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A book list!

via treacle_well

The Guardian's Top 100 Books You Can't Live Without

Disclaimer: I think "top X books" lists are pretty much bullshit, and Guardian ones especially so, and this one is no exception.

The ones I've read are in bold. The ones I started and didn't finish are in italic. I welcome recommendations and dis-recommendations of ones I haven't read.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (An all-time favorite)
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (Another all-time favorite)
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible (I read the beginning and end but skipped most of the middle.)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (OK, I must be missing something, but I read this recently and couldn't stand it. I'm like, "If I wanted to read all about people abusing each other, I could go read LiveJournal.")
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (What's this doing here? Is it really so fabulous?)
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the d'Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (No, but I did listen to Return of the Native, if only because it's read by Alan Rickman.)
13 Catch-22 – Joseph Heller (I really didn't like this. That seems to surprise most people.)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – William Shakespeare (I've read some of the plays and sonnets; I'm weakest in the historical plays.)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks (Never heard of it.)
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (Didn't like it at all.)
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (Never heard of it.)
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 (I hated this, but I recently heard that a new and much better translation is available.)
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 (My favorite Dickens out of the ones I've read)
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen (My second-favorite Austen)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (Umm...why is this in here twice?)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (Really?)
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernières (Never heard of it.)
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (I confess to having enjoyed it up until the last 50 pages or so, but it so doesn't belong on a list of books you can't live without.)
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 Meaney – 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 (Ugh.)
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding (I think this would have worked better as a rock opera than as a book. Hmm....)
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan (Never heard of it.)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (Never heard of it.)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert (I like it quite a bit, but it's another odd addition to the list of 100 essential books)
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (My favorite Austen. And not just because Alan Rickman has a part in the movie.)
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
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
68 Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville (I'm a gushing fangirl of this book)
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson (Cute, but...)
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 Alborn
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 (Very influential)
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 (because it's not, you know, part of the complete works?)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Misérables – Victor Hugo


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
Don't waste your time on anything by Steinbeck, unless you have a fondness for period pieces set in that period.

The da Vinci Code won't be on the list in another year or two -- it's on the same level with The Bridges of Madison County. The same may well be true of Bridget Jones's Diary.

The Bible is actually useful to read, just to have the quotes handy to confound religious idiots. They really don't like it when you know their sacred book better than they do! If you can stuff chapter and verse into your head as well, so much the better, but I get along okay with just the quotations.

Yeah, that's a damn peculiar list of "books you can't live without"; I've managed to live without a fair number of them quite well, TYVM. Very few of them would be on my list of 100 Desert Island Books, either. As a list of "100 Books Essential to Understanding Terran Culture" it doesn't do much better -- too much emphasis on what's recently been trendy, and not nearly enough by non-Western authors. Ghod knows what they were trying to do there.

Mar. 2nd, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
re Steinbeck: I'm not especially fond of period pieces from that period, but I like most Steinbeck.

The list is actually based on a reader survey, which accounts for the odd mix of "everyone knows these are classic" and "these are some recent hits."
Mar. 2nd, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
Have you read "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler? I think, from your comments about Austen, that you will love it.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 02:00 pm (UTC)
Oh! And "Possession" by A.S. Byatt rocks, too.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
Interesting list.

I recommend anything by Hardy and Dickens, because I love the way they both used language. Dickens, with the neatly wrapped up happy endings, is a good antidote to the gloom and doom of Hardy.

Of Mice and Men goes quickly, if you want to mark another one off.

I reread Vanity Fair every few years. It never gets old for me.

Anna Karenina is like the Bible, in that every possible human emotion is there. I loved it! Also in translation: Les Mis and Madame Bovary. Both terrific stories. No Balzac? Odd.

I liked Love in the Time of Cholera, but couldn't get three 100 Years of Solitude.

The Lovely Bones and the Time Traveler's Wife were both good reads, but I'm not ready to put them on the must-read list. Lolita? Sure.

My walking partner recommended A Confederacy of Dunces just yesterday, as I was talking about the futility of filing.

The only thing I remember about A Woman in White is that I devoured it rapidly.

Of everything on the list you haven't read, I'd say that Vanity Fair and Anna Karenina are my favorites.

Mar. 2nd, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
I have much enjoyed Gabriel Garcia Marquez over the years, and you might enjoy it. I have also enjoyed Kazuo Ishiguro.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Cloud Atlas is recent, but I don't think it's on the list just because it's trendy. It really is beautifully structured (nested stories) and written (several different genres with style adjustments). I adore it.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)

12 Tess of the d'Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

I like Hardy, but this one and Jude the Obscure (#67) are pretty depressing. I don't know enough about your taste to know for sure, but I suspect you wouldn't care for them.

19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (Never heard of it.)

I've raved about this on my journal recently and plan to post a lengthier review in a few days. LOVED it.

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

I love Irving in general, and really liked this book. My mom and I liked it so much that we got almost everyone in the family to read it so we could discuss it.

