
Oh dear! There's Willa Cather! God, how she bored me; it was torture reading her stuff.

My score is too low to mention.
Jul. 7th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I had to read a Cather short story for a class once. Did Not Like.
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
I had read more of the BBC list. This list is confusing. It seems to be mixing apples and oranges. Children's books, histories, other non-fiction, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman? Huh?
Jul. 8th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
It's a meta-list, compiled by crunching together ten other influential "100 best" lists. Thus, the mixture.

This sort of meta-analysis seems to be becoming more and more popular in science and medicine. When you have lots of published studies, and they don't all say the same thing, a properly weighted meta-analysis of them all ought to tell you what's what.

Of course, as we can see from a few oddities in this list, you don't always end up with logical results. Two books by Toni Morrison? Wide Sargasso Sea but not Jane Eyre, the book it is based on? No Don Quixote? No Koran?

However, you do end up with a good representative sample of the thoughts of most people (editors and educators) who prepare this sort of list. In that sense, it's a good list of "books you should know about". I know that I've heard and seen multiple references to all these, except for Keynes's book and Galbraith's.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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