Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's On Your Book Shelf?

Liz Fielding posted a list of "the top 100 books" put out by the British National Endowment for the Arts.

She got it from Kate Hardy. Kate got it from Michelle Styles. Michelle got it from Amanda Ashby. Amanda presumably, got it from someone else. Or maybe she actually reads the literature put out by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Anyway, the National Endowment people say the average reader has read 6.

I've read slightly over half.

I don't remember a lot about most of the ones I've read. Quite a few were read as part of lit courses I took, not because I was enthralled with them. But some I genuinely loved and went back to read on my own again. And again.

Others -- let's be honest here -- I hated.

And I had a heated discussion with The Prof about Madame Bovary (as always), since he loves it and I hated it. Ditto Gone With The Wind (well, he didn't love it, but he thought it was worth reading).

He said, "It's an American Madame Bovary."

And I said, "Exactly."

And he said, "They're anti-heroines, Madame Bovary and Scarlett O'Hara. You're not supposed to like them."

And I said, "Why would I waste time reading books about people I don't like?"

So, I'm a philistine. Get over it. He has. Sort of.

Anyway, here's my list. The ones I've read are in bold. Read it over and let me know which ones you've read and what you think of the list.

By the way, the comments (go to the link and scan to the bottom) over on Liz's blog are well worth reading -- as well as Liz's own comments on the ones she's read. So check them out.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
(first time I read it I was too young and bored. Then I reread it and loved it.)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (yes, indeed, some of us haven't)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (and yes, there are actually romance writers -- well, one anyway -- who haven't read Jane Eyre)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (does it count that I've read five of them and have the rest? I'll get to them someday)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (amazing book)
6 The Bible (probably not all of it, but most)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (yes, you can be a romance writer and not have read this)
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 (we read a lot of Hardy in school)
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (loved it!)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (does half count?)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (bought it for my dad)
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (ah, teenage angst)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (still not a big fan)
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (hated the movie, won't read the book)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens (like Hardy, we read Dickens till our eyes fell out)
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 (from a long line of dust bowl Okies, it cut a little close to home)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (loved it)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (loved it)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (over and over to my kids and never got tired of it)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (all the Anne books! Yes!)
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
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
(loved it!)
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 (memorable, moving)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
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 (I told you we read a lot of 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 (hated it)
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

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Blogger Jill said...

It has been interesting to see this pop up on various writers' blogs.
I've read 42 of them, which I am pretty happy with.
The ones I really loved the most are the ones I read when I was young, well under 16.
I heartily recommend "A Town Like Alice." Parts of it come off as little dated (some of the discussion of segregation in Australia), but I think it is hands down the most romantic book ever (even more than Jane Eyre which I also love!).
The hero and heroine are both noble and tenacious, yet at the same time refreshingly ordinary. They go through a lot to get their happily ever after but it is so worth it!

23 July, 2008  
Blogger Anne Gracie said...

I've read 74 of them, but that's no surprise -- I was brought up without TV and with unlimited access to books, and i did an English degree, so...
I have a few more of the titles mentioned sitting there as yet unread-- eg Kite Runner. And I've read some by the same authors, but not the particular book mentioned - eg the Conrad.

I think it's quite a British list, and a number of the kid's books, especially, probably wouldn't have been available in the US. Did you guys have Enid Blyton? I loved the Faraway tree series when I was a little tacker. Still have the books now.

I'm with you on disliking Scarlett and Madame Bovary, but I did enjoy reading both books. I was unhappy with the ending of both and wanted to shake the heroines for being so wilfully self-destructive. Same with Cathy in Wuthering Heights. Heroines like that bring out Flora Post desires to give them all a good talking to and setting them on a better, more sensible path to happiness -- Cathy would have married Heathcliff and then he wouldn't have become a brooding nasty beast, and no silly ghostly nonsense or miserable children festering down through the generations. I think Jane Austen and Flora Post are kindred spirits in their attitude to heroines. Dust off the cobwebs, let in the sun, be nice to each other, learn and achieve happiness. My kind of book. ;)

23 July, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Jill, thank you for the suggestion of A Town Like Alice. It's been on my TBR list for a long time. You just may be the reason it finally gets moved to the top -- and read.

Anne, yes, the Britishness of the list struck me as well. But then, it was the British National Endowment that developed it, so I guess they're entitled.

Anyway, my reaction to Madame B and to Scarlett was more to want to slap them upside the head and say, "Get a grip." And from wha you say, Cathy in Wuthering Heights as well. No real incentive to read it if I'm going to want to smack her!

I've read some perfectly marvelous books that have stuck in my mind for years and years that aren't on this list. I liked your assignment that Barb Hannay talked about -- to list the books you loved and see what the common elements are.

I'm still working on that.

23 July, 2008  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Actually I am not sure who developed it. National Endowment is American, but many of the books are British. I think though that the list is designed around movies and books people might have heard of...
Farway tree I believe has also appeared on PBS...
So it is a mystery.
A Town Like Alice is good. I went through a Nevil Shute phase back in high schoo after A Town Like Alice appeared on masterpiece Theatre. The book was much better than the tv series.

24 July, 2008  
Blogger Liz Fielding said...

Weirdly, after that discussion of the Britishness of the childrne's books on the list, I woke to discover Swallows and Amazons on the radio (the dh tends to fall asleep with it on).

I didn't see the tv series of A Town Like Alice, but remember the film. The heroine was played by the Born Free actress, I think -- her name escapes me.

The world could definitely do with more Flora Posts...

24 July, 2008  
Blogger Liz Fielding said...

Virginia McKenna

24 July, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Michelle, I have a hard time believing that list was made up by Americans. There are too few notable American writers on it. Who, for example, would put Dan Brown on a list and leave Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James and William Faulkner off it?

Hadn't heard of the Faraway Tree at all. Not one of the Enid Blytons I'm at all familiar with. Most Americans don't know Enid Blyton.

I don't know Flora Post. Will have to go look her up.

But you've all got me convinced that A Town Like Alice should be seriously bumped up on the TBR list. Thanks!

24 July, 2008  

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