Okay, inflation is killing us. Gas here in California is $6 and $7 a gallon, the shelves of the local Walmart and grocery stores are still half-empty, and the sidewalks of our cities are swathed with homeless tents and commanded by smash-and-grab thieves and vicious lowlifes.
Meanwhile, our bumbling, mumbling, stumbling president is in complete denial.
“Not my fault,” says he.
I suspect most of you are not happy with what’s going on. Of course, there are some folks who think things are just hunky-dory. I suspect those who think that are hardcore Democrats who also believe Joe Biden is doing an excellent job. No matter which side of the political aisle you occupy, it can’t hurt to take your mind off what’s going on in our country these days.
One way to do that is to pick up a good book and lose yourself in it. So today, I am providing a list of the greatest books in the world as chosen by W. John Campbell, a writer, and literary critic.
In his book, The Book of Great Books: A Guide to 100 World Classics, written in 1997, Campbell not only lists the top 100 books, but also provides summaries of each work with an analysis of the main themes, writing style, key characters, plots, the language and social trends in the period in which each book was written, and so on. The 866-page book has sold more than one million copies since its publication 25 years ago.
When the book was first published, The New York Times wrote that “The Book of Great Books unlocks the secrets to 100 of the world’s most enduring novels, plays, and epic poems. Encompassing great works by authors from Homer to Hemingway and from Machiavelli to Toni Morrison, this book will guide you through the plot twists, major themes, and key details that make these classics so enduringly classic.”
Obviously, not everyone will agree with Campbell’s selections.
For example, I can think of a few books that should be on the list that aren’t. Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and Brideshead Revisited are missing, as is Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser.
And then there’s The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas; Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte; The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe; Kim, by Rudyard Kipling; and To Kill a Mockingbird, by the late Harper Lee.
Clearly, Professor Campbell’s book was not meant to be authoritative. It is one person’s list, albeit a list compiled by an individual with impeccable credentials.
However, I will let you be the judge. Would these books fill your top 100 list? What books would YOU add to this list? Would you delete any?
You can let me know in the Comments area at the end of this post.
Here they are, listed alphabetically:
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Marie Remarque
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
Animal Farm, George Orwell
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
As You Like It, William Shakespeare
The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Billy Budd, Herman Melville
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
Daisy Miller, Henry James
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Dante
Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
Euthyphro Apology, Crito, Phaedo Plato
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Faust, Parts 1 and 2, J. W. von Goethe
For Whom the Bell, Tolls Ernest Hemingway
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Hard Times, Charles Dickens
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Henry IV Part 1, William Shakespeare
House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday
The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
King Lear, William Shakespeare
Light in August, William Faulkner
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Native Son, Richard Wright
1984, George Orwell
The Oedipus Trilogy, Sophocles
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s, Nest Ken Kesey
Othello, William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost, John Milton
The Pearl, John Steinbeck
The Plague, Albert Camus
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane
The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
Richard III, William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Silas Marner, George Eliot
Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse
The Stranger, Albert Camus
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
The Tempest, William Shakespeare
Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Treasure Island, Robert Lewis Stevenson
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
So there you have it. A list of the world’s best books. Do any strike your fancy? I have already found at least six I have not yet read and I suspect I will have to read all six in order to purge the tension and turmoil generated by the turbulent and calamitous times confronting our nation.
2 thoughts on “A Little Inflation Therapy: Read a Good Book. Here are the 100 Greatest Books of All Time”
I know it’s not a classic, but one book has haunted me for more than four decades, beckoning me back to reread it from time to time—John Fowles’ The Magus. Unfortunately, Hollywood made it into a terrible movie, which surely has not burnished its fading reputation. Woody Allen, asked about his greatest regret, replied, “The two hours I wasted watching The Magus.”
I never read The Magus. However, I recall that the movie was a mess. Now I will have to pick up the book and give it a read.