December 4, 2010

Another hundred books

Posted in Lists tagged , at 4:22 pm by chavisory

There’s a list of books going around Facebook.  Purportedly compiled by the BBC, which has supposedly found that most people have read, on average, six of them.  Only according to a friend who went looking, the BBC compiled no such list; the meme seems to be some kind of conflation of the BBC’s “Big Read” list which is the result of a poll of Brits’ favorite books, and some apocryphal statistic about how little the average adult actually reads.

So relax everyone, it’s just fun; it’s not actually a judgment of how well-read you are.  Nevertheless, my Facebook friends had some interesting and useful banter about what made the list and important books and authors that didn’t make the list.

Here’s my own list of 100 important books that didn’t make the Facebook/BBC list, in no particular order of preference.  It’s a highly idiosyncratic and in no way judgmental list, incredibly biased towards stuff I’ve read and stuff I like, or found particularly formative.  I haven’t read all of these; a few are things I think I should have read and haven’t.

If you like, give it the Facebook treatment and see how you do.  (Copy and paste into a comment, star what you’ve read.)  Tell me your own–what are your most important books that haven’t made anyone’s list?

1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame–Victor Hugo
2. The Poisonwood Bible–Barbara Kingsolver
3. Caucasia–Danzy Senna
4. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl–Linda Brent
5. American Gods–Neil Gaiman
6. Like Water for Chocolate–Laura Esquivel
7. Middlesex–Jeffrey Eugenides
8. White Oleander–Janet Fitch
9. The Alchemist–Paulo Coelho
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey–Arthur C. Clarke
11. Fahrenheit 451–Ray Bradbury
12. Pillars of the Earth–Ken Follett
13. Girl, Interrupted–Susanna Kaysen
14. Interpreter of Maladies–Jhumpa Lahiri
15. The Lacuna–Barbara Kingsolver
16. The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)–Stieg Larsson
17. The Woman Warrior–Maxine Hong Kingston
18. Native Speaker–Chang-rae Lee
19. Wicked–Gregory Maguire
20. Beloved–Toni Morrison
21. A Canticle for Leibowitz–Walter M. Miller
22. No-No Boy–John Okada
23. Fight Club–Chuck Palahniuk
24. The Stolen Child–Keith Donohue
25. The Red Tent–Anita Diamant
26. God’s Mountain–Erri De Luca
27. House of Leaves–Mark Z. Danielewski
28. The Prince of Tides–Pat Conroy
29. The Mists of Avalon–Marion Zimmer Bradley
30. The Once and Future King–T.H. White
31. Atlas Shrugged–Ayn Rand
32. The Joy Luck Club–Amy Tan
33. Frankenstein–Mary Shelley
34. A Soldier of the Great War–Mark Helprin
35. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–John Berendt
36. Slaughterhouse 5–Kurt Vonnegut
37. The Demon-Haunted World–Carl Sagan
38. On the Origin of Species–Charles Darwin (If I had to pick ONE book that should be required reading in school, at the very least for anyone who ever takes a science class, this would be it.  Not only is it the basis of the practice of modern biology, it’s not that hard to read, fun, clever, and doesn’t remotely say what over half of Americans think it does.)
39. Till We Have Faces–C.S. Lewis
40. The Neverending Story–Michael Ende
41. Into the Wild–John Krakauer
42. The Last Temptation of Christ–Nikos Kazantzakis
43. A Little Princess–Frances Hodgson Burnett
44. The Giver–Lois Lowry
45. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister–Gregory Maguire
46. Possum Living–Dolly Freed
47. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal–Christopher Moore
48. Breakfast at Tiffany’s–Truman Capote
49. The Time Quartet (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters)–Madeleine L’Engle
50. Maus–Art Spiegelman
51. Reviving Ophelia–Mary Pipher
52. Cat’s Cradle–Kurt Vonnegut
53. Pudd’nhead Wilson–Mark Twain
54. A Gesture Life–Chang-rae Lee
55. Ishmael–Daniel Quinn
56. Something Wicked This Way Comes–Ray Bradbury
57. A Tale of Two Cities–Charles Dickens
58. Last of the Mohicans–James Fenimore Cooper
59. Walden–Henry David Thoreau
60. The Passage–Justin Cronin
61. The Canterbury Tales–Chaucer
62. Mystic River–Dennis LeHane
63. The Earthsea Cycle (A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.)–Ursula K. LeGuin
64. Jacob Have I Loved–Katherine Paterson
65. The Silmarillion–JRR Tolkien
66. The Screwtape Letters–C.S. Lewis
67. Shoeless Joe–W.P. Kinsella
68. The Feminine Mystique–Betty Friedan
69. The Scarlet Letter–Nathaniel Hawthorne
70. Wonderboys–Michael Chabon
71. The Iliad/The Odyssey–Homer (This is how we were taught The Odyssey in high school: our 9th grade language arts class was divided up into groups of 3 or 4, and each group was assigned one section of the tale–one of the adventures of Odysseus and his crew–and had to read it and present it in book report form to the rest of the class.  So we “learned” The Odyssey, but no one actually had to read the whole thing.  It was the stupidest thing ever.  And I still haven’t gotten around to correcting the situation and just reading it.)
72. My Sister’s Keeper–Jodi Picoult
73. The Diary of Anne Frank–Anne Frank
74. The Tipping Point–Malcolm Gladwell
75. The Magicians–Lev Grossman
76. Awakenings–Oliver Sacks
77. The Faerie Queene–Edmund Spenser
78. Anthem–Ayn Rand
79. A Farewell to Arms–Ernest Hemingway
80. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest–Ken Kesey
81. Johnny Tremain–Esther Forbes
82. Matilda–Roald Dahl
83. The Outsiders–S.E. Hinton
84. Flowers for Algernon–Daniel Keyes
85. Bridge to Terebithia–Katherine Paterson
86. Neverwhere–Neil Gaiman
87. The Chocolate War–Robert Cormier
88. Only Revolutions–Mark Z. Danielewski
89. The Winter’s Tale–Mark Helprin
90. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry–Mildred Taylor
91. Angels of Destruction–Keith Donohue
92. The Laramie Project–Moises Kaufman (Yes, technically a play; give yourself credit if you’ve seen it)
93. His Master’s Voice–Stanislaw Lem
94. Franny and Zooey–JD Salinger
95. The Satanic Verses–Salman Rushdie
96. Angels in America (Also a play, well, technically two plays)–Tony Kushner
97. Griffin and Sabine–Nick Bantock
98. The Koran
99. Little House in the Big Woods–Laura Ingalls Wilder
100. Beowulf–author unknown

