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Librarians Choose A Century of Good Books

WHEN WE ASKED YOU, DEAR LJ readers, to send us choices for a "century of good books," you weighed in by the hundreds with lists ranging from a single nomination to collections of 100. There were lists solely of women's titles, several that cited only poetry, and lists by one or or an entire library staff of compilers. We were thrilled by the response.

Overwhelmingly, you chose fiction, so for this first report we're listing only your fiction choices. Given the number of books nominated, we decided not to cut the list to 100 but to report all the titles that got the most votes.

Listed below are the 150 20th-century fiction titles that you regard as the most influential, either in the larger world or in their impact on you personally. Obviously, you read mostly American and British writers and, alas, primarily men. Given that three-fourths of the profession are women, the dominance of males was a surprise.

Your comments on your choices make it clear that they are heartfelt. One librarian said that her criteria were 1) the books had to be "memorable," 2) they had to be books she "read over and over," and 3) they had to have "taken me to places and points of view I never would have discovered on my own."

The book that was far and away your first choice is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Remarkably, while there is overlap with the Modern Library list, your top titles reflect more of the books that people actually read rather than those they feel they should have read. Reflecting that "popular" taste, most of the top 40 titles have also made it to the big screen.

Like any list, this one will surely draw fire. On to the fray!

1 To Kill a Mockingbird,
Harper Lee (1960)
2 The Catcher in the Rye,
J.D. Salinger (1951)
3 Lord of the Rings,
J.R.R. Tolkien (1956)
4 Gone with the Wind,
Margaret Mitchell (1936)
5 Beloved,
Toni Morrison (1987)
6 The Color Purple,
Alice Walker (1982)
7 Nineteen Eighty Four,
George Orwell (1949)
8 Animal Farm,
George Orwell (1954)
9 Lord of the Flies,
William Golding (1954)
10 Catch 22,
Joseph Heller (1961)
11 The Good Earth,
Pearl Buck (1931)
12 Charlotte's Web,
E.B. White (1952)
13 The Great Gatsby,
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
14 Slaughterhouse-Five,
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1969)
15 One Hundred Years of Solitude,
Gabriel García Marquez (1970)
16 Lonesome Dove,
Larry McMurtry (1986)
17 Lolita,
Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
18 Fahrenheit 451,
Ray Bradbury (1952)
19 Rebecca,
Daphne Du Maurier (1938)
20 The Grapes of Wrath,
John Steinbeck (1939)
21 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,
Betty Smith (1947)
22 The Hobbit,
J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
23 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,
Ken Kesey (1962)
24 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,
Muriel Spark (1962)
25 My Antonia,
Willa Cather (1918)
26 The Old Man and the Sea,
Ernest Hemingway (1952)
27 Lady Chatterley's Lover,
D.H. Lawrence (1928)
28 Invisible Man,
Ralph Ellison (1952)
29 Exodus,
Leon Uris (1957)
30 Sophie's Choice,
William Styron (1979)
31 Native Son,
Richard Wright (1940)
32 Little House on the Prairie,
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
33 A Farewell to Arms,
Ernest Hemingway (1929)
34 Winnie the Pooh,
A.A. Milne (1926)
35 The Jungle,
Upton Sinclair (1906)
36 The Handmaid's Tale,
Margaret Atwood (1986)
37 The Age of Innocence,
Edith Wharton (1920)
38 Rabbit Run,
John Updike (1960)
39 On the Road,
Jack Kerouac (1957)
40 Stranger in a Strange Land,
Robert A. Heinlein (1961)
41 Brave New World,
Aldous Huxley (1932)
42 Angle of Repose,
Wallace Stegner (1971)
43 All Quiet on the Western Front,
Erich Maria Remarque (1929)
44 Ulysses,
James Joyce (1922)
45 The Sun Also Rises,
Ernest Hemingway (1926)
46 The Stranger,
Albert Camus (1942)
47 The Sound and the Fury,
William Faulkner (1929)
48 Possession,
A.S. Byatt (1990)
49 Stone Diaries,
Carol Shields (1994)
50 Song of Solomon,
Toni Morrison (1977)
Next 50 Titles (51-100)

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