The Modern Library – The Two Hundred Best Novels in English Since 1950

This is a book produced by Carmen Callil, who founded Virago, the British women’s press and was then head of the now defunct British publishers, Chatto and Windus (now part of Penguin) and Irish writer Colm Tóibín, chosen, presumably, both for their experience and because they are English-speaking but not English or American (Callil is Australian). While choosing many of the obvious authors, they choose a few less obvious ones (some from Callil’s Virago stable). Their first four, chronologically, for example, are the mystery writer Agatha Christie, the romance writer Georgette Heyer, Frank Hardy‘s Power Without Glory, an Australian novel remembered more because it was a fictional account of millionaire John Wren and because Hardy was prosecuted for a criminal libel against Mrs. Wren, which he won, than for its inherent literary qualities, and the much-neglected Henry Green, though the last seven chronologically are white males. In-between, however, there is an interesting and eclectic mix of writers, with just enough political correctness, a few offbeat ones and a few suggestions which are (take your pick) dumb/daring. But I can’t argue with at least 90% of the suggestions. And, for good measure, at the end they add autobiographies, literary bios and poets. Incidentally, only two novelists are considered worthy of having two novels included in this list: Saul Bellow and V S Naipaul.

They publish the list by chronological and alphabetical order only. Here is the alphabetical list:

