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Best novel of all time

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I'm compiling a list for a project. What do you think is the best adult novel ever written (not necessarily in English)?

Thanks.

Literature majors--I'd especially like to hear from you, although everyone's opinion is welcome. You don't necessarily have to have read the novel you choose, but please tell me if you have.
#1 - May 30, 2016, 12:24 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 12:26 PM by Betsy »
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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr, was about as perfect a novel as I've read.
#2 - May 30, 2016, 12:38 PM

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Yes, I liked that one too. Do you mean that you think that was the best novel ever written?
#3 - May 30, 2016, 01:24 PM
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Choosing just one novel as the best ever written is an impossible task. There are too many variables. But I will nominate one of my favorites: A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.
#4 - May 30, 2016, 01:39 PM
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I still think the best novel ever written is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

#5 - May 30, 2016, 01:40 PM

THE SOLITAIRE MYSTERY by Jostein Gaarder is my all-time favorite adult novel. It combines a fantastical side story with the story of a family that has been separated for reasons that the little boy main character doesn't understand. It is one of the most beautiful treatises on love I've ever read, with all the layers exposed, and a fun bit of mystery and fantasy entwined. It's a real work of art.
#6 - May 30, 2016, 01:40 PM

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Thanks Vonna and LadyS (and JFriday and HD). If you can't limit it to one, than name three.

I'm creating a list--so it won't be just one in the end.
#7 - May 30, 2016, 01:42 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 01:46 PM by Betsy »
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I can't really separate them out, because they basic tell one story (sometimes going back to recount the same events from a different POV) even though there are four books: Paul Scott's RAJ QUARTET
#8 - May 30, 2016, 01:43 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
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"Best of all time" is so daunting that I find my self paralyzed. It's not just the 'best' part, but even more, the "of all TIME" part.  :faint
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner sits high with me.  :pickme So does Huckleberry Finn,   :pickme and I have no way of thinking of either as "better" or apply it to "all time." But they are diamonds among many Jewels.  :chest
#9 - May 30, 2016, 01:50 PM
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I don't you to be intimidated. This is for a list for someone who wants to read the ten greatest novels of all time this summer. I said I'd make him a list, then I realize that I'm not sure what belongs on that list and what doesn't.

Anyone want to nominate IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, ULYSSES (by Joyce), DON QUIXOTE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, WAR AND PEACE or any of the other old literary stand-bys? (Not that I'm trying to influence you--just curious...)

Ah, I see 217 named HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I can't remember ANGLE OF REPOSE, but I read it years ago and really liked it.
#10 - May 30, 2016, 01:50 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 02:22 PM by Betsy »
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A few of my favorites:

To Kill a Mockingbird
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Stand

One novel that blew my mind in college was If On a Winter's Night, a Traveler by Italo Calvino.

I can't say for sure if any of these are the best novel ever written, but they are some of my favorites, ones I've read a zillion times and that have stuck with me from reading one.

#11 - May 30, 2016, 02:31 PM

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Two of my all-time favorites are: The Book Thief and Cloudstreet.
#13 - May 30, 2016, 03:09 PM
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Oh, gosh, this is hard, but I'll give it a shot (and I'm so glad you said we could mention three!)
Les Miserables, Jude the Obscure, Pride and Prejudice. I've read these many, many times.
I also agree with those who voted for A Suitable Boy and To Kill a Mockingbird. These will stand the test of time. I'm going to sneak in A Wrinkle in Time ::)
Vijaya

#14 - May 30, 2016, 03:11 PM
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Good! You've named some I'd forgotten. Keep 'em coming.

Again, not necessarily what you found the most enjoyable, but the best of the best--for someone (bright and literate) who wants to make up for a very limited education.
#15 - May 30, 2016, 03:18 PM
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Oh, gosh, this is hard, but I'll give it a shot (and I'm so glad you said we could mention three!)
Les Miserables, Jude the Obscure, Pride and Prejudice. I've read these many, many times.
I also agree with those who voted for A Suitable Boy and To Kill a Mockingbird. These will stand the test of time. I'm going to sneak in A Wrinkle in Time ::)
Vijaya



Oh, yes, Pride and Prejudice. And despite some issues, Gone With The Wind.
#16 - May 30, 2016, 03:25 PM

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Cloudstreet looks interesting, Julie. Thanks for suggesting it. I may read that one myself.