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5 Comments »

  1. Michal said,

    These book lists fascinate me. I wonder who creates them and why. As a relatively well read person, it is rare for me to see a list and go “Gee, I should read more of these books by dead white men.” Your list is very different (women! and non-white people! Woah.)and shows why we get along. There are several I will add to me reading pile.

    Oh, if you haven’t read any of his work, I highly recommend adding Charles de Lint to your reading pile. I think you would really enjoy his work.

    And the meme:
    *1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame–Victor Hugo
    2. The Poisonwood Bible–Barbara Kingsolver
    3. Caucasia–Danzy Senna
    4. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl–Linda Brent
    *5. American Gods–Neil Gaiman
    *6. Like Water for Chocolate–Laura Esquivel
    7. Middlesex–Jeffrey Eugenides
    8. White Oleander–Janet Fitch
    *9. The Alchemist–Paulo Coelho
    *10. 2001: A Space Odyssey–Arthur C. Clarke
    *11. Fahrenheit 451–Ray Bradbury
    *12. Pillars of the Earth–Ken Follett
    13. Girl, Interrupted–Susanna Kaysen
    14. Interpreter of Maladies–Jhumpa Lahiri
    15. The Lacuna–Barbara Kingsolver
    16. The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)–Stieg Larsson
    17. The Woman Warrior–Maxine Hong Kingston
    18. Native Speaker–Chang-rae Lee
    *19. Wicked–Gregory Maguire
    *20. Beloved–Toni Morrison
    21. A Canticle for Leibowitz–Walter M. Miller
    22. No-No Boy–John Okada
    *23. Fight Club–Chuck Palahniuk
    24. The Stolen Child–Keith Donohue
    *25. The Red Tent–Anita Diamant
    26. God’s Mountain–Erri De Luca
    27. House of Leaves–Mark Z. Danielewski
    *28. The Prince of Tides–Pat Conroy
    *29. The Mists of Avalon–Marion Zimmer Bradley
    *30. The Once and Future King–T.H. White
    *31. Atlas Shrugged–Ayn Rand
    *32. The Joy Luck Club–Amy Tan
    *33. Frankenstein–Mary Shelley
    34. A Soldier of the Great War–Mark Helprin
    *35. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–John Berendt
    36. Slaughterhouse 5–Kurt Vonnegut
    37. The Demon-Haunted World–Carl Sagan
    *38. On the Origin of Species–Charles Darwin (I’m a bit ashamed to say that haven’t read the whole thing.)
    39. Till We Have Faces–C.S. Lewis
    40. The Neverending Story–Michael Ende
    41. Into the Wild–John Krakauer
    42. The Last Temptation of Christ–Nikos Kazantzakis
    43. A Little Princess–Frances Hodgson Burnett
    44. The Giver–Lois Lowry
    45. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister–Gregory Maguire
    46. Possum Living–Dolly Freed
    47. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal–Christopher Moore
    *48. Breakfast at Tiffany’s–Truman Capote
    **49. The Time Quartet (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters)–Madeleine L’Engle – I have a signed copy of Wrinkle!!
    *50. Maus–Art Spiegelman
    51. Reviving Ophelia–Mary Pipher
    52. Cat’s Cradle–Kurt Vonnegut
    *53. Pudd’nhead Wilson–Mark Twain
    54. A Gesture Life–Chang-rae Lee
    55. Ishmael–Daniel Quinn
    *56. Something Wicked This Way Comes–Ray Bradbury
    57. A Tale of Two Cities–Charles Dickens
    58. Last of the Mohicans–James Fenimore Cooper
    *59. Walden–Henry David Thoreau
    60. The Passage–Justin Cronin
    *61. The Canterbury Tales–Chaucer
    62. Mystic River–Dennis LeHane
