03 December 2007

Books to read before you die

British librarians have compiled as list of 30 books to read before you die. I find I have read 19 of them, but I don't agree with some of their choices.
according to Britain's librarians, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird is the book that everyone should read.
The Pulitzer prize-winning classic has topped a World Book Day poll conducted by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), in which librarians around the country were asked the question, "Which book should every adult read before they die?"
To Kill a Mocking Bird heads an odd triumvirate at the top of the librarians' list: it is followed by the Bible and, in third place, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quite on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

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The ones I've read are:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

Started but did not finish:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

Haven't read:

All Quite [sic] on the Western Front by E M Remarque
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I also disagree with some of the librarians' choices - here's a quick off-the top of my head fiction list, without thinking about all the books I've read:

The place of the lion Williams, Charles.
The weirdstone of Brisingamen Garner, Alan.
The greater trumps Williams, Charles.
The moon of Gomrath Garner, Alan.
Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J.R.R.
War in heaven Williams, Charles.
The Dharma bums Kerouac, Jack.
The time traveler's wife Niffenegger, Audrey.
Asta's book Vine, Barbara.
Gulliver's travels Swift, Jonathan.
The hobbit Tolkien, J.R.R.
Piece of my heart Robinson, Peter.
Cat's cradle Vonnegut, Kurt.
Corn dolls Lennon, Patrick.
Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone Rowling, J.K.
Descent into Hell Williams, Charles.
The Eyre affair fforde, Jasper.
The echo Walters, Minette.
Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets Rowling, J.K.
Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban Rowling, J.K.
Harry Potter and the half-blood prince Rowling, J.K.
All Hallows' Eve Williams, Charles.
Northanger Abbey Austen, Jane.
A high wind in Jamaica Hughes, Richard.
The nine tailors Sayers, Dorothy L.
Brideshead revisited Waugh, Evelyn.
Heartsease Dickinson, Peter.
Lost in a good book fforde, Jasper.
The talisman King, Stephen & Straub, Peter.

Those are just books I like, and not necessarily ones I think everyone should read before they die (the Harry Piotter ones, for example), and there are others I like that are not on the list.

Among children's books, for example, I think Alan Garner is far, far better than His dark materials, and would add his Elidor to the list as well.

The master and Margarita, The poisonwood Bible, and The curious incident of the dog in the night time are ones I've read and enjoyed, but I wouldn't say everyone should read them before they die.

I'd put the Alice books by Lewis Carroll above The master and Margarita. I'd certainly recommend that missiologists should read The poisonwood Bible, but there are other much better books for general readers.

Hat-tip to Iambic Admonit for the link. And you will find some more suggestions there, including another list, of which I've read 29.

14 comments:

Patrick Lennon said...

I'm the author of Corn Dolls, and I'm glad Steve liked the book enough to include it here.
If anyone wants a few more recommendations...
'The Outsider' by Albert Camus (one of the greatest novels of the 20th century)
'Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow' by Peter Hoeg
'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco
'Mystic River' by Dennis Lehane
All 4 of the 'Rabbit' books by John Updike
Wilfred Owen's collected poems (British First World War poet)
Those are definitely 'before you die' material in my view.

Steve Hayes said...

Patrick,

Yes, I agree about The outsider. I talked about the list to my son, who works in a book shop, and he said many of the ones in the list were Book Club books, not great literature.

Omitting Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books while including His dark materials makes one wonder if librarians read the books they recommend.

Patrick Lennon said...

PS
I forgot to add 'Brighton Rock' by Graham Greene and 'The Drowned World' by JG Ballard.
Best wishes from misty England.

Yvonne said...

Hi Steve

Here's my list of favourite books.

I enjoyed The Master and Margarita the first time I read it, but when I tried it again recently, I couldn't get into it.

I don't know why but I intensely dislike Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books.

Anonymous said...

I have read some of your utterings and have found i have lost the will to read.

Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

read Clockwork Orange!!! my favourite book ever!

Anonymous said...

I do agree with a lot of these, having read them (and loved some of them) myself.
A very good and individual read is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which offers an amazing insight into the mind of a child with Asperger's.

Suganya said...

I have read only very few books in the list..

Can anyone give a Top 5 list of books to be read? Let it be from ur perspective.

Steve Hayes said...

I'm now reading "One hundred years of solitude", which was on someone's list.

Amy said...

The Dharma bums is actually a continuation of Jack's autobiography, On the Road. You listed it as fiction, but it's not. :-) Just thought I'd make mention of that.

Steve Hayes said...

Amy,

I would say The Dharma bums is semi-autobiographical, or a biographical novel. Yes, many of the characters have been identified, and pop up in Kerouac's other books, but it's also been fictionalised. Check Carolyn Cassady's Off the road for another perspective.

Anila said...

I dont know if 'The Godfather' by Mario Puzo was mentioned earlier or not... cuz if it isn't, then it shud be... This book changed readers outlook of a gangster from a stereotyped villian to that of a human with emotions like any of us... i like this book a lot...

Anonymous said...

I think H.P Lovecraft books should be included.

niz said...
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