I'd totally forgotten P&P and Gone With The Wind. Do you think a guy would like those? Also, do you think those are "better" than Wuthering Heights? (I know. I know. I don't like to compare books. It's like comparing people.)
#17 - May 30, 2016, 03:29 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 03:32 PM by Betsy »
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There are a lot of lists like these on the Internet, and you got me curious to look at them, Ellen. Some are 100 BEST and some 50 best and so on. I realize that while I have read most and admired all on these lists, I didn't enjoy all of them. (Not a fan of Joyce's Ulysses, for example, and it's on most lists)

So the purpose is really relevant. Is it meant for educational literacy, general enjoyment of the greats, or to have what to talk about at a hoity-toity dinner party?

Some very enjoyable reads are not, and never will be, on these lists. I'm just trying to understand the question better.
#18 - May 30, 2016, 03:35 PM
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Nothing else I've read ever replaced Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell as my favorite novel. I'd be surprised if any novel ever could, given TR has been my favorite for decades.



(I'd forgotten about Owen Meany! I used to love Irving. Cider House Rules was my fav of his.)
#19 - May 30, 2016, 04:09 PM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

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217--Educational literacy. But maybe I'll give him a second list of wonderful books he might actually like, in addition to the ones he should read for educational purposes.

You're right. I've read Ulysses and it's definitely not my favorite. Can't say I really loved Moby Dick either--and I think that probably belongs on the list. I can't bear reading about the slaughter of whales, for one thing.

Whereas I LOVED Owen Meany. But is it great? I don't know.

I never read Tobacco Road, Arona. I guess I probably should.
#20 - May 30, 2016, 04:27 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 04:38 PM by Betsy »
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217--Educational literacy.

If that, then I would add one of the great Russian novels. Take your pick of War & Peace (how much time this person has to read?) or Anna Karenina, or the tortured but brilliant Crime and Punishment...
#21 - May 30, 2016, 04:39 PM
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Here's one of those lists (I'm not sure that Hamlet belongs):

http://thegreatestbooks.org/lists/44


But it's also nice to know what real people like the Blue Boarders think
#22 - May 30, 2016, 04:42 PM
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...add a Hemingway...

he did, after all, change the way Americans write.
#23 - May 30, 2016, 04:42 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 06:10 PM by JFriday »

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Which Hemingway?
#24 - May 30, 2016, 04:43 PM
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Which Hemingway?
*

Three of my favourites are THE GREAT GATSBY, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS*, and CATCH 22.

#25 - May 30, 2016, 04:57 PM
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Which Hemingway?

Papa. That.  ;D
#26 - May 30, 2016, 04:57 PM
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 :wc

That's a good list, Barbara.

This is too hard. I'm going to give up.
#27 - May 30, 2016, 05:03 PM
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Best ever written, Betsy? Hmm. I think that's subjective, but I do think ALL THE LIGHT was one of the best books I've ever read.
#28 - May 30, 2016, 05:04 PM

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For best,

BELOVED by Toni Morrison
MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie

Some of my all-time favorites: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Possession by AS Byatt, Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones.

#29 - May 30, 2016, 05:39 PM
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Whereas I LOVED Owen Meany. But is it great? I don't know.


But I think this is the crux of making this kind of list. Catch-22 was mentioned and I nearly stabbed myself in the eye with that one (sorry Barb!  :hug), but LOVED The Old Man and the Sea, which has a similar effect on some readers. LOVED My Antonia, but War & Peace no no no.

It's all subjective. Some GREAT NOVELS OF ALL TIME made me want to stop reading altogether as an honors English student in high school and later as an English major. Others taught me things I didn't know and opened my world as a reader and writer.

That's why I threw in Stephen King. THE STAND is not literary or taught or on any list. But I think it is awesome and brilliant and filled with a great deal more than snobby Lit teachers noticed, and who even cares what those people think?

I think to even make a list one must define what "great" means. What makes a book Great? Who decides? How?

But I so love hearing about other folks' favorites! It reminds me how personal reading is.
#30 - May 30, 2016, 06:03 PM

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