Sunday, March 16, 2014

The 100 Greatest Books Of All Time and How Batman led to War And Peace

Batman by Jim Lee

I frequently say that there is more to life that just painting, and reading has always been a close second, well, eating is up there also, and travel, and old movies...

I started reading because of Comic Books. I was maybe eleven or twelve when I bought my first comic book. To some people it might be surprising that Batman can lead to War And Peace and Moby Dick, but it did. Well actually Batman led to a few Dean Koontz novels first, then it led to The Hobbit, which led to Crime And Punishment - which is painful after a lifetime of comic books. When I was accepted into SVA I was living in NJ and I had to take the bus to school every day. It was an hour going in, and an hour coming back out. Two hours a day of sitting on a bus doing nothing. One of my teachers drew in a sketchbook on the train and suggested that. I couldn't do it. I decided to read, but I figured that if I was going to be reading two hours a day for four years, I might at least make it interesting. I decided to read what I thought were the 100 greatest books of all time. The list was based on what I had heard, some collections, teachers advice, etc. I'm not saying that these ARE the 100 greatest books of all time, in fact after having read some of them, a couple should come off. I don't see why In Cold Blood is on there and Descartes, may deserve to be on there - I'll never know because I can't get through it. I'd like to add that this list was written in roughly 1994, way before I had internet access so I couldn't just Google "The 100 Greatest Books Of All Time" the way we can now.

I had read the Crime And Punishment comic book years before and so it' seemed like a good place to start. I can thank comic books for introducing me to mythology, Shakespeare, history and a great many other things.

The list is not really in order of my favorites, that would take too much time, and why they are not numbered. My favorite on this list however is David Copperfield, despite the occasional "Your favorite book is on a magician?" comment...Yes it is I say.

Well here it is, the books I have not read yet are in red.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Candide by Voltaire
Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
Tom Saywer by Mark Twain
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Metamorphosis  Franz Kafka
No Exit Jean-Paul Sartre
The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer
The Aenid by Virgil
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Pragmatism by William James
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes
Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Vasari's Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Three Mustketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
King Arthur & Excalibur Stories/ Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory
Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Oedipus And Antigone by Sophocles
The Odyssey by Homer
The Iliad by Homer
Ulysses by James Joyce
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Complete Works  by William Shakespeare
Metmorphises by Ovid
The Faerie Queene  by Edmund Spenser
Bosewell’s Life Of Johnson (The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.  by James Boswell)
Of Mice And Men  by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The King James Bible
The Epic of Gilgamesh
1001 Nights
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Through The Looking Glass And Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Louis Carroll
War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
1984 by George Orwell
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri 
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Emma by Jane Austin
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I put Shakespeare on the list as the "Collected Works" even though I think Hamlet, Macbeth,  Othello, and King Lear all should be on there separately. Henry Miller is on there because the book was raved about as the greatest thing on the planet before I read it. Miller is a poor mans Hemingway. The book is a vulgar version of "The Sun Also Rises" and doesn't come close to it's equal. In my opinion, it doesn't belong on this list.
If I were to update this list today I would add:
Mythology by Edith Hamilton, The Story Of Philosophy by Will Durant,
and  Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Stephen Crane's poetry is shockingly good, and I prefer his short stories to The Red Badge Of Courage. Of everything I have read of Crane's, it is my least favorite...I love The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams and it gets special mention, but I'm not sure I can put it on the list with those above...not yet anyway.

I'm still working on this list even though I move away from it from time to time. I am in the middle of "The Story Of Civilization" Volume V by Will Durant and I plan to finish the series. I am also on Dicken's Old Curiosity Shop. I was actually surprised to realize I have not read either "The Count Of Monte Christo or Three Musketeers" No excuse for that and one of those is definitely next.

The idea for this post came from a FB conversation with a friend - Thanks John!


  1. Clinton, I enjoy every one of your posts and I don't seem to take the time to comment. I know how nice it is to receive comments, since I have a daily painting blog. I especially enjoyed today's post and the amount of great information you included. I am an avid reader and have also read many of these. You have given us some great titles to choose from in the future. David Copperfield is my favorite, too.

    1. Hi Fay,
      A painting a day is impressive. I've never been able to actually do it myself. Shortest I can get them to is six hours over two days..but that would be a terrible blog title: "Clinton Hobart's One Painting, Every Other Day, Sort Of" - wasn't going to work.

      Glad you liked the book post, and yes, thanks for the comment!

  2. That's a hell of a list! I used to read a lot in my college days, but mostly science fiction. I love Douglas Adams' work too!

    1. Thanks Jose,
      I could have added: Childhood's End, The Princess Of Mars Books, and a few more Vonnegut.
      I wonder if anyone did a list of the greatest Science Fiction books..I'll google it.