Hello, everyone! Here is my very own list of 47 Classic Novels Everyone Should Read.
It’s entirely subjective. But! It has commentary! Nobody else’s list has commentary. I’m pretty sure.
Without further ado:
1) Sense & Sensibility (Jane Austen)
2) Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3) Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)
4) Emma (Jane Austen)
5) Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
6) Persuasion (Jane Austen)
Yes! All SIX of Jane Austen’s completed novels are on my list! If you don’t like it, go find another list!
7) The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
8) The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
9) No-Name (Wilkie Collins)
10) Can You Forgive Her? (Anthony Trollope)
11) A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
12) A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
13) David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
Three Dickens novels are about all I can really take. I’m not a big fan of Dickens, plus there are so many of them. So darn many.
14) Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
15) Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
16) Agnes Grey (Anne Bronte)
Yes! There are THREE Bronte sisters! Did you know that? I like Anne’s work better than Emily’s. Wuthering Heights is just morbid.
17) The Mill on the Floss (George Eliot)
18) Middlemarch (George Eliot)
In my opinion, Middlemarch is the greatest novel in the English language. I guess I’d better qualify that by adding “that I know of,” because there just may be a few I haven’t gotten around to yet. It’s impossible for me to think of another novel with the scope and power of Middlemarch. Can you?
19) The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
20) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)
21) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
22) Vanity Fair (William Thackeray)
23) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
24) Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (Lewis Carroll)
It occurs to me that I have not yet referenced Lewis Carroll in my blog. I’ll have to remedy that soon. Want to hear how freakish I am? I memorized the poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” when I was in the seventh grade. That’s a crazy-long poem. And I still know it by heart. Freakish me. Also, query: do the Alice books really count as “novels?” They probably don’t. I’ll give myself these two, though, but no Alcott or Montgomery. Even though that’s probably going to kill me.
25) The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett)
26) The Song of the Lark (Willa Cather)
27) The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
28) The Custom of the Country (Edith Wharton)
29) A Room with a View (E.M. Forster)
30) Howards End (E.M. Forster)
31) I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
32) Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)
33) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
34) Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
35) Cranford (Elizabeth Gaskell)
36) North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)
37) Wives and Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell)
I’m trying to group these roughly by period, but I’m sure it’s obvious that I made it into the 20th century and was like, “Argh! I forgot about Elizabeth Gaskell!” and I’m too lazy to go back and renumber half the list. Because renumbering is boring. Will you forgive me?
38) The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
39) Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
40) Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh)
41) The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
42) The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
43) Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
44) Cluny Brown (Margery Sharp)
45) The Flowering Thorn (Margery Sharp)
I firmly believe that Margery Sharp is currently under-rated and will be rediscovered one day. She’s most famous for a children’s book you’ve probably heard of (thank you, Mr. Disney) called The Rescuers. I was recently pleased to discover that The Rescuers has been reissued in hardback in the New York Review Children’s Collection. Rock on, Margery Sharp!
46) Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
Yes, all right, FOUR Dickens novels. But that’s all!
47) Tess of the D’urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I almost forgot Thomas Hardy!
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the list!
More commentary: This was surprisingly difficult to do. Mostly because I had to leave out some of my favorite authors who wrote plays and short stories (Dorothy Parker and James Thurber, for example). Also because, even though I notice that most classic-novel-list-makers don’t seem to feel the need to define their parameters, I’m limiting myself to the rule of not including any book written by an author who is still living, which means I had to leave out Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger, and anything of Margaret Atwood’s.
I’m rather pleased that I’ve ended up with 47 titles. It’s a prime number. I love those.
Now: What did I leave out? Tell me what you think!
Love you & leave you,