There are a lot of best book lists but many organizations are as influential or prestigious as Time Magazine. They released their list of the 100 best books of all time in 2010 and made a solid list. But one rule made their list limited. Keep reading to find out which 100 books made their list!
Before we dive into the list, it is important to note the two rules Time used when making the list. The first rule was that all books published in 1923 and forward were considered. That is when Time began publishing and consider their “starting point.” The second rule is that the books had to be written in English. Even if they were translated into English, they will not be considered.
Both of these rules are dumb and discredit this list a lot. Mainly because not considering books published before 1923 means a lot of literary classics will be left out. And the second reason may be even dumber. Books are universal and by choosing only English books, Time is being pretentious and haughty.
Time’s 100 Best Books of All Time
- The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
- American Pastoral by Philip Roth
- An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
- At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Berlin Stories
- by Christopher Isherwood
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
- A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
- The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
- A Death in the Family by James Agee
- The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
- Deliverance by James Dickey
- Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
- Falconer by John Cheever
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
- The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
- Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
- The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
- Herzog by Saul Bellow
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
- A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Light in August by William Faulkner
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Loving by Henry Green
- Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
- The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis
- The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
- Native Son by Richard Wright
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- 1984 by George Orwell
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
- The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
- Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
- Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
- Possession by A.S. Byatt
- The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
- Rabbit, Run by John Updike
- Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
- The Recognitions by William Gaddis
- Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
- The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
- The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carre
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
- Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
- Ubik by Philip K. Dick
- Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
- Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
- Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
- White Noise by Don DeLillo
- White Teeth by Zadie Smith
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Many Great Novels
Even with the bad rules in place, this is a decent list. But I can’t help but wonder how many of these books would have made the list if the two rules weren’t in place. Making an all-time list and limiting the timespan seems like a bad idea.
What did you think of Time’s 100 books of all time? What books should have made the list and what did you make of their two rules? Let us know in the comments below!
14 thoughts on “Time’s 100 Best Books of All Time ”
The two rules were simply silly. Setting an arbitrary line in the temporal sand is just dumb. Selecting one language is to say it is the 100 Best Books Written in English, not the 100 best books written. Makes the list a joke. The time rule leaves off books such as Great Expectations or David Copperfield. The English rule automatically leaves off titles such as The Brothers Karamazov, and of course many others.
Yea, it makes zero sense. I was furious when I read that.
I hear you, but I also like that it has lots of titles I’ve never heard of while a real “best of all time” would have sacrificed room to all the usual ones we all already know. As it stands, I see lots of books I want to read and lots of my modern favorites, too, that I’m happy to see recognized. Of course, they should have called the list “best English-language books since 1923.”
I agree with the foregoing. The first rule can be cured by adding “English” after Best. “English” meaning books written in English.
The second rule is practical and honest. How far back could they go to be inclusive – Gilgamesh? The second list merely invites another backward list. 100 is not a magic number either.
If you love great raw spy thrillers then do read the epic spy novel, Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription in TheBurlingtonFiles series. He was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6 (see the brief News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website). The thriller is the stuff memorable films are made of, raw, realistic yet punchy, pacy and provocative; a super read as long as you don’t expect John le Carré’s delicate diction, sophisticated syntax and placid plots. It’s a fact based book which follows the real life of a real spy, Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington who worked for British Intelligence, the CIA et al. It’s like nothing we have ever come across before … and TheBurlingtonFiles website is as breathtaking as a compelling thriller. It’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti.
Why are John Irving and Tom Robbins still not taken seriously? A Prayer for Owen Meany and more than one Robbins novel are missing (Skinny Legs and All being my personal favorite). Also had hoped to see David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), Richard Powers (The Overstory), and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) on this list.
I fully agree with you on the first few. Irving is my personal favorite writer, although I might include his “Cider House Rules,” instead. Haven’t read Overstory and Wasted Vigil, so thanks for sharing. I think I might read everything on this list (if I haven’t already) and the ones suggested in comments, too.
A good list, as far as the ones I’ve read, but I would have included McCarthy’s “Suttree,” definitely, and possibly (although I think this would be controversial) Stephen King’s “The Green Mile.”
In college, there were only two assign reading books I could not get through. The LEVIATHAN which I held to be a preposterous justification for monarchy, and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf… I think I made it to page ten which was also the first paragraph… My professor boasted that Woolf was one of the few writers that could make a correctly written one page sentence… But was it a worth while one page sentence? Only to cure my insomnia. I wonder who makes these lists… Have they ever actually read these books ? I still feel creepy that I ever read loleta… I would never recommend it to anyone.
What about the book Where the Crawdad’s Sing
I enjoyed that book but it isn’t one of the 100 best books of all time in my opinion.
The most insightful book I have ever read is “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn; it is the book that started everybody talking about paradigms and paradigm shifts.
The best-written book that I have read that tells a true-life story is “Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean.
However, the most touching and thrilling true life story that I have ever read about is the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s doomed Antarctic expedition. You should start with “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing, then read “Shackleton’s Boat Journey” by F. A. Worsley, and finish up with “Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition,” which has some actual photographs of the journey. It’s amazing what we puny little humans are capable of!