I began my Human Narrative Project in the fall of 2009. This brilliant stroke of genius came to me while I was on Facebook. (I must say, though, from my experiences, brilliant strokes of genius are few and far between on Facebook.) I was reading through a list of “the greatest novels of all time” on my friend Aeyn’s Facebook page. He had read a significant number of great works of fiction. I was surprised to realize that out of 100 great novels, I could only count on one hand (or maybe two) how many I had read. At that point, my mind equated novel reading with entertainment, and as such, I couldn’t quite ever find the time and the inner will to read fiction. If I was going to read, I OUGHT to be reading something “substantial” like philosophy, theology, a biblical commentary, or some other such dense tome.
“Here goes for a cool, collective dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost.” – Moby Dick
Having been a bit embarrassed by my lack of familiarity with great literature, I set about the task of creating my very own Top 100 novel list. I created my own list because I discovered that every “greates novels” list highly favored Western white male authors. I wanted a list with a bit more fizzle, rizzle, and bejizzle. I wanted a human narrative project with a wide scope. So, I labored at the tast for weeks on end, looking to include women, non-whites, and international novelists who could expand my horizons a bit. I arrived at a list that excited and intrigued me, filled with both classics and contemporary works, canonical novels as well as works of personal interest to me. The one common factor is that I wanted to read literature whose writing itself—the language, the style, and the prose—would compel and command my imagination and worldview.
“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme: No great enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
I want to make the most out of my human narrative project. So, rather than just read a novel and say, “Hhm, well, wasn’t that interesting?” I decided to write a review of each novel, sharing my reactions and the elements of the text that were most enriching for me.
I must stress that of all of my blog posts, I am never quite so excited to see comments as when I read a comment on one of my reviews. It is great fun to find someone who has also read the same novel and hear their thoughts. Even if you haven’t read the novel, if a thought strikes you, let’s discuss.
If you would like to take a peak at my list, here it is: The List.
Here are a listing of the novels that I have reviewed, listed in order of which novels I have considered to be “the best,” in my subjective opinion. (Some of them were posted on my prior blog, The Theos Project, but I will receive and interact with comments regardless of where the review was posted.):
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
They’s somepin worse’n the devil got hold a the country, an’ it ain’t gonna let go till it’s chopped loose.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
I decided early on that if I couldn’t dress elegant, I’d dress memorable.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Us didn’t make this world.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. ~Scout
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon an earth that had no maps.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I love this town. I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a last wild gesture of love.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Heaven have mercy on us all–Presbyterians and pagans alike–for we are all cracked about the head and sadly need mending.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Oh dear, what nonsense I’m talking!
Light in August by William Faulkner
The negroes believed that he [“Doc” Hines] was crazy, touched by God, or having once touched Him. They probably did not listen to, could not understand much of, what he said. Perhaps they took him to be God Himself, since God to them was a white man too and His doings also a little inexplicable.
The Great Gatspy by F. Scott Fitzgerald
‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’ I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him [Gatspy], because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.
1984 by George Orwell
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
At one moment we deplore our birth and state and aspire to an ascetic exaltation. The next, we are overcome by the smell of some old garden path and weep to hear the thrushes sing.