Guidelines

The lists included in Greater Books so far must meet the following criteria:

Several other potential sources of lists for the Greater Books project are excluded because they serve more as anthologies or directories. We would like to include these, as well as lists consisting of the titles published over the years by "classics" imprints such as Norton Critical Editions or Oxford World's Classics, but such an approach would require much bibliographic and archival research. That said, many anthologies include shorter works in order to fit a larger number of authors in a single book or series of books; as a result, the selection of works cannot be considered the editor's choice of the greatest or most representative. In other cases, they present a large number of excerpts or condensed versions of works, in addition to essays or whole books providing historical background, in contrast to the model, set by Harvard Classics and The Great Books of the Western World, limiting the number of excerpts.

What if we were to include the lists excluded based on our guidelines? We would have to make several distinct versions of the master list. For example, Modern Library's much-publicized lists of 100 fiction and non-fiction works, besides their obvious genre restrictions, are limited to the Twentieth Century and the English language. If one wanted to see how the works in those lists match up with English-language Twentieth-Century fiction and verity works included in the Greater Books master list, you could simultaneously scan the lists here and the Modern Libray lists to see which works appear in both. However, such a task becomes considerably more difficult if you were also interested in, say, Le Monde's Les Cent Livres du Siècle, which is only limited temporally. Instead, the forty lists documented here would need to serve as the foundation for derivative lists defined by what they exclude. Whenever this site's functionality allows the user to limit the master list by language, date, or genre, in doing so it could also simultaneously expand the list. That is, if a user chooses to view only the English-language novels and non-fiction of the Twentieth Century, the Modern Library lists could be included, thus also changing the tallies of certain works (as seen in blue font next to the title). The Le Monde list would be included as well, as would any other list that includes novels and non-fiction in the English language written in the Twentieth Century.

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The master list only includes monographic works; for our purposes, the category, monograph, includes:

The category of non-monographical works, found at the "other" master, or submaster, list, includes poems, stories, and essays not originally, and generally not ever, published as monographs (and most collections of such works); excerpts of monographical works; works consisting of distinct parts by two or more authors; and broad or unspecified selections of texts. That last category is excessively long; too many of the listmakers included so far will list, say, Plato's Dialogues, or the poetry of Robert Frost, referring to them as "books" without specifying distinct works.

Whole anthologies or any other sort of work consisting of distinct contributions from multiple authors (such as Diderot's encyclopedia, the Federalist Papers, or the Three Hundred Tang Poems; as compared to collectively-written works, such as Manufacturing Consent or The Evolution of Physics) are also included in the sub-master list.

The general term for the literary works documented here is entry. This term is used both because the master and submaster lists constitute a database of sorts and, again, because nearly all of the list makers do not confine themselves to works or collections of works that can in any way be classed as "books." Some of these indeterminate selections are open to interpretation. To begin with, the basic designation of a type of work written by an author, such as the Robert Frost-poetry example noted above. Another example: Lubbock lists the "plays" of Molière. Though we could count all of Molière's plays as entrants, we cannot say with certainy that Lubbock intended to include each play at the same level as the rest of his entries, especially since he offers several other vague recommendations, such as "poems" by Hesiod. Any selection of a kind of literary work (novels, essays, etc.) is assumed to be a "selected" choice, and any listing of an author alone or an author's "works" is assumed to be "selected works." Another example comes from Lubbock's inclusion of Walter Scott's "novels." Though for James Baldwin, who listed the "Waverley novels," we include all 26 novels in that category, for Lubbock we do not, despite all of Scott's novels being "Waverley novels." This seeming contradiction has its excuse: each listmaker takes a different approach, and we exercise a limited degree of editorial discretion based on how the listmaker defines that project and the number of works he includes. In this case, Baldwin has vague selections like Thackeray's "novels" similar to Lubbock's, but chose to specify "Waverley novels," so the inclusion of all of those novels corresponds to the greater nuance of that selection.

Only a few listmakers have included the "complete works" of an author; that designation is also ambiguous at times because of works of disputed authorship, recently-published posthumous works, writings disclosed in archival collections, and minor works that the listmaker probably did not intend to include. Given how the status of certain works changes over time, future changes to the tallies could still take place. This would nearly always be in the case of the complete writings, or all of a genre, by a certain author being collected into a singular volume, and that volume in turn becoming the standard edition of the works collected therein. An example from the Lubbock list: an entry currently listed as non-monographical, James Cook's Journals, could, if those journals were collected into a singular work that over time became the standard form of those writings, become a monographical entry.

