Top 100


Since the “100 Best” story first broke in The New York Times on Monday, July 20, 1998, all kinds of opinions about the list – and theories about the Modern Library’s purpose in concocting such a contest of sorts – emerged.

The goal of the “100 Best” project was to get people talking about great books. We succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings — more than 400,000 avid readers rushed online to cast votes for their favorite books.

The reader’s poll for the best nonfiction published in the English language since 1900 opened on April 29, 1999 and closed on September 30, 1999 with a total of 194,829 votes cast.

The readers’ poll for the best novels published in the English language since 1900 opened on July 20, 1998 and closed on October 20, 1998, with 217,520 votes cast.

To jumpstart your own, more structured discussion of the books, try using a few talking points as a guide.

Top Board Picks for Novels and Nonfiction


ISBN 9780679424741

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Written by Carson McCullers

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

When she was only twenty-three, Carson McCullers’s first novel created a literary sensation. She was very special, one of America’s superlative writers who conjures up a vision of existence as terrible as it is real, who takes us on shattering voyages into the depths of the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition. This novel is the work of a supreme artist, Carson McCullers’s enduring masterpiece. The heroine is the strange young girl, Mick Kelly. The setting is a small Southern town, the cosmos universal and eternal. The characters are the damned, the voiceless, the rejected. Some fight their loneliness with violence and depravity, some with sex or drink, and some—like Mick—with a quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.
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ISBN 9780679640141

Up From Slavery

Written by Booker T. Washington

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

In Up from Slavery, Washington recounts the story of his life—from slave to educator. The early sections deal with his upbringing as a slave and his efforts to get an education. Washington details his transition from student to teacher, and outlines his own development as an educator and founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In the final chapters of Up From Slavery, Washington describes his career as a public speaker and civil rights activist.
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