50 best novels from the last 50 years

i’m 50, have been reading nearly all those years and am commemorating my relationship to books by compiling a list of the 50 best novels published in my lifetime.  i’m a fiction reader.  i buy into tim o’brien’s philiosophy that “story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth. story truth is emotional truth; thus the feeling created by a fictional story is sometimes truer than what results from reading the facts.”

when an author wrote a series, i counted the series as one book — the group added up to more than the sum of the parts.

naguib mafuz’s cairo trilogy was originally published in arabic in 1956/7, but not published in english until the 1990s.  i debated, put it in, took it out, then put it back.  unquestionably brilliant, but is it fair to include it?  then i remembered… it’s my list.

here goes:

50.  to the ends of the earth – william golding

-rites of passage (1980)

-close quarters (1987)

-fire down below (1989)

49.  english, august:  an indian story (1988) — upanamyu chatterjee

48.  neuromancer (1984) — william gibson

47.  the border trilogy — cormack mccarthy

-all the pretty horses (1993)

-the crossing (1994)

-cities of the plain (1998)

46.  history (a novel) (1974) — elsa morante

45.  the conservationist (1974) — nadine gordimer

44.  gate of the sun (1998) — elias khoury

43.  grendel (1971) — john gardner

42.  the master and margarita (1967) — mikhail bulgakov

41.  housekeeping (1980) — marilyn robinson

40.  the hakawati (2003) — rabih alameddine

39.  ghost written (1999) — david mitchell

38.  slaughterhouse-five (1969) — kurt vonnegut

37.  the tea lords (1992) — hella s. haasse

36.  a fine balance (1995) — rohinton mistry

35.  in cold blood (1966) — truman capote

34.  dictionary of the khazars (1988) — milorad pavic

33.  cat’s eye (1983) — margaret atwood

32.  if on a winter’s night a traveler (1979) — italo calvino

31.  the aubrey-maturin series — 20 novels, 1969 – 1999 — patrick o’brian

30.  an artist of the floating world (1986) — kazuo ishiguro

29.  a suitable boy (1993) — vikram seth

28.  the vivesector (1970) — patrick white

27.  the lost daughter (2006) — elena ferrante

26.  play it as it lays (1970) — joan didion

25.  the obscene bird of night (1970) — josé donoso

24.  the great fire (2003) — shirley hazzard

23.  canopus in argos:  archives — doris lessing

-shikasta (1979)

-the marriages between zones three, four and five (1980)

-the sirian experiments (1980)

-the making of the representative for planet 8 (1982)

-the sentimental agents int he volyen empire (1983)

22.  the sea, the sea (1978) — iris murdoch

21.  the pick up (2001) — nadine gordimer

20.  death with interruptions (1995) — josé saramago

19.  one hundred years of solitude (1967) — gabriel garcía márquez

18.  my name is red (2006) — orham pamuk

17.  the unbearable lightness of being (1984) — milan kundera

16.  lavinia (2008) — ursula k. le guin

15.  the year of the death of ricardo reis (1984) — josé saramago

14.  mr. bridge (1969) — evan s. connell, jr.

13.  the gospel according to jesus christ (1991) — josé saramago

12.  sometimes a great notion (1964) — ken kesey

11.  the things they carried (1990) — tim o’brien

10.  the handmaid’s tale (1985) — margaret atwood

9.  a book of common prayer (1977) — joan didion

8.  midnight’s children (1981) — salman rushdie

7.  the regeneration trilogy — pat barker

-regeneration (1991)

-the eye in the door (1993)

-the ghost road (1996)

6.  stoner (1965) — john williams

5.  the cairo trilogy — naguib mafouz

-palace walk

-palace of desire

-sugar street

4.  the raj quartet — paul scott

-the jewel in the crown (1966)

-the day of the scorpion (1968)

-the towers of silence (1971)

-a division of the spoils (1975)

3.  blindness (1995) — josé saramago

2.  the transit of venus (1980) — shirley hazzard

1.  augustus (1973) — john williams

We enter into books as if into a conspiracy; for company, of
course, and narrative, and romance; for advice on how to be decent and
brave; for a slice of the strange, the shock of the Other, the witness
not yet heard from, archaeologies forgotten, ignored, or despised; and
also for radiance and transcendence, that radioactive glow of genius in
the dark.

tillie olsen from tell me a riddle (1961)

About these ads