In my view, reading fiction is indispensable to writing improvement. Through sentence analysis of fiction, readers learn firsthand how writers use suspensive techniques to capture the imagination, and how they depart from rigid linguistic rules to maintain reader engagement. Random House/Modern Library has accompanied its Best 100 Nonfiction Books of the Century list, which I noted in the previous post, with a 100 Best Novels of the Century (www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html).
As the publisher did with the nonfiction list, it added a Top 100 from its readers. A quick glance of each list shows a huge discrepancy: Not one book from the top ten on either list appeared on the other. Four of Ayn Rand’s books are high on the readers’ list (Atlas Shrugged #1, The Fountainhead #2, Anthem #7, and We the Living #8), as do three by L. Ron Hubbard (Battlefield Earth #3, Mission Earth #9, and Fear #10), but none from either author shows up anywhere on the Board’s Top 100. More surprises crop up; oh, well, you’ll now have more than a hundred books to read.
Time Magazine also published a list of All-Time 100 Novels (www.time.com/time/2005/100books/the_complete_list.html) featuring original reviews of many of the books. This list does not rank the titles in any particular order.
Another list, 100 Best Novels (http://www.best100novels.com/) claims to be “voted by regular people.” Orwell’s 1984, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice populate the top 5.
All the lists constitute a great way to create a lifelong reading regimen.