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Nearly every list has presented further difficulties in collating its entries with those of the other lists, due not so much to indeterminate selections but rather to bibliographic complexity. Further clarification of these issues follow here:

Regarding the line dividing short stories from novellas or novelettes, Heart of Darkness, originally published in a periodical, was included in an anthology entitled Youth: A Narrative, and Two Other Stories, those two other stories being Heart of Darkness and 'The End of the Tether'. However, for most editions since then, Heart of Darkness has been published on its own, or as the main work in an anthology (Heart of Darkness and Other Tales, Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary e.g.). On the other hand, though it was the lead story in that early collection, 'Youth' remains a non-monographical work, having always since been published as part of story collections. Another example of a potential monograph is John Updike's 'Rabbit Remembered', so far only been published as part of an anthology; because of its place as the last of the "Rabbit" works, perhaps it will eventually take the form of its own book, in which case the lists that include the Rabbit series as a whole would need to be renumbered.

The date listed for plays is that of its first performance, or publication—whichever comes first. Needless to say, for earlier plays, including many of Shakespeare's, the date of first performance is not known.

Plays are considere to be monographs, even when published as part of larger works; examples of which include the plays that comprise George Bernard Shaw's Plays Unpleasant and Plays Pleasant. The plays from those books that are included by our listmakers are classed here as monographs and as such found in the master list. They would still be classed as such even if all the listmakers had only listed Plays Pleasant or Plays Unpleasant.

The only potential exception to this rule comes with a play not meant to be performed. A few W B Yeats plays seem to come close to this blurry line; the relative brevity of his plays is a factor. On that note.... A few books consisting mostly of Yeats's poetry have been demoted, if you will, to non-monographical status because they also included one of his short plays, usually later printed on their own or included in another collection. Though two listmakers, Bloom and Fadiman, include both Yeats's collected plays and collected plays, meaning that they indirectly select the entirety of these "demoted" books, for the sake of uniformity with the rest of the database, not least the listmakers who only include the collected poems (Ward, Cowan and Guiness ("Trinity"), the Telegraph, and the Globe and Mail), the books are not included, even in the sub-master list. Why? Because, when a collection like Yeats's collected poems is listed, at Greater Books we draw out the monographical works, so as to include them in the master list, but any non-monographical work or excerpt (or in the case of these "demoted" books, portions of a book of poems) included in such collections is not listed separately. At least not for now. To make this clearer, though Eudora Welty's collected stories includes all four of her short-story collections, those four are not listed separately because they are not considered monographical works. Because these particular books (for example, Responsibilities) included plays, they are not included in their entirety in the collected poems that Bloom and Fadimean listed. As for the plays, one may conclude, using the same guideline, that Yeats's At the Hawk's Well, since it was originally included as part of The Wild Swans at Coole and later made part of Four Plays for Dancers, is "demoted" to non-monographical status, as would be both The Death of Cuchulain and Purgatory, both originally published as part of Last Poems and Two Plays. Their indirect inclusion by Bloom and Fadiman as part of the collected plays is indeed not what "promotes" them to monographical status; these plays were not published separately and, while Hawk's was made part of a book only containing plays, that placement has been deemed insufficient. They are "promoted" because, simply enough, they are plays that are performed: the same reason all plays are considered here to be monographical. In the case of Hawk's Well and Purgatory, they were certainly performed before being published. Another play, The Cat and the Moon (not to be confused with the poem of the same name), could be "promoted" because the book in which it was originally included, The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems, was made part of The Tower except for the play, The Cat and the Moon; either way, the play was performed as well. Another, A Full Moon in March, is also "promoted": the play is included in the book of the same name that also included the play, The King of the Great Clock Tower, and poems later included in the collected poems as 'Parnell's Funeral and Other Poems'. Meanwhile King, like the play Cat, had been published as part of another book, The King of the Great Clock Tower, Commentaries and Poems that, like the book Cat, was largely voided by being made part of other works ('Parnell's Funeral and Other Poems' and Last Poems); the play, unlike the book, also can be considered to have been "promoted." Either way, King was performed in 1934. Full Moon was not performed until well after Yeats's death, but in the Greater Books guidelines that makes no difference. The Death of Cuchulain has been performed as well.

