Last month the Guardian published another of the “100 best novels written in English” lists that appear from time to time. Quite why they did so, other than to generate more traffic for their website, escapes me. The suspicion that this is no more than clickbait intensifies when you consider the detail of the list – some really strange choices such as the omission of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Brideshead Revisited”, to mention just two, as well as the inclusion of some obscure (American?) novels such as “Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont” by Elizabeth Taylor, “Zulieka Dobson” by Max Beerbohm, and “Hadrian the Seventh”, by Frederick Rolfe, none of which I had heard of before. To be fair to Robert McCrum, who complied the list, he has accepted the arbitrary nature of many of his choices. Some of the online comments on the list are pretty hilarious by the way – for example the observation that
“This list is about maintaining the cultural elite’s stranglehold on what is to be regarded as acceptable reading matter. It’s a list of 100 cultural hoops that the socially aspiring are expected to jump through in order to have a chance of joining their ‘intellectual betters’.”
It’s fair to say it is a reasonably conservative list, but what other kind of “Best 100 novels in English” are there?

I have read roughly 30 from this lis. That seems a bit low, but it is an honest figure, and I have avoided counting books that I am not sure about, such as “Robinson Crusoe” or “Alice in Wonderland”. Of the 30 I have blogged here about 10 of the novels. I am toying with the idea of working my way through the list once my recent focus on the Great War has died down. For anyone who is unable to work their way to the Guardian website, here’s the list, in chronological order, with books read in italics, and books blogged about in bold.

1. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678)

2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

4. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)

5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)

6. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759)

7. Emma by Jane Austen (1816)

8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

9. Nightmare Abbey – Thomas Love Peacock (1818)

10. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

11. Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli (1845)

12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

14. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848)

15. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)

16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

17. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

18. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)

21. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2)

22. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)

23. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5)

24. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

25. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (1889)

26. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

27. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

28. New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891)

29. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

30. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)

31. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)

33. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900)

34. Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

36. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)

37. Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe (1904)

38. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

39. The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)

40. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911)

41. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)

42. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)

 43. The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)

 44. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915)

  45. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

 46. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)

 47. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)

 48. A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)

 49. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925)

 50. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

51. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

52. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)

 53. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)

 54. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929)

 55. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930)

 56. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

 57. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

 58. Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos (1932)

 59. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)

 60. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)

61. Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)

62. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

 63. Party Going by Henry Green (1939)

64. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)

 65. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

66. Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse (1946)

67. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)

 68. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)

 69. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)

 70. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

 71. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)

 72. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)

 73. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)

 74. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

75. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

76. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

 77. Voss by Patrick White (1957)

78. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

 79. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1960)

 80. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

 81. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)

 82. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

 83. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)

84. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)

 85. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)

 86. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth (1969)

 87. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)

 88. Rabbit Redux by John Updike (1971)

 89. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)

 90. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul (1979)

 91. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

92. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)

93. Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)

 94. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)

 95. The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald (1988)

 96. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1988)

 97. Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990)

 98. Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)

 99. Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999)

 100. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)