Check out how well-read you are. Rupa has come out with 14th impression of the successful title ‘100 Great Books’ first published in 1974 by Century Books and brought out as a paperback by Rupa first in 1984.
The 100 books listed are certainly the best books of their times, except the religious books. John Canning who compiled the list says he applied three criteria to select a book as great. One, outstanding literary merit; two, the most highly original thinking and three, deep spiritual insight. And according to him, only a few of the books listed came under all three categories. A large number fulfilled two of these counts.
Canning says he has arranged the books according to chronological order of writing and then publishing. The obvious aberration in this is that Bhagavat Gita comes after Iliad and two other books.
The list of is most interesting. One can run through the list and feel good having read some of them or feel disappointed that we have read only a few, a classic case of glass half full and half empty. Dante’s Divine Comedy, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Thomas More’s Utopia, the often quoted Machiavelli’s The Prince and John Milton’s Paradise Lost … the list goes on. Among biographies, we have Boswell’s Johnson. The novels probably contribute the maximum to the list. From Pride and Prejudice to Moby Dick, to Doctor Zhivago, they are all the pearls of literature.
Huxley, Maugham, Churchill, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Mark Twain, and Hemingway are all part of the list. Without them the list would not be authentic.
Kipling’s Kim, D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Darwin’s Origin of Species, the two Bronte sisters, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Maupassant’s Pierre et Jean and George Orwell’s 1984 are among the all time greats.
‘The History of England’ by Lord Macaulay has been hailed as one never equaled in popular appeal for a history book. While writing it he is quoted to have said, “I shall not be satisfied unless I produce something which shall for a few days supersede the last fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies.”
Ivan S Turgenev had to leave Russia when his work Fathers and Sons was published. He was at that time a famous writer and his book invoked such fury that the sensitive writer shrank from public and eventually settled in France where he was sought after by young writers. He was hurt by the severe criticism of his book by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. He paid one last visit to his homeland later.
Such little anecdotes on the book and author add pleasure to reading. Synopsis of each of the books has been given by various people so that by reading it one has some idea of the 100 books listed as the best. The pages are also interspersed with illustrations.
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