Decreasingignorance’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Radcliffe Publishing Course’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century* August 8, 2008

Filed under: books — decreasingignorance @ 3:30 pm

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.


  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolitaby Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  27. Native Son by Richard Wright
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestby Ken Kesey
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  41. Schindler’s Listby Thomas Keneally
  42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  55. The Satanic Versesby Salman Rushdie
  56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  61. A Good Man Is Hard to Findby Flannery O’Connor
  62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  68. Light in August by William Faulkner
  69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
  70. Things Fall Apartby Chinua Achebe
  71. Rebeccaby Daphne du Maurier
  72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
  77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
  79. The Maltese Falconby Dashiell Hammett
  80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  82. White Noiseby Don DeLillo
  83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  87. The Bostonians by Henry James
  88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  93. The French Lieutenant’s Womanby John Fowles
  94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  100. Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie

Of the alleged 100 best novels of the 10th century, I have read a pathetic 13.  Actually, the number is really 12, but I’m almost finished with Brideshead Revisited, which I will eventually do an entry on when I gather my thoughts and finish looking up some words in the dictionary.  It seems that, along with literary retardation, my vocabulary is also woefully deficient.  I guess that once I finish The White Man’s Burden, The End of Poverty, Freakonomics, and Brideshead, I will start making my way through literary heavyweights such as Miss Rand (isn’t such considered a philosopher anyways?). 

*I realize that The Modern Library’s list is more widely recognized, but I’ve read more books on Radcliffe’s list; 13 versus 4.


Smackdown: The White Man’s Burden vs. The End of Poverty August 7, 2008

Filed under: books — decreasingignorance @ 12:28 am

His [William Easterly’s] target in his puckishly titled The White Man’s Burden is the spirit of benign meddling that lies behind foreign aid, foreign military interventions and such do-gooder institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations. In his account, such efforts are fatally contaminated by what the philosopher Karl Popper called “utopian social engineering.” Easterly’s list of well-meaning villains stretches from the economist Jeffrey Sachs to the rock singer and charity impresario Bono.

Initial Reaction (No. of pages read: 48): William Easterly begins this book accusing celebrities and our world leaders of oversimplifying the conundrum of giving impoverished foreign nations our x billions.  He disdainfully labels the current people at the forefront of the relief effort as Planners, or the people who maintain the status quo, and their work thus far as the Big Plan.  He refers to the second disaster of our planet: the fact that none of the billions of dollars the West has donated has made much difference in the daily plight of the Rest (third world nations).  Within the first twenty pages of The White Man’s Burden Mr. Easterly writes his rebuttal of Jeffrey Sach’s book, The End of Poverty, and compares him to Robert Owens, an utopian.  While I regard this book with slightly more respect, I believe that Mr. Easterly has a lot in common with Mr. Sachs.  Even though I am about 20% of the way through The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly spends more time making amusing analogies and slagging off his opponents than actual substance.


While much of the plan has been known to economists and government leaders for a number of years (including Kofi Annan, to whom Sachs is special advisor), this is Sachs’s first systematic exposition of it for a general audience, and it is a landmark book.For on-the-ground research in reducing disease, poverty, armed conflict and environmental damage, Sachs has been to more than 100 countries, representing 90% of the world’s population. The book combines his practical experience with sharp professional analysis and clear exposition.–Publisher’s Weekly

Initial Thoughts (No. of pages read: 1.5)-I tired to approach this book with an open mind.  After all, Jeffrey Sachs is apparently the de facto expert on development economics.Because I started reading The White Man’s Burden first, which directly refutes points in The End of Poverty, my opinion of Jeffrey Sach’s book was already warped.  I gave this book my patented snap! judgement:
catchy title? check
laundry list of qualifications in the author’s biography? check
tenured professor at venerated university? check
aaannnnddd the pièce de résistance of any commercial scholarly book, a celebrity endorsement? check, check, and check

Reading Bono (of U2 fame) was not dissimilar to listening to a classmates’ poetry–you sit through both feeling extreme secondhand embarrassment.  Not only does Bono blithely accuse my fellow Americans and I of racism within the first two pages of his forward, but that we need to “really accept their lives–African lives–are equal to ours, we would all be doing more…It’s an uncomfortable truth.”  Hmmm, really Bono?  I seriously doubt that many 21st century Americans, whom are plagued with images of malnourished and disease stricken African children on the television, regard Africans as subhumans.  After all, we are reminded daily by our favorite rock stars of our unfulfilled destiny: manumitting the continent of Africa from poverty.  Furthermore, Bono’s magnum opus excludes a very important group of people.  What about the rest of the rest of the undeveloped world?  Asia?  Eastern Europe?  Latin America?  I tried to reserve my judgement on this book until I ploughed past the forward, but I can’t.  While Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs will always be smarter than me, I have a difficult time respecting his book because of the ridiculous forward.