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart
Kingsley Amis: Lucky Jim
Martin Amis: Money
Mulk Raj Anand: Private Life of an Indian Prince
Jessica Anderson: Tirra Lirra by the River
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace
Beryl Bainbridge: Injury Time
James Baldwin: Go Tell It on the Mountain
J G Ballard: Empire of the Sun
John Banville: Book of Evidence
Pat Barker: Regeneration Trilogy (Regeneration; Eye in the Door; The Ghost Road)
Julian Barnes: Flaubert’s Parrot
Samuel Beckett: The Molloy Trilogy (Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnameable)
Sybille Bedford: A Legacy
San Hanna Bell: December Bride
Saul Bellow: The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow: Herzog
Elizabeth Bowen: Little Girls
T Coraghessan Boyle: The Tortilla Curtain
Anita Brookner: Family and Friends
Anthony Burgess: Earthly Powers
William Burroughs: Naked Lunch
A S Byatt: Possession
Peter Carey: Oscar and Lucinda
Angela Carter: Wise Children
Raymond Carver: Where I’m Calling From
Raymond Chandler: The Long Good-Bye
Bruce Chatwin: On the Black Hill
Amit Chaudhuri: A Strange and Sublime Address
John Cheever: Falconer
Agatha Christie: A Murder is Announced
Jonathan Coe: What a Carve Up! (US: The Winshaw Legacy
J M Coetzee: Age of Iron
Ivy Compton-Burnett: A Heritage and Its History
Jim Crace: Quarantine
Michael Cunningham: A Home at the End of the World
Robertson Davies: Fifth Business
Louis de Bernières: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (US: Corelli’s Mandolin)
Don DeLillo: Underworld
Anita Desai: In Custody
Pete Dexter: Paris Trout
Joan Didion: A Book of Common Prayer
Isak Dinesen: Anecdotes of Destiny
E L Doctorow: Ragtime
Roddy Doyle: The Snapper
Margaret Drabble: The Ice Age
Maureen Duffy: That’s How It Was
Daphne du Maurier: My Cousin Rachel
Bret Easton Ellis: American Psycho
Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
Jeffrey Eugenides: The Virgin Suicides
J G Farrell: The Siege of Krishnapur
William Faulkner: The Reivers
Penelope Fitzgerald: The Blue Flower
Thomas Flanagan: The Year of the French
Richard Ford: The Sportswriter
Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal
Janet Frame: Owls Do Cry
William Gaddis: The Recognitions
Mavis Gallant: From the Fifteenth District
William Gass: In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
Maurice Gee: Plumb
Kaye Gibbons: Ellen Foster
William Golding: Lord of the Flies
Nadine Gordimer: Burger’s Daughter
Alasdair Gray: Lanark
Henry Green: Nothing
Graham Greene: The Human Factor
Patrick Hamilton: The West Pier
Elizabeth Hardwick: Sleepless Nights
Frank Hardy: Power Without Glory
Thomas Harris: Red Dragon
Wilson Harris: Heartland
L P Hartley: The Go-Between
Shirley Hazzard: The Transit of Venus
Roy A K Heath: The Murderer
Joseph Heller: Catch-22
Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
Georgette Heyer: The Grand Sophy
Carl Hiaasen: Double Whammy
Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker
Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World
P D James: Original Sin
Elizabeth Jenkins: The Tortoise and the Hare
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: Heat and Dust
B S Johnson: The Unfortunates
Elizabeth Jolley: The Sugar Mother
James Kelman: How Late It Was, How Late
Thomas Keneally: Schindler’s Ark (US: Schindler’s List)
Jack Kerouac: On the Road
Balraj Khanna: Nation of Fools
Stephen King: Misery
Margaret Laurence: A Jest of God
Mary Lavin: Happiness
John Le Carré: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Harer Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
Rosamond Lehmann: The Echoing Grove
Elmore Leonard: Get Shorty
Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook
David Lodge: Changing Places
Bernard MacLaverty: Lamb
Alistair MacLeod: The Lost Salt Gift of Blood
Eugene McCabe: Death and Nightingales
Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy
Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian
Mary McCarthy: The Group
Carson McCullers: The Ballad of the Sad Café
Ian McEwan: The Cement Garden
John McGahern: Amongst Women
Patrick McGrath: Asylum
Larry McMurtry: Lonesome Dove
Norman Mailer: The Executioner’s Song
Bernard Malamud: The Natural
David Malouf: The Great World
Olivia Manning: The Balkan Trilogy (The Great Fortune; The Spoilt City; Friends and Heroes)
Gita Mehta: A River Sutra
Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance
Timothy Mo: The Redundancy of Courage
Brian Moore: Black Robe
Frank Moorhouse: Forty-Seventeen
Toni Morrison: Beloved
Alice Munro: Friend of My Youth
Iris Murdoch: The Nice and the Good
Vladmir Nabokov: Lolita
V S Naipaul: A House for Mr. Biswas
V S Naipaul: A Bend in the River
R K Narayan: The Financial Expert
Patrick O’Brian: Master and Commander
Edna O’Brien: The Lonely Girl (renamed: The Girl with Green Eyes)
Flannery O’Connor: Wise Blood
John O’Hara: From the Terrace
Michael Ondaatje: In the Skin of a Lion
Grace Paley: The Little Disturbances of Man
Jayne Anne Phillips: Machine Dreams
Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar
Katherine Anne Porter: Ship of Fools
Anthony Powell: A Dance to the Music of Time
V S Pritchett: The Lady from Guatemala
E Annie Proulx: The Shipping News
Mario Puzo: The Godfather
Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow
Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea
Anne Rice: Interview with the Vampire
Mordecai Richler: St. Urbain’s Horseman
Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping
Philip Roth: American Pastoral
Norman Rush: Mating
Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children
J D Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
Frank Sargeson: Memoirs of a Peon
Paul Scott: The Jewel in the Crown
Hubert Selby: Last Exit to Brooklyn
Will Self: My Idea of Fun
Bapsi Sidhwa: Ice-Candy Man
Alan Sillitoe: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Iain Sinclair: Downriver
Kushwant Singh: Train to Pakistan
Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres
Wole Soyinka: The Interpreters
Muriel Spark: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Christina Stead: Cotter’s England (US: Dark Places of the Heart)
John Steinbeck: East of Eden
Robert Stone: A Flag for Sunrise
David Storey: Saville
Francis Stuart: Black List, Section H
William Styron: The Confessions of Nat Turner
Graham Swift: Last Orders
Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club
Donna Tartt: The Secret History
Elizabeth Taylor: Angel
Peter Taylor: A Summons for Memphis
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o: A Grain of Wheat
John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces
William Trevor: Reading Turgenev
Amos Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drunkard
Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons
John Updike: The Rabbit Quartet (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest)
Barbara Vine: A Dark-Adapted Eye
Alice Walker: The Color Purple
Sylvia Townsend Warner: The Flint Anchor
Evelyn Waugh: The Sword of Honour Trilogy (Men at Arms; Officers and Gentlemen; Unconditional Surrender)
Fay Weldon: Puffball
Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting
Eudora Welty: The Optimists’s Daughter
Rebecca West: The Fountain Overflows
Edmund White: A Boy’s Own Story
Patrick White: Riders in the Chariot
Jeanette Winterson: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Tim Winton: Cloudstreet
P G Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing (US: How Right You Are, Jeeves)
Tom Wolfe: The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tobias Wolff: The Night in Question
Francis Wyndham: The Other Garden