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The Modern Library list of top 100 modern works of English literature contains amazing novels. Here's an opportunity to revisit works you may have read in high school or college and to fill in some of the gaps in your literary education. Each month we'll read the works of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wharton, Woolf, Nabokov and more.


Modern Library's 100 Best Novels is a list of the best English-language novels of the 20th century as selected by the Modern Library, an American publishing company owned by Random House.

In early 1998, the Modern Library polled its editorial board to find the best 100 novels of the 20th century. The board consisted of Daniel J. Boorstin, A. S. Byatt, Christopher Cerf, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal.

Ulysses by James Joyce topped the list, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The most recent novel in the list is Ironweed (1983) by William Kennedy, and the oldest is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which was first published in 1899. Conrad has four novels on the list, the most of any author. William Faulkner, E. M. Forster, Henry James, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Evelyn Waugh each have three novels. There are ten other authors with two novels.

Criticism of the Modern Library list includes that it did not include enough novels by women (and that only one woman was on the panel) and not enough novels from outside North America and Europe. For example, in the UK many of the novels on the list are regarded as given undue credit.[2] In addition, some contend it was a "sales gimmick", since most of the titles in the list are also sold by Modern Library. Others note that both Modern Library and Random House USA, the parent company, are US companies. Critics have argued that this is responsible for a very American view of the greatest novels. British, Canadian and Australian academics, and even Random House UK, have differing lists of "greatest novels".

A Reader's List 100 Best Novels was published separately by Modern Library in 1999. In an unscientific poll, over 200,000 self-selected voters indicated four of the ten-best novels of the 20th century were written by Ayn Rand, including the two novels that topped the list. Pulp science fiction writer and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had three novels in the top ten. The Reader's Poll has been cited by Harry Binswanger, a longtime associate of Rand and promoter of her work, as representative of "the clash between the intellectual establishment and the American people." However, journalists such as Kyrie O'Connor and Jesse Walker have attributed the differences at the top of the list to ballot-stuffing or especially devoted followings, rather than accurate expressions of broad public opinion.

A separate Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century was created the same year.

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