In early 1998, the Modern Library polled its editorial board to find the best 100 novels of the 20th century. The board consisted of Daniel J. Boorstin, A. S. Byatt, Christopher Cerf, Shelby Foote, Vartan Gregorian, Edmund Morris, John Richardson, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Styron and Gore Vidal. Byatt was the only woman on the board.
Ulysses by James Joyce topped the list, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby and Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The most recent novel in the list is Ironweed, and the oldest is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, which was written between 1873 and 1884, but not published until 1902. Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, serialized in 1899, is the only novel published in the 19th century; it was later republished in book form during 1902. Conrad has four novels on the list, the most of any author. William Faulkner, E. M. Forster, Henry James, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Evelyn Waugh each have three novels. There are ten other authors with two novels.
Some criticise its focus on North America and Europe. In addition, some contend it was a “sales gimmick,” since most of the titles in the list are also sold by Modern Library.OthersTemplate:Who note that both Modern Library and Random House USA, the parent company, are US companies. Critics have argued that this is responsible for a very American view of the greatest novels. British, Canadian and Australian academics, and even Random House UK, have differing lists of “greatest novels.”