Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Precious?


There's a meme that has been floating around for a long time involving a list of 100 books. The list is supposed to have been compiled by the BBC, although according to this article in The Guardian, the list was actually compiled for World Book Day from respondents who were asked to name their ten most "precious" books. But why let a little something like facts get in the way of some fun?

The idea is to bold the books on the list you've read and italicize those you started reading and never finished. Because of the way it was compiled, it's a weird list, containing both The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Hamlet, for instance. Now, I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I can't claim to have read every single one of his plays (I have read all of his poetry). I also find the list heavy on Jane Austen and oddly lacking in other time-tested authors such as, say, Robert Louis Stevenson or Homer. But I'm digressing again.

In looking over my list, I realize the exercise reveals several things about me. First, I'm good at starting books but not so great at finishing them. In fact, I'm so famous for giving up on books that my writers group has given my name to the act of abandoning a book unfinished: they call it "proctorizing." I also realize I used to be better about finishing books than I am now. I still remember plowing through the 1600 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo as a senior in high school (for fun, not for class). I doubt I'd make it these days.

Would I call any of these books "precious"? Well, maybe the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Very few of the works of this list would make it on to my list of the 100 Best Books of All Times, or even a list of The 100 Books I Liked Best (I recognize that some of my best-loved books are not great literature.)

Anyway, without any more analyzing, here's my list:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Pax Deux said...

Ridiculous! Carlos Luiz Zafon and Garcia Marques, but no Cervantes, de la Barca, Unamuno and Goytisolo? No De Beauvior, not even Stendhal? Or how about Machiavelli, or Lampedusa? Well, if it is indeed compiled by journalists, it could be explained by a bias towards the present and current...

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read about 33 of these. there are certainly some things I don't understand. the entire Shakespeare publications for example! That seems a bit extreme, and then to include Hamlet by itself. Oh well, I've been intending to make my own list like this and haven't gotten aroudn to it

Steve Malley said...

We do this in New Zealand every year or two- the Whitcoull's Top 100.

And it's usually a pretty similar mix. I'm sure Malcom Gladwell or those Freakonomics guys could write a pretty cool essay on the books people say they 'should' like and the ones they actually do...

orannia said...

I'm not even sure I want to work out what I haven't read...and Pax Deux I haven't even heard of the authors you mentioned :(

Do think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is brilliant. I just bought it for my aunt. Had to tell her it wasn't a children's book though :) Then again, I think certain books straddle the line between children and adults.

cs harris said...

Pax Deux, the omissions made me want to draw up one of my own lists. And this was compiled from British readers; I wonder what an American list would look like?

Charles, I think the Shakespeare set comes from a "if I could only take 10 books to a desert island" type of approach to answering the question.

Steve, I'm going to have to look that one up. I'd like to compile one list of "important books" and another of "books I love." There are some things I think everyone should have read, but that could just be my elitist tendencies talking.

Orannia, there are a few books on this list I haven't even heard of. And one of these days I do need to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

liz fenwick said...

I am with on the Count of Monte Cristo - loved it then wouldn't cope now (DS2 read it 3 yrs ago - only book that ever slowed him down!). I've done this list myself a while ago and it looked like yours.

I do think the American list would be different as I continually bump into people talking about books I had never heard of and reference books that were favourites that they were unaware of....


Cezza said...

Does watvhing the movies instead count lol

Mike said...

Winnie the Pooh or Winnie Ille Pu?

Susan/DC said...

I've read 56 of the books listed, but some of them were read in my long-ago youth and I couldn't give you a plot summary today.

I'm another who has lost the ability to read dense novels. I loved "Lorna Doone" when I was in high school, but when my son was in HS and I checked it out of the library for him, I couldn't get past the first few chapters. It still has the bones of an excellent romantic adventure story (and has the movies/TV miniseries to prove it), but I just couldn't invest in the time and effort it would take to read it.

cs harris said...

Liz, I wonder if it's a factor of our age or the age we live in?

Cezza, I wondered that myself!

Mike, believe it or not, I only fell in love with Pooh as a mother reading it to my girls.

Susan, we have become so much more impatient, haven't we? I know I tend to write faster books now than I did 10 years ago. Too many other demands on our time.

Firefly said...

Books! Books! Books! They are some of the most, if not the most, beautiful things in the world. I have read & own so very many of the ones on your list! I'm moving countries soon & the one thing I would not give up to reduce the cost of our shipping are my books!!!! I plan to have a library in Canada where I shall be living so as to house all my wonderful books....

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