Via Samara Jane, I came across Time's List of the Top 100 English language novels from 1923 to the present. I have only read 20. Here are the ones I have read.
1. Animal Farm by George Orwell. I read this in middle school and thought it was silly and overrated. Maybe I would appreciate it more now.
2. Are you there God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. Like pretty much every other girl in America, I read this when I was about 12. I could not fathom why the girl in the book was so anxious to buy a bra or get her period. I hadn't even given either of these issues much thought until I read the book, but my take on it (at the time) was that she was worrying a lot about things that didn't really matter. Now, with a better sense of history, I appreciate what a breakthrough this book was by openly discussing one girl's experience of puberty.
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison. I read this in 11th Grade English and looooved it . . .
4. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I read this on my own during a long weekend in 11th grade. I spent the weekend lounging around in a silk bathrobe my parents had given me and feeling very glamorous.
5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My dad said this book perfectly captured what it was like to be a boy in a boarding shool during his era. So I read the book in middle school but I just found it depressing and a lot of it went over my head. (I didn't understand the part with the prostitute at all!) When I read the book again as a boarding school student myself, I wrote it off as "overrated," -- yet even years later, I remember a lot of the scenes and the language vividly, so maybe I was wrong.
6. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron. I read this for a law school class on the history of American jury trials. I want to read it again sometime soon.
7. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. I read most of John Fowles's books a few years ago for fun and I love them, especially The Magus, which is a real page turner. I like books that provide a window into a differing worldview, and The French Lieutenant's Woman shows what it must have been like to view the world with a Victorian mindset.
8. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. I read this just last year and couldn't put it down! What with all the slapping and the raping in the movie, I hadn't realized this was in many ways a feminist work. Plus, it's a good yarn. I read Margaret Mitchell's biography in conjunction with the novel as well.
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this for fun in middle school and then again as an assignment in 9th grade English. This book along with Great Expectations discouraged me from ever becoming a writer myself because I knew I could never write anything so perfect. (I also have a weakness for anything relating to the jazz era.)
10. I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I read this for fun in middle school because I loved anything to do with ancient Greece and Rome. I enjoyed the accounts of palace intrigue, but it was slow going at times. I especially enjoyed the portrait of Claudius as a scholar who studied and wrote about the Etruscans. I always liked the idea of being both a ruler and a scholar.
11. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. How I loved this book as a child!
12. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I read this for AP English my senior year in high school. Another book I loved . . . I definitely need to read some more Nabokov one of these days.
13. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Gosh I read a lot in middle school. I seem to remember we were given a list of classics and I worked my way through the list during my 8th grade year. I was also quite the literary snob back then since I wrote this book off as "overrated," too.
14. 1984 by George Orwell. Yep, another middle school read. I remember neglecting homework for a whole weekend while I raced through this book. This may be one of my all time favorites. It's the ultimate answer to totalitarianism.
15. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. I read this my junior year in college while I should have been studying for finals. I remember crying at the end because it showed very starkly how race and class and religion divide people unnecessarily. (Yes, I do have a sentimental, "cumbayah" streak.)
16. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I had to read this for my 11th Grade English class. Breathtaking . . .
17. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John LeCarre. I read this the summer after my first year in law school. It struck me as very simple and very clever.
18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I read this for my 12th grade English class. Don't remember much about it, possibly because I stayed up half the night to read it at the last minute just in time to not look like an idiot during the class discussion.
19. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Another middle school read and, of course, I've seen the movie a number of times. I'm pretty much a blubbering mess by the time Atticus Finch walks out of the courtroom in defeat and one of the men in the gallery tells Scout, "Stand up, Scout. Your father is passing." OK, I can't even write about it without getting teary.
20. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I am not a big Hemingway fan. The Old Man and the Sea almost killed me. (I kept thinking, "Just catch the damn fish already . . .") But this one was okay. I kind of liked the carefree atmosphere of tooling around Spain having drinks in dusty little towns.