Nominations for the 100 Most Enjoyable Literary Classics

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Nominations for the 100 Most Enjoyable Literary Classics

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Edited: Mar 30, 2011, 8:12pm

Based on the discussion over at I thought is might be fun to gather nominations for the 100 most enjoyable (to read) literary masterpieces.

I'd nominate Sense and Sensibility, A Tale of Two Cities and Siddhartha

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Mar 30, 2011, 9:05pm

John Updike's Rabbit books are good, but the ones I enjoyed were the 1st Rabbit, Run and the last Rabbit at Rest.I started the 2 middle ones, but couldn't get very far.
Willa Cather's My Antonia is on a lot of hi school reading lists, but it is one that is actually enjoyed.
I enjoyed Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and am looking forward to his new one.
John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath holds your attention, but East of Eden is not as dark.
Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Mar 30, 2011, 9:14pm

Catch-22, Slaughterhouse 5, and All The Kings Men. The outside the box irrationality of the first two and the masterful use of language in the third.

And, in my opinion there is not a pretentious line in any of the three.

Mar 30, 2011, 10:15pm

I second Catch-22! Awesome book. Also, 1984, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (and Huck Finn. both of those.)

Edited: Mar 30, 2011, 10:51pm

I'm a big advocate for the Western Canon. But if you mean enjoyable and relatively easy to read I think of books like:

The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, My Antonia, The Moviegoer and The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, The Old Man and the Sea, Brothers Karamazov, Faulkner's Sound and the Fury, Invisible Man by Ellison.

I like most of Bellow, but I would include esp. Seize the Day, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler's Planet.

That's enough I guess, a short list that's not too taxing on the average reader.

Mar 30, 2011, 10:47pm

OK, here are some of my nominations for readable literary novels, starting with the ones I mentioned on the other thread:

Russell Hoban Riddley Walker
A. S. Byatt Possession
C. S. Lewis Till We Have Faces
Par Lagerkvist Barabbas
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird
Charles Dickens Bleak House
Mervyn Peake Titus Groan

There are other books which I regard as great novels, but perhaps not "literary" in whatever sense that is taken. There I would list, for example, Richard Adams Watership Down, H.G. Wells First Men in the Moon, Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, G. G. Kay Tigana, and (oh no, is he going to say it?) Tolkien Lord of the Rings (aargh! he said it!).

Mar 30, 2011, 11:03pm

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell

Mar 30, 2011, 11:32pm

For consideration:

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Our Town - Thornton Wilder

Mar 31, 2011, 6:47am

The good soldier Svejk should certainly be on the list: AFAIK it's the only book about the Great War that's genuinely funny without being in poor taste. And of course that means you need Closely observed trains for the second world war. Or maybe Zanzibar oder der letzte Grund (Flight to afar).

What about Earthly powers? A book about everything that's in genuinely poor taste, but very enjoyable. Not quite sure if it counts as a classic, but Burgess certainly thought it did.

Arnold Bennett was a great entertainer: The old wives' tale would be a good candidate for the list.

Cranford is obviously the "enjoyable classics" counterpart of Middlemarch.
Barchester Towers is another 19th century book that it's hard not to enjoy.
I'd put in a vote for the deeply unfashionable The adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan as well, but I suppose that there aren't many people who would call it a classic, fun though it undoubtedly is.

(To the list of "bad but enjoyable" books you could add Ivanhoe, King Solomon's mines, Beau Geste, The thirty-nine steps and The prisoner of Zenda)

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien probably don't need to be on any list - if you haven't read them as a teenager, it's too late. Probably goes for Asimov and Hesse, too. Kim is probably a better bet than Siddhartha if you want a book that represents approachable Eastern mysticism.

Edited: Mar 31, 2011, 8:17am

Pleased to see I have read most of the books mentioned so far, though I don't agree that some are "enjoyable"' A great one not mentioned as yet:

324. Kristin Lavransdatter The Bridal Wreath The Mistress of Husaby The Cross, by Sigrid Undset (read 24 Apr 1947) (Book of the Year)

Mar 31, 2011, 10:22am

>1 aulsmith: Thanks for starting this, aulsmith!

Lots of great ones here. >10 Schmerguls: Schmerguls, I'm afraid a few of mine also may not strike people as enjoyable reads, but I thought they were. Except for Jane Austen, I tried to stick to one book per author. Here we go:

Classics that also are good reads:
Pride and Prejudice
Persuasion (I'll stop there - I'm goofy about Austen, and someone already mentioned Sense and Sensibility)
Vanity Fair
Master and Margarita
Jane Eyre
The Count of Monte Cristo


The Trial by Franz Kafka (ok, you need a certain type of temperament to enjoy this, and others below)
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Mar 31, 2011, 10:40am


Great call on Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned I had never considered it a novel but, it is as much a novel as A Christmas Carol is. It is also as much an examination of morality and guilt as any of the pretentious Old World novels.

Mar 31, 2011, 10:48am

The Picture of Dorian Grey
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion
Oliver Twist and David Copperfield
The Way We Live Now
Most of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries (though I'm not sure these are considered masterpieces)
Wives and Daughters, Cranford
I'd say most of the Shakespeare plays, but you have to be in the right mood for it to be enjoyable.

Mar 31, 2011, 10:48am

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Mar 31, 2011, 10:49am

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Mar 31, 2011, 11:13am

>12 TLCrawford: Thanks, TLCrawford. It's such a compelling book. I still think about it. I also considered nominating RL's Dream, but stuck with choosing one.

Mar 31, 2011, 11:25am

I have not read his book The Tempest Tales but after hearing him talk about them I think they will be examining some of the same ideas. A bystander accidentally killed by a police bullet argues with St. Peter that all the "sins" he committed he did in order to help others and therefore he did not deserve damnation.

Edited: Mar 31, 2011, 1:23pm

I'll second Pride and Prejudice -- though I'm surprised it took nearly a dozen posts for it to be listed here.

I'll nominate/second the following, as well:
Cold Comfort Farm
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
The Handmaid's Tale
Much Ado about Nothing
Twelfth Night