Possibly Asked Questions

Assuming anyone would bother, here are some questions a visitor to this webpage might ask:

Why are you doing this?

Delusions of grandeur? Utter madness?

Or maybe just this: There are lots of “important” books I haven’t read yet, and without the structure of a programmed list, I might be tempted to keep putting them off indefinitely.  There are also a bunch of books that I’m eager to re-read, and perhaps placing them in the context of this project will add to the experience. I think prolific readers are always drawn to gambits like this, whether it’s making their way through all the Pulitzer Prize winners or reading 50 books published in 50 different countries (which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad idea.)

Why did you choose the Time Magazine list?

I initially thought I’d make my way through the Modern Library 100, released in 1998. I had only read about 15 of them and figured this was a good list to plow through. But a day later, I found that I was having a hard time bucking myself up for some of the titles. They all just seemed so…uniform.

The Time Magazine list seems more diverse, more aware of different genres and different kinds of writing. The Modern Library’s list does not venture past 1981 (Midnight’s Children), ignoring nearly a quarter-century of literature. Then there are the well-known gripes, that it’s a list assembled mainly by white men, filled with books written mainly by white men.

The Time list may not have the same cultural gravitas as the Modern Library list, but I think it’s a bit more fun, and likely more representative of literary trends over the last 100 years.

Why isn’t X novel isn’t on the list?

This list does not span the entire 20th century. It begins in 1923, the year of Time’s first issue, so it leaves out a slew of canonized classics that would almost certainly have made the list otherwise. Such titles include: Ulysses (1922), Heart of Darkness (1899), The Age of Innocence (1920), Sister Carrie (1900), Sons and Lovers (1913), Of Human Bondage (1915), and The Call of the Wild (1903).

As for those books published after 1923 that didn’t make the list, that’s a question for the list-makers, I guess. There are a couple omissions that really surprise me, but I’ll get into that at a later time.

How long do you think this will take?

A long time. I am not reading through this list on any set schedule or in any particular order. Whichever book appeals to me at a given time is the one I will read next.  Since there are plenty of contemporary novels I have on my ever-expanding bookshelf, that will be more than enough to occupy my reading time.

Who are you, anyway?

I am a full-time public librarian in New Jersey and part-time reviewer of contemporary fiction. I am 30-something years old and watch the Yankees every night. My Goodreads page is here. My Twitter feed is here.

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