From the Introduction:
This is not a pollsters' assembly of popular novels, compiled with calculators and spreadsheets. Neither is it a potentially exhausting list of titles that winds back to the dawn of fiction, chiding the reader for his or her presumed ignorance in the manner of a compulsory reading list handed out in a bad school at the start of summer to cast a pall over its students' vacation time. What we sought from each of the contributors to this volume was passionate advocacy: we wanted them to pick one novel, just one, that they would place in the canon. If you found them in a bar some evening, and the talk turned (as it almost inevitably would) to favorite writers, it would be the single book that each writer would press upon you, the book that, if there was time and the stores were still open, they would leave the bar in order to purchase for you, so that they could be sure they had done all in their power to make you read it.