Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Check, check... is this thing on?

A bit ago, Rob blogged this list of 100 books. It's popping up here and there. Like so much else on the web, its origins are murky. But, being the bibliophile and unrepentant English Major that I am, I had to comment in some way.

There are a number of problems with this list. For one, I can't see any discernable order to the thing. Pride and Prejudice at #1? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory above Les Miserables? Then there're the couple of "repeats" - listing a group of books and then listing a single work out of that group. Classic interweb sloppiness.

Still, I'm starting with the list as I found it on Rob's site and elsewhere.

Books I've read are in bold; books I intend to read are in italics; books which I intend to read and own, but haven't got to yet, are in blue italics. (There are an alarming number of that last class, owing to the years of my inveterate used book sale attendance.) I'll toss in a rating of affection, too, I guess; that's my fondness for the book, which may not always correspond with my opinion of its importance.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen ***
2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien *****
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte ****
4 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling *** to ***** depending on the book
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee ****
6 The Bible (I've read bits, but not enough to bold it. I'll probably never read the whole thing, though. One can only bear so many begats.)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (I may have read this in school. I know an awful lot about it. But I cannot recall actually having read it.)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
(I'm saying recorded books count, here and elsewhere, so long as the recordings are unabridged.)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
(A gaping lacuna in my reading; I think there may even be an old book-sale copy somewhere around my house, waiting...)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
(A cop-out, indeed. Why not The Complete Works of Jane Austen? With the exception of Northanger Abby, I think they're all here.I've read more than the typical selection of the plays, some many times, and a good number of the sonnets, but I am not trudging through all the histories just for the sake of "completeness." I'm bolding it anyway.)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien *****

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger ****

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (I have my father's copy, but doubt I'll ever actually read it.)
22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
*****("and so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past")
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker'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 (I've never understood the appeal. I love the doggerel verse, but the books themselves...)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
(I don't know how I never read this when I was a kid. Maybe I was put off by a frog on the cover.)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ***

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
(And here we have the first of the odd "repeats." I'm bolding it as well, though, as it's one of the Narnia books I'm certain I've read more than once.)
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 - A.A. Milne ***

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
(WTF?!? What is this doing here? It's bolded, though, because I listened to it unabridged.)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(I ought to give Garcia Marquez another shot. I've begun this book at least twice, set it aside "until I was more in that mode," and let it lie. I think I still have my copy somewhere...)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
(This and Cider House Rules are the two important Irvings I've yet to read; I own copies of both.)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (Whoa. Collins is tough going. I tried The Moonstone years ago, without success. He's important from an historical perspective; as to the innate value of his individual novels... I cannot say.)
46 Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
(There's a college literature professor out there who thinks I read this, and I very well may have - much of that course is a blur...)
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
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck ****

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
****(For a while this was my give-it-to-friends book. Rob, to whom I think I gave it, speaks truely: "Seriously. Fucking. Good.")
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Someone at work enthused about this recently...)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (Why this and not Man in the Iron Mask? Who knows. Musketeers come later, I see.)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
(I've had the same copy since high school. Someday...)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
(Rough seas reading Melville, but this is the one to sail. I used to have a list somewhere of the chapters that are just whaling practice in detail but don't advance the plot and are thus safe to skim/skip.)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
*** (Either this or Christmas Carol was the first Dickens I read, when I was a kid. At the time, I saw it as a cool adventure story for Oliver, and I wanted very much to be the Artful Dodger.)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
(Definitely worth it if you've any affection for the whole muddled Dracula mythos. Surprisingly sophisticated, and very much a 19th Century novel. There's a good unabridged recording, with different readers for the different narrators.)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
(I read it once, with help from a seminar/support group. The second time through hasn't gone as well...)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - A.S. 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 – E.B. White *****

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(Does this mean everything? I haven’t read everything…)
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
(I’ve been camping under that banner for several years now, but still haven’t read the book. At least I own a copy now…)
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute (no, but I read On the Beach...)
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
***** (The Narnia Abberation repeats itself... But at least it let me express affection for this play in particular.)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Snooping around after the source of that list, I came upon a few other similar lists on the web. There were some notable things absent from that big list but included on others:

My Ántonia - Willa Cather ***
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
*** (If ‘t were me, I’d say Something Wicked This Way Comes, but taking the long view it should be this. Add The Martian Chronicles, too; it can slide right in where we take out The Five People You Meet In Heaven.)
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
*** (Pick another if you like – House of Mirth, maybe? Just not Ethan Frome.)
The Call of the Wild - Jack London
(Or perhaps White Fang? London ought to be in there somewhere.)
The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
**** (For a while, this was my give-it-to-friends book. The kind of novel you inhabit.)
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson (Toss in Jekyll & Hyde, too, if there’s room.)
The Stand - Stephen King
(Not my favorite of the King canon, but I guess it’s either this or The Shining. Any other King candidates?)
The Magus - John Fowles
*** (I suppose it’s a little lame to point to a book that’s forty years old as a “modern novel,” but Fowles’ novel is so exemplary of what the form began to do in the latter half of the century. An ambitious work which almost consistently succeeds.)
Gormenghast - Mervyn Peake
(I’ve known little about this – I’m assuming the list meant the entire trilogy – but have been curious for years. I finally found all three books at a used book store a year or so ago, only to find out shortly after that they’re back in print. Heaven alone knows when I’ll get ‘round to them.)

My own list addition:
The Princess Bride - William Goldman ***** (If I need to justify it, I’ll point to the wonderful narrator games Goldman plays. The funniest, most heartwarming meta-text you’ll ever read.)


Blogger Rob S. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Rob S. said...

I'm always astounded that there are books on this earth that I've read that you haven't...especially ones as good as Catch-22. You should really do something about that gaping lacuna.

(And yep, you gave me The Secret History. Thanks again.)

7:02 PM  
Blogger Eric Aitala said...

I think we (Class of '84) read Orwell's 1984 in High School...


12:15 AM  
Blogger Slipp said...

Try Salem's Lot it's my favorite of Stephen King's

1:48 AM  
Blogger  Jolie said...

Obviously a female perspective here, but Memoir of a Geisha and The Secret Garden are two of my favorites.

And, yes, I know 1984 was required reading for the class of '84. Been there, read that.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Sharon GR said...

I've picked up 100 Years of Solitude, and did the same thing you did- set it aside. I got through at least 75 years first and decided I just didn't care. Love in the Time of Cholera is much better, as is his short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.

3:24 PM  

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