Thursday, November 5, 2009

50 Must Read Books of the 20th Century - How Many Have You Read?

I just heard about this post and thought the list would be of interest to people who read this blog. I've read many of these books and some of my favorite books are included. How many have you read?

50 Must Read Novels of the 20th Century

Literature, as with all forms of creative expression, is a highly subjective art. The preferences of one individual may not necessarily overlap with those of another. However, many books nevertheless hold significant influence over both contemporaries and society as a whole. If not necessarily read for enjoyment, they ought to at least be acknowledged for their insight and impact. This list intends to blend highly recognized and celebrated works with those that may have gone overlooked by those outside the literary community and deserve more mainstream attention. Regardless of their status, each novel provides readers with something valuable, whether it be historical context, an intelligent exploration of some aspect of society, or some combination thereof.

    1. The Jungle (1906)

    Upton Sinclair

    A muckraking exploration of worker exploitation and inadequate food safety laws in America, this novel directly led President Teddy Roosevelt to pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

    2. The Metamorphosis (1915)

    Author: Franz Kafka

    One of the quintessential existentialist novels, Kafka’s story of a man who awakes one morning to discover himself transformed into a giant pest (often interpreted as some sort of insect) offers a disheartening glimpse into several societal ills.

    3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

    Author: James Joyce

    A journey of sexuality, exile, colonialism, and aesthetics, this semi-autobiographical novel mirrors many of Joyce’s own personal struggles with himself and his native land.

    4. Siddhartha (1922)

    Author: Hermann Hesse

    Although not a story of Siddhartha Gautama, recognized as the supreme Buddha, the protagonist who shares his name follows a similar path to enlightenment. Every one of his experiences and interactions contribute something valuable towards his journey.

    5. The Great Gatsby (1925)

    Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

    A celebrated allegory of the jazz age, this novel explores the degradation of the supposed “American Dream” and the depressingly desperate lengths one man resorts to in order to achieve it.

    6. As I Lay Dying (1930)

    Author: William Faulkner

    Slipping through hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness, the lives of several family members become further intertwined as they gather to bury their matriarch in this thick allegory of Southern decay.

    7. The Good Earth (1931)

    Author: Pearl S. Buck

    Buck’s empathic portrayal of a struggling farmer and his wife influenced Americans to accept the Chinese as their allies in the looming World War. Though tied inextricably with its setting, the narrative of a farmer and his family struggling to maintain control of their lives and their land transcends time and place.

    8. The Waves (1931)

    Author:Virginia Woolf

    A risky, edgy exploration of homosexuality and female desire in an era of alarmism and censorship, Woolf challenged her readers to consider concepts beyond the perceptions of decent society. As friends convene over a mutual tragedy, many of the ideas and philosophies foreshadowing the eventual feminist movement begin to crystallize.

    9. Of Mice and Men (1937)

    Author: John Steinbeck

    The dusty, tragic tale of two migrant workers battling oppression and poverty during the Great Depression, one of Steinbeck’s most renowned works explores his heroes’ relationship to one another as well as the desperation that surrounds them.

    10. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

    Author: Zora Neale Hurston

    Anthropologist Hurston drew from her research in both the Caribbean and the American South to shed light on the personal experiences of Americans from African or Caribbean descent.


    To discover the remaining 40 books - visit

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