Tuesday, April 8, 2008

List: Anthony Burgess

In 1984, Anthony Burgess (best known for A Clockwork Orange) published 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 (reviewed here).

His book included mini-reviews of the 99 novels (some are sets or series), which he chose on the basis of personal preference. I read the book, but now I don't remember why he started his list in 1939 and limited it to 99 books instead of an even 100.

This is my go-to book list when I'm looking for something good. There is some crossover with other Must Read lists, but a lot of originality. There are many books I've read only because they were on this list and I they now have permanent spots on my list of all-time favorites.

So far, I've read 39 of the 99 books on this list. The ones I have read are in red. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Here is the list, in the same chronological order by publication date that Burgess lists them in his book:

Party Going, Henry Green

After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Aldous Huxley

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (discussed here)

At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

Strangers and Brothers, C. P. Snow (an 11-novel series; A Time of Hope, reviewed hereGeorge Passant, reviewed here)

The Aerodrome, Rex Warner

The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary

The Razor's Edge, Somerset Maugham (reviewed here)

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake (reviewed here)

The Victim, Saul Bellow

Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene

Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley

The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer (reviewed here)

No Highway, Nevil Shute

The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

The Body, William Sansom

Scenes from Provincial Life, William Cooper

The Disenchanted, Budd Schulberg

A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell (a 12-novel series; discussed here)

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

The Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, Henry Williamson

The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy (reviewed here)

Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor

Sword of Honour, Evelyn Waugh

The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

Room at the Top, John Braine

The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell

The London Novels, Colin MacInnes (a trilogy)

The Assistant, Bernard Malamud (reviewed here)

The Bell, Iris Murdoch

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe

The Once and Future King, T. H. White

The Mansion, William Faulkner

Goldfinger, Ian Fleming

Facial Justice, L. P. Hartley

The Balkans Trilogy, Olivia Manning

The Mighty and Their Fall, Ivy Compton-Burnett

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

The Fox in the Attic, Richard Hughes

Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White

The Old Men at the Zoo, Angus Wilson

Another Country, James Baldwin

An Error of Judgment, Pamela Hansford Johnson

Island, Aldous Huxley

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark

The Spire, William Golding

Heartland, Wilson Harris

A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood (reviewed here)

The Defense, Vladimir Nabokov

Late Call, Angus Wilson

The Lockwood Concern, John O'Hara

The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark (reviewed here)

A Man of the People, Chinua Achebe

The Anti-Death League, Kingsley Amis (reviewed here)

Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth

The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer

The Last Gentleman, Walker Percy

The Vendor of Sweets, R. K. Narayan

The Image Men, J. B. Priestley

Cocksure, Mordecai Richler

Pavane, Keith Roberts

The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles

Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth

Bomber, Len Deighton

Sweet Dreams, Michael Frayn

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow

The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury

The Doctor's Wife, Brian Moore

Falstaff, Robert Nye

How to Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong (reviewed here)

Farewell Companions, James Plunkett

Staying On, Paul Scott

The Coup, John Updike

The Unlimited Dream Company, J. G. Ballard

Dubin's Lives, Bernard Malamud

A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul

Sophie's Choice, William Stryon (reviewed here)

Life in the West, Brian Aldiss

Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban

How Far Can You Go?, David Lodge (reviewed here)

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Lanark, Alasdair Gray

Darconville's Cat, Alexander Theroux

The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux

Creation, Gore Vidal

The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies (reviewed here)

Ancient Evenings, Norman Mailer


Updated March 19, 2018.


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  1. I'm reading through the lists in The Well-Educated Mind and The New Lifetime Reading Plan. It it'll take me years to get through the ancient stuff, and while I'm enjoying it, I'll add this in as my nighttime reading. http://autodidact-101.blogspot.com

  2. What I meant to say is while I'm enjoying reading Homer and the Epic of Gilgamesh it's also nice to have some contemporary literature as well.

  3. I read Burgess' book many years ago and then passed it on to someone. I've read only six from the list I'm afraid. Under the Volcano, The Heart of the Matter, Invisible Man, The Old Man and the Sea, and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning were, as you said, outstanding. For Whom the Bell Tolls was good. That's my two cents worth anyway. There are a few I've meant to read, I read so many of the newer award nominees, I'll have to work on this one too.


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