We're having a little spate of "lists of best English novels," the newest entry being from Tyler Cowen. I find that I have read and enjoyed half of his list, but lack the slightest inclination to read the other half.
As usual a spirited argument develops in the comments thread. Surely the value of these things is not to settle once and for all which are the best books, but to find out something about books that other people are prepared to recommend wholeheartedly. I'm often surprised when I finally get around to reading a "classic," but the surprise can just as easily take either of two forms: (1) Why, this is delightful, what took me so long? or (2) What in the world do people see in this dreary mess? I bogged down immediately, for instance, in the copy of "The Way We Live Now" that I downloaded on the recommendation of the recent Guardian List. Oh, no, not another exhaustive examination of the wasted life of a young narcissist who spends beyond his income and can't face reality? If I get 50 pages into a novel and still haven't met a character whose future I care about, I'm in trouble. The narrative voice had better be something pretty special in that case, and I suppose Mr. Trollope and I don't see eye to eye. Too bad, because a "drawing room" novel is usually just the thing for me.