Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another Book List to Obsess Over: Best of the 19th Century Brits

Flavorwire posted this list of The 50 Greatest British Novels of the 19th Century last month and, since this is obviously a period and place from which I choose many of my reads, I wanted to know how I was doing on finding "the best". (Bold are the titles I've read.)

  1. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
  3. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  4. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
  5. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  6. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  7. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  8. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
  9. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  10. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  11. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  12. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
  14. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  15. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  16. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  17. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
  18. Alice Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
  19. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  20. A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  21. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  22. Vivian Grey - Benjamin Disraeli
  23. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
  24. Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad
  25. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
  26. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
  27. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  28. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  29. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  30. Wives and Daughters - Elizabeth Gaskell
  31. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
  32. The Light That Failed - Rudyard Kipling
  33. Rob Roy - Sir Walter Scott
  34. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
  35. Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë
  36. New Grub Street - George Gissing
  37. Coningsby - Benjamin Disraeli
  38. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  39. Emma - Jane Austen
  40. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
  41. Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. The Last Days of Pompeii - Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  43. Windsor Castle - William Harrison Ainsworth
  44. Mary Barton - Elizabeth Gaskell
  45. The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green - Cuthbert M. Bede
  46. The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy
  47. Sybil, or The Two Nations - Benjamin Disraeli
  48. Villette - Charlotte Brontë
  49. Nicholas Nickelby - Charles Dickens
  50. The Wanderer or, Female Difficulties - Fanny Burney
Okay, so I've read 22 of the 50 on this list--just under half--and have another three sitting on my TBR shelves. BUT, I am not totally loving this list. Why are there three books from Benjamin Disraeli on the list and only one from Wilkie Collins? Where is Lady Audley's Secret? Why is Wuthering Heights so much higher than Pride and Prejudice? Who is Cuthbert M. Bede?

I know I need to eventually read some Thomas Hardy but some of the others on this list are ones I probably won't ever pick up (The Last Days of Pompeii).

What do you think of this list? Can you think of any major omissions (author or novel)? Is there one of these that I haven't read that you think I should get to ASAP?

Always in the mood for a little list action,


  1. Hahaha, yep, I have notes. Why on earth The Light that Failed rather than Kim? And why not more gothic stuff -- Mysteries of Udolpho, surely!

    1. Yes, Udolpho was a major omission. I wonder if this is more of a scholar's list than a reader's? Maybe I need to find out a bit more about the author of the list.

  2. Great Expectations is kind of a bizarre choice for the number 1 spot, imho. Also, Treasure Island is a fun book, but better than Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde? I don't think so.

    1. I agree about Great Expectations even though I love it. And Jekyll was so much more original and influential on future genre books. I think this list at least needs a reordering (and less Disraeli).

  3. I'm shocked at the complete absence of the works of Anthony Trollope, one of the best Victorian writers who wrote 47 novels including the brilliant The Way We Live Now, the six Chronicles of Barchester, and the Pallisers series. Therefore, I wonder about authority of the list-maker.

    However, I suspect Kim was not on the list because I think it was published in 1901 which would put it in the 20th century.

    1. I thought of Trollope too but since I haven't read him yet (I know! I know!) I couldn't say which book(s) to include.

  4. Eeep! Only 15 for me and many that I don't even recognized (though I do recognize most of the authors). Tess is a beautiful book and Heart of Darkness is at least short? Have fun! I'm a sucker for these lists.

    1. I think Thomas Hardy has to be my next Victorian author to try out. It's a bit shameful that I haven't read anything by him yet.

  5. Yeah, I am always skeptical of these lists of "best" books. Personally, I think they are the ones that the creator of the list read, liked, and thinks others should read.

    Of course, I haven't read any Disraeli so who am I to judge, but this is not the list I would've created :)

    1. Now I'm wondering if I should try Disraeli just so I know for sure ... but I REALLY don't want to. ;)