The superseded status of the books The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems and The King of the Great Clock Tower, Commentaries and Poems is common in Yeats's bibliography, as one can see by reviewing his entries in the master list.

Another apparent exception in arranging the master and sub-master lists.... Because of their relative brevity, generally speaking, poems are both more likely to be originally published in periodicals and to be moved around among an author's books of poems and selected and collected anthologies of those books. Thus, some of the collected and selected volumes of poems included end up with unwieldy bibliographic notes. More importantly, for now a book consisting of poems previously published, but which is the first publication in book form of most of those poems, counts as a monographical work. The only example so far is Vachel Lindsay's Collected Poems; to a lesser extent, Wilfred Owen's Poems could be considered as such, though only a few of the poems had been previously published when that book came out. This is done, first of all, so that writers who principally write poetry are not under-represented in the master list. Only a few fiction writers focus more on short stories than novels, whereas many poets only write poetry. Secondly, again because of their brevity, poems rarely stand on their own like a short story does. They leave a greater impression as part of a book than in a periodical.

In determining the number of entries counted in the case of excerpts of monographical works, a short dictum applies: "entry over excerpt." That is, if a listmaker includes two or more selections from a book, those selections constitute a single entry for our purposes, even though in other lists an entry may be a single excerpt from that same book. The reason for this rule is best shown in Clifton Fadiman's listing of certain essays from Montaigne's Essays. Instead of listing each one as an excerpt, leading to a larger number of non-monographical entries, those excerpts constitute a single entry. The problem with this approach comes with the lack of uniformity it creates in the sub-master list of non-monographical works and indeterminate selections. That is, over-lapping will occur, as with the two Montaigne excerpts (or the two excerpts of Shakespeare's sonnets) both of which note same of the same portions.

A major exception to "entry over excerpt" is the Bible. A few listmakers prefer to list several books instead of the entire work, appropriate enough given its origins. Each book of the Bible chosen by these listmakers is listed separately in the submaster list. The same exception applies to the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, both parts of the Book of Rites and both listed by the Guide to Oriental Classics. The same exception would apply in the case of similar entries of parts of other ancient texts, assuming the entry is not two particular excerpts of, say, the Great Learning or a book of the Bible.

Examples of determining if works not originally published as monographs, but which ultimately took some monographic form, count as monographs here at Greater Books: Ezra Pound's Cantos is the most-glaringly obvious of those works consisting of several monographs and, in this case, works published in periodicals as well. Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is another example that stands out, but for a different reason: a work that changed considerably over the course of nearly four decades. One of our listmakers, Harold Bloom, prefers to list two editions of the work.

Two J D Salinger works, Franny and Zooey [1961] and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction [1961], as their titles hint, each consist of two stories originally published separately. Since they were published as monographs with the participation of the author himself, and those editions have become the standard versions, they count here as monographs. The same goes for Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, but the rule's applicability in that case is more obvious, as only ten of the 22 stories had been published prior to the book being developed and published.

Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia were published serially, 1820-25, but since they were soon published in book form, as Essays of Elia [1823] and Last Essays of Elia [1833], those works count as monographs. So far, not a complication. The problem comes in that the three pertinent listmakers (Baldwin, Powys, and the Jasper Lee Company) only list Essays of Elia. Since the phrase, "essays of Elia," often refers to all of the essays (that is, both anthologies) one cannot say for certain that only the first book is being listed. In all three lists, both are included.

W B Yeats's Autobiography is included in two lists (Magill and Fadiman). The accompanying description in Magill's book indicates that he specifies the later (1955) version; Fadiman does not specify. That later version consisted of six different monographs; an earlier, 1938 version included only three of them. Given that the contents of the book changed; and surely could change in the future, with the addition perhaps of other autobiographical works, however minor, all six works are listed separately. This is an exception because we want to give priority to a work's final manifestation, while making note of its original place of publication and title changes, or titles of constituent works (as in Pound's Cantos above). An important consideration here is that the later version of the Autobiography is a posthumous compilation.