I read a lot, but I haven’t read everything. I’m no literary critic, but I know what touches me. And bound with sentiment here are my favorite modern novels.
1. The Crossing by Cormac. It’s the same story as Pretty Horses, but that was adolescent. The Crossing is adult, powerful, brutal and very dark, written by America’s greatest living writer.
2. Suttree by Cormac. This one is something like Huck Finn on acid. It’s a character study set in Knoxville in 1950. It’s brilliant and full of the fine imagery of this writer. Saddest and funniest of his books, it’s my personal favorite but it rambles enough that I call it second.
3. The Sun Also Rises by Hemmingway. If Cormac had never written a word this would be #1. There is a description of two guys fishing and drinking wine along a stream in the mountains of Spain that is superb. It’s not important what they’re doing; it’s the power and unity of vision and perfection of this writer’s imagery techniques.
4. Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth. I know, this is me indulging myself in sentiment, but this is the best love story I’ve ever read. The movie made of this was almost as good as the book. Summer romances are brittle things that bloom sudden and violent but are doomed because they usually involve two people out of their element temporarily.
5. A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway. The one-two punch at the end is brutal and you don’t expect it. But the book doesn’t flow as well as some other of his works.
6. Underworld, by Don Delillo. This writer is an acquired taste and it’s 800 pages long, but worth reading; it is a masterpiece with a recurrent theme of garbage, just stinking garbage.
7. Barney’s Story by Mordecai Richler. This writer’s novel St. Urbain’s Horseman, might have made it here, but this is a much better, sadder, and funnier story.
8. The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this my first semester in college and since I was sixteen I guess I wasn’t old enough to get this story, but that’s my shortcoming. Compared to Hemingway, Fitzgerald always came off as a little stiff. So out of tokenism or whatever i’ll put this story here.
9. 1984, George Orwell. I read this in college and then again this summer. The story seems even better now than then.
10. The Masks of Time, by Robert Silverberg. Up to this point I’ve avoided science fiction/fantasy/horror and genre novels because they should be considered separately. Asimov’s the all time best and I say that because he is consistently great where Silverberg and Arthur Clark write a lot of very average stuff. The Masks of Time is scfi but so human it could fit in anywhere.
These are just my favorites. You could argue all day about it, but these are mine. And for #1 in sci fi, that’s easy. It would be any story from the Foundation series by Asimov.