I ran across this list from the Modern Library Association of the 100 Best Novels (I believe it is of the 20th century or since the 20th century). The interesting thing is the comparison of “The Board’s” picks and then “The Reader’s” picks. The picture is the top 10 of each.
The Randians and the Scientologists (Hubbard) obviously came out to vote from the top 10 on the reader’s side, but the deeper comparison is still interesting. Other than maybe the Invisible Man you will not find a genre fiction selection on the the board side. The reader side is full of Sci-Fi – Dune, Heinlein, and Bradberry. The Board puts D.H. Lawrence at number 9 and some other “subversive” fiction on the list which doesn’t even make the top 100 on the readers list. Somewhat opposite of that, the readers recognize Flannery O’Connor (#38) – a southern writer who happened to be deeply Catholic – and a couple of other “theological” writers that do not appear on the board list. Naipaul gets a (deserved) nod from the Board, but my guess is that he’s just a little too “other” for the readers – chalk it up to urbanity of imagined board. (The readers sneak in Rushdie with his first work at number 100 as their nod to something good there, but we don’t really read it.)
Three questions: of these lists which book is most likely to still be read (or at least assigned) 100 years from now? 200 years? (I can’t believe more that 1 or 2 would be in that time frame.) Which list is more important for being that book or stated otherwise: Does Ayn Rand or James Joyce have the best chance? Last question: did they miss your favorite book or any glaring omissions? (I think they missed P.D. James Children of Men.)