Sunday, October 23, 2005

The 100 Greatest Novels!

I just love booklists! TIME magazine features a list of the top 100 novels published since 1923. The urge to compare one's bookaddled self against such a list is irresistible.

I scored 33 and a half (I left Atonement half-way through distracted by other books I had to read!) and feel significant amounts of bookguilt about the 66 and a half I need to make a start on.

Of course any list is subjective. This one is weighted towards American writing. There's an interesting discussion going where readers talk about the books that should be on the list.


Chet said...

Completely, fully read? That would be about 17.

I started going through the list and ticking off the ones I "read", and then realised some of them I didn't finish reading. The list of books I never finished reading is definitely longer than the ones I did!

Some of my "read" books from the list I've not thought about in many years. And then, it was interesting what memories came back when I saw the title of a book - when I read it, what got me to read it (e.g., I read The Catcher in the Rye after John Lennon's murder because that was the book found on Chapman when he was caught).

amir said...

Check out THE most popular entry: Watchmen by Alan Moore.

It's about time Moore is credited for the cosmic being he is.

Though I must say there are a lot more comics that deserve to be in the top 100.

Jaxon S said...

my score: 2/100. i've read only 2 -- assassin, mockingbird. *sigh* need to catch up

bibliobibuli said...

chet - completely fully - yes ... funny how books bring back memories of where you were or waht you were doing at the time ...

hey Amir - my favourite bad boy blogger! I grew up loving comic books - was raised on superman, the Fantastic 4, Uncanny Tales and so on. Couldn't understand why I didn't have superpowers when I thought I deserved them. Somewhere along the line I became a boringly sensible English teacher and stopped taking comic books seriously. Something I should go get a fresh education in I think.

bibliobibuli said...

jaxon - well you have some good reads ahead of you :-D

amir said...

Ah and comics have grown since then. Rather, went back to their rather illustrious past.

Watchmen was the catalyst. No words could explain how important this story was to the genre.

Watchmen started with something no modern comic book dared to do in those days - to kill off a character, a superhero. And he stayed dead.

Then moore decided to deconstruct the whole genre with his story - even throwing in God represented by Jon Osterman (Dr Manhattan).

Since then Moore has done a lot of things that redefined the genre and showed what could be done with it.

His Swamp Thing comics, League of Extraordinary Gentleman to America's Best Comics all went beyond mere boundaries.

I have only recently collected comics (since I got a job two years ago), but I can recommend some stuff.

There's Neil Gaiman's Sandman series - the best comic for people to get started on comics. It's full of literary references and even managed to win the World Fantasy Award - the first and only comic book that will ever do so since they changed the rules after he won.

Sandman has ended, but Mike Carey is carrying the torch with his successful spin-off Lucifer.

I love Lucifer.

Another Godly epic is Preacher, by Garth Ennis. It is the best AMerican story written by a non-American. Preacher is about how God decided one day to just get up and leave his job - and what happens afterwards.

There's Strangers in Paradise by erm...Terry Moore? I think it's Terry Moore.

The first two collections were excellent. It's about relationships between these two women Katchoo and the fat chick.

Transmetropolitan is good sci-fi. Has a journalist in it called Spider Jerusalem.

Brian Michael Bendis and David Lapham are two good crime comic book writers.

Bendis did Torso - based on the torso killings in San Francisco. Lapham did Stray Bullets - a major epic which Lord of The Rings can never live up to.

If you're into superheroes, the current best comic book for that would be Powers by Bendis and Oeming. Hate to use the word again, but it deconstructs everything.

In the European scene, which is even more robust than the American one, there's Metabaron by Jodorowsky. In the same universe is The Incal.

There's Gort or Geort or wossisname.

Japanese manga are also good, but you might want to steer away from the dreary, regular fare of stupid love stories.

There's Blame by whasisname. Damn good. Vagabond.

Oh God. There's literally tens of thousands of good manga.

And more comics as well.

bibliobibuli said...

Wow, Amir! Thanks for that very complete introduction. I'm curious to read now ... do bookshops or comic shops stock these titles? And are they the same thing as graphic novels - if not, how are they different?

Sorry to sound so totally clueless ...

amir said...

Graphic novels are comics. It's just a marketing term to lure people who may be prejudiced and do not want to buy comics.

Nevertheless, some people define graphic novels as thicker, more complete stories which stands on its own and comics as those which may be one of two or many parts.

Kinokuniya has an extensive comics and 'graphic novel' section. They are more focused on trade paperbacks - a collection of usually four or more comics to complete one story arc.

Comic shops also stock a lot of titles. You can even order from them titles which they do not have at the time.

I can lend you some stuff, if you like.

bibliobibuli said...

Thanks Amir. Now I'm curious I will check out Kino next time I go to town and take a look. May yet ask to borrow ...

Chet said...

What about Mind Shop at Centrepoint? Are those graphic novels or mere comics?

Anonymous said...

Sharon, didn't know we were having a comics convention here! :) You've managed to delurk me.

I think Amir was spot on in his assessment of most titles. I will just throw in a few others for variety, in case anyone is curious: I agree that Alan Moore rules the roost! Be sure to read V for Vendetta before the movie ruins it for everyone; also I think it's a lot more assessible to the non-superhero crowd with its mature political themes. If you like the tights, Tom Strong does a good rip on the various incarnations of pulp heroes since the inception of the comic book. Another brilliant deconstruction of a hero is of course Dark Knight Returns (but, alas, not the poor sequel).

For those who miss the days when superheroes were simpler (prior to the many deconstrution exercises they've had to endure), go no further than Marvel's Ultimate line. Pick up Ultimate X-men or Ultimate Spidey with no fear that 30 years of continuity will jump out at you any second. (What Spider-Clone/ Dark Pheonix Saga?)

And don't forget that ALL genres exist in the mirror universe of comics! Fantasy fans can read Bone, western fans can pick up Jonah Hex, sci-fi fans can follow up on the many adaptations of popular syndicated shows which live on perpetually in comics, long after their actors have descended into mediocrity: Star Wars, Star Trek and Firefly to name but a few! Like romantic comedies? You have to read True Story Swear to God. Coming of age stories? Ghost World! Mystery novels? Maze Agency even lets you try to guess the villian based on the clues given, a la Ellery Queen. Like your funny books simple with pretty girls? No one draws them prettier than Frank Cho on Liberty Meadows!

And if you still don't know what you'd like, my friends and I often play a game where we try to recommend people comics based on the TV shows / movies / books they enjoy. Most of the time, we're spot on. Feel free to throw me a challenge. ;)

(Book club member, 6 mths!)