80 Possession – AS Byatt

I've read other stuff by Byatt that I liked but I could not finish this book. I got through page 100 and just didn't give a crap about the characters enough to finish it. I felt it plodded and the plot was way too slow for my taste, and I'm generally a pretty patient reader!

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

I read this recently and liked it; it's one of the more accessible "classics" in my opinion.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
I liked Catch-22 when I read it as a teenager, but from what I remember, I don't think I'd be all that impressed today. There's a lot of stuff in the same vein from the 70s, I'm not sure why this book makes it so high on the list, while there is no Vonnegut, for instance, who I think of as kind of similar, but less long-winded.

I'm intrigued that elissaann flew through _The Woman in White_ which I haven't read. One of my favorite books of all time (and kmd's as well -- she introduced me to it) is _the Moonstone_ also by WC and not on this list, but no question it would make much shorter lists of mine.

_Watership Down_ is very good, and similar in spirit to Tolkien. I would say one of the few early imitators who was successful artistically. It added some key memes/words to my mental vocabulary and I am always thankful for a book that can do that. Whether it deserves to be on this list or not I wouldn't say, but I doubt you'll regret reading it. BTW, I read it when I was 30 -- most of the people I know read it only as children, and I'd always thought of it as written for juveniles until I read it myself.

I found _Les Miserables_ to be a bit of a slog, but that may be a combination of translation issues and being too young (16) when I read it.

_The Five People you Meet in Heaven_ is trite, chicken soup for the unexamined soul stuff. The writing isn't terrible, but if you went out of your way to read it, you'd be pretty disappointed. It's a "stuck in the airport and nothing really good is on the shelf" kind of book.

_Bridget Jones' Diary_ is much better than that, but I can't see how it makes this list.

_DaVinci Code_ has some interesting plot, but not enough -- a lot of the history is bogus and it gets pretty ugly if you can't stand hack writing. It's like a really bad version of _Illuminatus!_ centered on skewering christianity.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
Not on the list, but something in one of the comments reminded me for some reason of Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt, which I do recommend highly. It's a sweeping alternate-history novel in which the Black Plague took out 90% of Europe's population instead of only 33%, told in a series of stories about a group of souls tied together by... I can't remember the word, it's a Hindu concept, I think. At any rate, these souls keep reincarnating in ways that bring them together over and over again, so that the book spans centuries. (I really need to get my own copy of this; I borrowed it from a friend a few years ago.)
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
Wow - only a handful of these would make it onto my must-have list. Lord of the Flies would be tops - that was one of those books that affected me profoundly when I was young, and probably still would. (But... a rock opera?? Ewww... :))

The Color Purple would be there, too. And Chronicles of Narnia, in case I ever needed to read those for the thousandth time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was a great book. Fascinating and very touching. But it wouldn't make my can't-live-without list.

I was strongly affected by 1984, but I don't think I'd want to put myself through that again. :) Ditto The Bell Jar. And ditto The Handmaid's Tale. Actually, I don't think I finished Handmaid's Tale, it was just too grim. (I saw the movie, though, so maybe that's why I think I finished the book. :))

I thoroughly enjoyed The DaVinci Code - so fucking shoot me. (Not a must-have, though.)

There's very little here that I would be at all interested in, to tell the truth. I guess I should take it with a grain of salt - this is someone's list of books he/she can't live without (or, I guess, a voted-on list compiled by a group of people). It doesn't seem to have much relevance to what I would want to read, but that would probably be the case with most such lists.

I should read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Whatever...
Nice icon!

These are the only ones on the list that I would pack for a desert island:
The Lord of the Rings
Jane Eyre
Complete Works of Shakespeare (if that were too big I would just take King Lear)
The Hobbit
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (but not the book, the radio episodes)
Alice in Wonderland
Sense and Sensibility
Moby Dick
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Little Prince
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Whatever...
Very respectable!
Mar. 3rd, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Whatever...
I thoroughly enjoyed The DaVinci Code - so fucking shoot me. (Not a must-have, though.)

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed reading it, but I knew the whole time that I wasn't reading a particularly good book, merely one which played a lot of plot and pacing tricks to keep me interested.

I have some tolerance for mediocre writing. My wife has much less and she didn't like it. From what I've read of firecat over the years, I expect her to be closer to my wife on that continuum, though I could be wrong.

Anybody who generally likes thriller of the week bestsellers will probably like the DaVinci Code -- there's a reason it sold millions of copies.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Whatever...
I am extremely fussy about the writing quality of fiction. It's one of the annoying side effects of being an editor for a living. But sometimes a well-paced plot will override the fussiness.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
I'm not going to bother looking at the list. Do you have your own list of favorites?
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:11 am (UTC)
Here's my selection of favorites from that list. I don't have a list of all my favorite books. I should prepare one.

Lord of the Rings
Jane Eyre
Complete Works of Shakespeare
The Hobbit
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (but not the book, the radio episodes)
Alice in Wonderland
Sense and Sensibility
Moby Dick
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Little Prince
Mar. 4th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
I was looking more for a list of your favorite books, but this will do for now.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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