The Guardian newspaper from England produced a list of 100 greatest novels that seems interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the fact that Pilgrim’s Progress comes in at number two is intriguing. Since many literary scholars identify Defoe as the first English novelist, it’s fairly amazing that a book produced fifty years earlier not only makes the list but almost tops it.
Granted, the list has a bias for earlier works. The top eight predate 1800, but to recognize Bunyan’s masterpiece as a novel at all is rather unusual these days.
On the other hand, a number of works surprise me with their inclusion. The Catcher in the Rye isn’t even the best work by Salinger. For all my love of Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood scarcely feels like a novel as opposed to some loosely connected short stories. Lolita, yes, but On the Road? Both Martin and Kingsley Amis? Philip Pullman?
Such lists are interesting for discussion, but far more interesting, I hope, is to read the works listed and, rather than ranking, experience them.