In 2014, in between two full-time jobs, I freelanced for about six months. The flexibility was intoxicating. Waking up whenever I wanted; wearing pajamas for days straight; watching TV shows between assignments; taking a 3-week trip back home to New York. It was a dream come true – but then I went a little crazy. Even though I had just a handful of clients, they were all very lucrative jobs and relatively easygoing, which gave me quite a bit of free time. At a certain point, all this free time suddenly felt like a huge responsibility – as if I should be spending every single second in the most meaningful way possible.
So I embarked upon a little side project – I decided to seek out every “best book” list I could find and attempt to read all of them in an effort to become a self-made literary connoisseur. Unfortunately, I became quite obsessed with studying the LISTS rather than reading the books on them. And I came to the conclusion that I would never have accomplished my goal, anyway, as I will probably never make my way through Proust.
Here are the lists I found, though – if a respected institution or book critic has cherry picked these books out of the millions that exist in this world, they must at least be worth consideration.
- Modern Library – “100 Best English-language Novels of the 20th century” (1998)
- Modern Library – “100 Best Nonfiction” (the Board’s list and Reader’s list)
- The Guardian – “The 100 best novels written in English” (2015, picked by Robert McCrum)
- The Guardian – “The top 100 bestselling books of all time” (2012)
- The Telegraph – “100 novels everyone should read” (2015, picked by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo)
- Time – “100 best English-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME” (2010)
- BBC – “100 greatest British novels” (2015, book critics outside the UK)
- Book Riot – “The 100 greatest American novels, 1893 – 1993” (2013)
- ThoughtCo – “100 Major Works of Modern Creative Nonfiction” (2014)
- Goodreads – “Top 100 Literary Novels of All Time“
- Norwegian Book Clubs – “Top 100 Works in World Literature” (The editors of the Norwegian Book Clubs, with the Norwegian Nobel Institute, polled a panel of 100 authors from 54 countries on what they considered the “best and most central works in world literature.)
- Library Thing – “The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written“
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