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The Modern Library - the 200 best novels in English since 1950

A Clare County Library Book Promotion

It is the policy of Clare County Library to actively promote the reading habit by increasing access to and awareness of material via book promotions.

The book The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English since 1950 by Carmen Callil and Colm Tóibín, published by Picador, listed the 200 best novels from 1950 to 1999. For this project Clare County Library has divided the selected novels by decade into five separate promotions, e.g. the best of the 50s, the best of the 60s, etc. The promotions for the five decades are running in five different libraries simultaneously with multiple copies of the listed titles available for borrowing. These promotions spend three months in each branch before circulating to other branches.

Callil and Tóibín's determination to ignore the distinction between so-called popular fiction and literary fiction (also so-called) results in a selection featuring novels for readers of every age and taste, for those who have never read a novel before and for experts who want to quarrel with the choice. There are long novels and short novels; novels for surrealists and romantics; for wits and for murder fiends; for Cold War fanatics and for lovers of Dickens and Eliot. The selection is truly international with novels from India, Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, the USA, Australia, Canada, Africa, the Caribbean, Hong Kong and more.

Although acknowledging that any list such as this is a matter of personal choice, the authors state that they looked for the same quality in every choice – ‘a certain genius in the work, a certain excitement in the reading, and a feeling that you would love to hand this book to someone else to read’. The authors hope that indignation, as well as pleasure, will be among the first reactions to this selection. To quote Derusha McCormack in The Irish Times 'This is a book for those of us who hunger for the next good read …. Each time I look at it, The Modern Library grows in value: as a record of territory rediscovered, a map of journeys to come'.

Whether you are rediscovering an old favourite, reading that book that you always meant to read, or exploring completely new territory, we hope that the reviews here will help you to select books that will bring you hours of reading pleasure.

Clare County Library wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of Picador and the other publishers who allowed us to use their book covers.

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