Books: All-Time Greatest Novels, Nos. 50-26
50. Orhan Pamuk, Snow (2002)
49. Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (1985)
A beloved sci-fi novel about an astonishingly precocious kid who must undergo brutal command training in space because (little does he know) he alone has been chosen to lead Earth's forces in a desperate war against an alien race known as buggers. Ender's is a thrilling novel about compassion and vengeance, love and loyalty.
48. Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Ripley, simultaneously the most sinister and appealing murderer in all of fiction, makes his debut here. Highsmith pulls off her character with attention to psychological nuance and practical detail — how to dispose of a body and perfect a forgery — with wit so dry it snaps off the page like a static shock.
47. Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994)
46. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)
Set in a stuffy chunk of old New York society at a time when people ''dreaded scandal more than disease,'' Wharton's novel follows the doomed love affair of a gentleman and our exotic and unconventional heroine. The romance will make you swoon, but it is Wharton's brilliant exposé of a stagnant culture of hypocrisy that will leave you shaking your fist.
45. Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)
44. Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials Trilogy (1995-2000)
43. John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)
42. Stephen King, The Stand (1978)
41. James Baldwin, Go Tell It on The Mountain (1953)
40. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993)
39. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
38. Pat Barker, The Regeneration Trilogy (1991-95)
37. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)
36. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)
35. Kenzaburo Oë, A Personal Matter (1964)
34. John Irving, The World According to Garp (1978)
33. Art Spiegelman, Maus (1986)
Spiegelman's graphic novel tells of his parents' struggle to survive the Holocaust by anthropomorphizing them as mice evading feline Nazis. It works on all the intended levels: as biography, history, and a critique of comic-book conventions.
32. J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
31. José Saramago, Blindness (1995)
30. Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)
29. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1986)
Atwood at her most startling. The novel imagines a futuristic block of America ruled by a racist, sexist, theocratic military dictatorship. Under its angry thumb wriggles Offred, a woman kept as a concubine solely for reproductive purposes. An important benchmark of feminist literature, wrapped in thriller guise.
28. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (1869)
27. Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
Science, philosophy, and adventure collide in L'Engle's brilliant mash-up about a brother and sister who embark on an interplanetary adventure to save their father. L'Engle's fantasy was rejected by publisher after publisher, partly because the protagonist was female — ''I'm a female,'' she said later. ''Why would I give all the best ideas to a male?''