The 100 best novels, in 1898
Here’s a list of the 100 best novels ever written, as chosen by Clement K. Shorter in 1898. Tyler Cowen sent his readers there to be amazed at how many we’d never even heard of. It’s true and amazing in that Ozymandias way that a lot of them are completely obscure to me. About 70 of the 100 titles came out in a period of 50 years, and Shorter limited himself to one book per author, which makes it less surprising some have faded.
It’s also interesting to see how many things on the list have held their spot in the canon. The three Russian novels listed are the three most likely to be taught in a college survey course. Most of the French and American ones I’ve either read or heard a lot about. And the books and authors that I know primarily because they were important to nineteenth-century Russian writers are all there: Gil Blas, Tobias Smollett, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth. All except Tristram Shandy, that is.
I’m actually in the middle of 2% of Shorter’s picks right now: Ruth and Trollope’s Barchester Towers. Leskov and Pisemskii didn’t make the cut, though.