The survivors

Oh guys, oh my friends. You’re just killing me with the comments on my last post, I just knew we should have left more time to do the selections because approximately 264% of you have commented and said “oh please read [this novel you didn’t end up picking]” and now I’m so sad for all the books that didn’t make the list of the First Eight On The List of 20th Century Reads that I sort of want to go hide under the covers with a large bar of Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate and possibly a bottle of chardonnay.

Well, I kind of want to do that anyway since I’m turning 30 on Wednesday and still very ambivalent about it, but I digress.

In any case, Liz and I talked on Sunday and our selection process went like this: We’d each made our list of 20+ suspects, and 2 overlapped, and those 2 were the first 2 on the list; Then we each picked 1 from our own list, then each picked 1 from the other person’s list; Then each picked 1 from either list. This is what we ended up with:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
The Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
The Wicked Pavilion, by Dawn Powell
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
Lolita, by Viktor Nabokov

This is a list that we can start with. I have no doubt that once we get towards the end of these first 8, we’ll have to solicit more suggestions or do votes or complex polls or some other feat of internet democracy, but both Liz and I are pretty pleased with this. It’s a list that strikes a lot of compromises and reaches into several literary areas. There’s a mix of genres, styles, authors, lengths (Cryptonomicon is 900-ish pages but then The Wicked Pavilion is only 250 or so), and so on. In retrospect my only concern is that we’ve neglected the more post-modern and post-colonial selections. But we can rectify that in the next set I think right now!

Late Breaking News – Liz and I decided to rescue ‘Midnight’s Children’ from our original short lists and tucked it up there between Dawn Powell and Peter Carey. It’s an acclaimed book, it’s about a non-North-American part of the world, and it’s a slightly different genre (what exactly is ‘magical realism’? I’m curious, that’s for sure).

I think it is also a list that not everyone will already have read in high school/college/every other book club known to creation, which is probably good.

Our Ravelry group link is here: Knitting 20th Century Novels

The whole idea is that it is a sort of virtual drop-in book club, with the optional choose-your-own-adventure knitting action. The knitting portion happens as you want – back in Knit The Classics just over a year ago, we read Dante’s ‘The Inferno’ and that’s when my flamey legwarmers happened. I wonder what Rebecca’s romance and suspense or Peter Carey’s Australian band of outlaws will inspire?

Join us and find out!


  1. That’s a good list, but a… how do you say… Eurocentric list. Hopefully we’ll get some “color” in there in the next selections?

    And I joined your group. Yay reading!

  2. Interesting list! I’ll definitely join your group because I’ve been in such a reading slump lately. I need inspiration!

  3. 8 books from the whole of the 20th century was always going to be a massive challenge! Great mix here and I’ll certainly be over to join you – Rebecca is one of my all time faves and I’m always happy for a reread of that.

    Also – the turning 30 thing – did that yesterday and highly recommend it ;o)

  4. I must take a note of those books, it looks a great list and I will have a little reading time soon after my course finishes for thos year!

  5. Right – off to join the group. Rebecca is probably my favourite book of all time, so I can’t wait to try the others on your list.

  6. Sounds like fun! I was never a big fan of the 20th Century stuff, so this could broaden my horizons.

  7. What a great idea! I’m afraid I’ve already read more than half that list, though.

    BTW, 30 is not so bad. 🙂

  8. Sweet! I’ll join when I have a few minutes at the computer.

    BTW, I recently read Lolita and it’s really amazing, esp considering the totally creepy subject matter!

  9. Lolita is easily one of my favourite novels- I’ve never read a more convincing or more beautiful story of obsessive love in my life. Great list!

  10. Kathleen · ·

    I think this is a great list and I’m so psyched you added Midnight’s Children. I didn’t realize Rushdie’s books were categorized as “magical realism” but I think it’s an appropriate name. I’ll get a late start on Rebecca as I’m in the midst of Midnight’s Children, but eventually I’ll get it sorted out. I’ll see you on Ravelry.

  11. Oooh, looks great. I haven’t read a single one on the list, but several I have been meanng to. I think I already have the Peter Carey one on audiobook.

    I’m in.

  12. Great list! I’m in! My 30s were better than my 20s, and my 20s were great. You have good times ahead of you. 🙂

    Happy Birthday!

%d bloggers like this: