Friday, November 7, 2014

The Book Lover's Den #11: How well-read are you?

Welcome to my Friday feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

I was doing some Internet browsing the other day, and came across the following list, posted on the blog Everything Distils Into Reading, whose creator, Gautami Tripathy, got the original list (interestingly, it differs somewhat from the one below) from the BBC website. This original list was generated from people's opinions of the best-loved novel, and was compiled in 2003. It's titled The Big Read.

I have to point out one small detail, however.  There are really more than 100 books on this list.  For example, the Harry Potter series is listed as if it consisted of only one book, when everyone knows that each of the seven books of the series was published separately.  The Lord of the Rings, although one book, was first published in three separate volumes -- The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.  This has become a publishing tradition, since the entire book is a pretty unwieldy thing to handle.  Therefore, it's technically considered a trilogy.  The Chronicles of Narnia, is also considered as seven separate books, although it has been published as one volume containing all of the seven books, as well.  Interestingly, this list mentions the entire collection as one book, as well as one of the seven, separately.  It's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardbrobe, which is the first book in the Chronicles.  Another example is The Complete Works of Shakespeare, also listed as one book (I have seen it in bookstores), while one of The Bard's plays, Hamlet, is listed separately, too.   Last but definitely not least, the book listed as Inferno is one of three making up Dante's Divine Comedy, which I've seen sold both as one book and three separate ones, although it is considered one book.

So where does that leave the reader who, like me, has perused at least one book which is part of a series of books?  I do think each of those books should be counted.  That's only logical.   Okay, then....I can say I've read 32 books from the list below in their entirety, since I'm including the three in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the seven in the Harry Potter series.  I haven't read any of the Narnia books, so that's not a problem. 

There!  Now that's settled!  Also, there are five books on the list that I started and never finished.  A few, I'm embarrassed to admit, I have never heard of before.  There are a couple of others, like Lolita and Dracula, that I have absolutely no interest in reading, and I am not at all ashamed to say so!

I have another observation regarding this list. There seem to be some very important books and authors missing from it, while other, more recent ones, have been included. Where, for instance, are the works of Ernest Hemingway? Why are Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf missing? And what about Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, and Hermann Hesse? I am also sad to see the total lack of great science fiction writers -- such as the giants Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. Orson Scott Card and Michael Moorcock should also have been included, as well as fantasy writers Peter S. Beagle and Mervyn Peake. 

Obviously, some foreign-language authors are listed, but so many others are not. I've already mentioned Proust, Hesse, and Mann. But I'm puzzled that Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a writer of very recent fame, is included, while Miguel de Cervantes, who penned the classic, Don Quixote, is not. I would have also liked to see Isabel Allende, world-renowned author of The House of the Spirits, included in this list.

So, unfortunately, this list is far from perfect, in my honest opinion, even though it was compiled by the BBC. True, they did so based on submissions from their viewers, but still, I do think some very important works should have been included.

Well, here's the list, with thanks to Gautami and the BBC! 

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

• Copy this list so you can share it with your readers, if you have a blog.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety. (Since I always use bold fonts, I'm going to use a bright green color, instead.)
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt from.

So here's my list:

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) - George Orwell
His Dark Materials - Phillp Pullman
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott 
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger 
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 

The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Emma -Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis 
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving 
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – A.S. Byatt

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Ian Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Have you read any of these books?
What  books and authors would
you like to see included in this 
list, as well as the one
posted on the BBC website?
My inquiring mind would 
love to know!


  1. I love these lists as I find them to be such fun perusing and counting.

    One can always find things that one disagrees with. Ant list this small (yes, I meant to say small :) ) will have more omission then the size of the list itself.

    There are usually also a few books that we can question if they should be included or not.

    Thus while I enjoy these I never really take them one hundred percent seriously.

    There are two lists that I really like. The fist is Clifton Fadiman's Lifetime Reading plan. This list is actually much better if one include's his "Going Further" List. I believe that part is only included in the book and it is not included on the many webpages that cover this list.

    The other list that I love is Harold Bloom's Western Cannon. It is enormous. Ironically, while it gets attacked for its lack of diversity, it is actually one of the most diverse lists around.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      There are indeed pros and cons associated with these lists. I think they're all subjective, anyway. The one above came from BBC viewers, so it's definitely subjective.

      Even critics' lists can be subjective, although the two you mention would certainly carry more "clout", since, after all, Fadiman and Bloom are very well-known in the book world. I'm going to check out both of them! It seems that the Fadiman list is part of a book. Well, on to Goodreads and Amazon then!

      There's a group on Goodreads that deals with The Western Canon. I guess that means they're going with Bloom's list. Sadly, I don't participate in this group much at all....I just don't have the time.

      Thanks so much for the great comment!! : )


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