    63. The Earthsea Cycle (A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.)–Ursula K. LeGuin
    64. Jacob Have I Loved–Katherine Paterson
    *65. The Silmarillion–JRR Tolkien
    66. The Screwtape Letters–C.S. Lewis
    67. Shoeless Joe–W.P. Kinsella
    68. The Feminine Mystique–Betty Friedan
    *69. The Scarlet Letter–Nathaniel Hawthorne
    70. Wonderboys–Michael Chabon
    *71. The Iliad/The Odyssey–Homer
    72. My Sister’s Keeper–Jodi Picoult
    *73. The Diary of Anne Frank–Anne Frank
    74. The Tipping Point–Malcolm Gladwell
    75. The Magicians–Lev Grossman
    76. Awakenings–Oliver Sacks
    ***77. The Faerie Queene–Edmund Spenser (I loved this in college)
    78. Anthem–Ayn Rand
    *79. A Farewell to Arms–Ernest Hemingway
    *80. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest–Ken Kesey
    81. Johnny Tremain–Esther Forbes
    *82. Matilda–Roald Dahl
    83. The Outsiders–S.E. Hinton
    *84. Flowers for Algernon–Daniel Keyes
    85. Bridge to Terebithia–Katherine Paterson
    *86. Neverwhere–Neil Gaiman
    *87. The Chocolate War–Robert Cormier
    88. Only Revolutions–Mark Z. Danielewski
    89. The Winter’s Tale–Mark Helprin
    90. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry–Mildred Taylor
    91. Angels of Destruction–Keith Donohue
    *92. The Laramie Project–Moises Kaufman
    93. His Master’s Voice–Stanislaw Lem
    94. Franny and Zooey–JD Salinger
    *95. The Satanic Verses–Salman Rushdie
    *96. Angels in America –Tony Kushner
    97. Griffin and Sabine–Nick Bantock
    98. The Koran
    99. Little House in the Big Woods–Laura Ingalls Wilder
    *100. Beowulf–author unknown

    • chavisory said,

      Wow, holy extra credit for the signed copy of “Wrinkle,” and for actually getting through “Faerie Queene.” I started that one and couldn’t finish.

      I’m thinking I should give Charles de Lint another chance; I read something of his and wasn’t actually all that charmed by it. But so many people keep recommending him…maybe I just chose the wrong one to start with.

      • Michal said,

        Faerie Queen was part of an Arthurian Lit class that was totally wacky. We read classic stuff and then hit Mark Twain and watched Monty Python.

        de Lint has such a large catalogue, it can be difficult to just dive in now. I started reading his books about 25 years ago so, I am extremely familiar with most of his recurring characters. You might want to try one of his short story compilations. If you want a stand alone novel, read Jack the Giant Killer(it has a “sequel” but, whatever.)

  2. Byron said,

    I think I score 12-15 depending on if I actually read one or two. And dammit, I’m counting the Silmarillion because I’ve gotten about 1/4 of the way in four of five times before it overwhelmed me, and I’ve listened to it about half-way through in audio book format.

    I think your list is probably more “important” than the Facebook meme, which, as stated, was more about popularity (or Harry Potter wouldn’t have been included).

  3. Bria said,

    I’ve read fewer of yours than I would have guessed, but still a good number (and of course, some we’ve discussed). I’m thinking through what would be on my list…a lot of science, some fiction, some anthro…but I’ve had my headspace very much in public health lately, so that flavors what comes to mind.


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