I am always looking for new book lists, but I often have trouble finding ones that are both a) good and b) not stuff I’ve already read.
Well I’ve found one that looks promising, largely because it is so huge.
Check it out – 1001 books you must read before you die. It has a bunch of contemporary authors such as Haruki Murakami, Zadie Smith, Don Delilo, Philip Roth, and many others with whom I am not familiar (but will soon be, I hope!) If you chance to look at this list, PLEASE suggest ones to start with; I love recommendations.
While providing new and exciting reading suggestions, these kind of lists unfortunately activate a weird tic of mine which is somewhat unhealthy – ambition. When I see a list like this, this is how the conversation with my inner crazy goes:
Inner crazy: You haven’t read enough of these. You should get crackin’
Self: Chill out, inner crazy. I’m just looking for a book for this plane ride. You don’t need to get all stage mom on me.
Inner crazy: Look! Look! You haven’t read 700 of these books. I bet smart people have read them. I bet your friends have read them. People who aren’t lazy have read them.
Self: Well that’s a bit dramatic, but I do see a potential for self-improvement and perhaps enjoyment were I to read them all . . .
Inner crazy: If you don’t read all of these, no one will love you. Also, reading 700 books really isn’t that hard. It just takes a little scheduling. If you read 10 minutes every morning and 2 hours during the rest of the day . . . or 30 minutes at breakfast and 30 minutes at lunch . . .
Self: Well, I guess that sounds reasonable.
Remember the BBC 100 books challenge that was circulating on the interwebs a while back? Well, it turns out it was bogus, but I happily and hastily went through it and checked off what I had read so that I could compare with a friend and silently commit to reading those which I hadn’t read. (I did pretty well, probably because I’m awesome. Also, I didn’t count the DaVinci Code as one i had to read.)
By the way, you can read about that bogus BBC challenge here, if you are so inclined. And, to satiate your curiosity, I’ll paste the complete list, salvaged from a Facebook message sent to me last fall, at the end of this post.
Anyway back to my weirdness, my tic creates a need to have a goal to read all of something, so Iists like these really serve as a good catalyst for my crazy. I know its weird and that reading shouldn’t be about ambition but that’s just how I do things sometimes. And aside from creating anxiety and a nagging and irrational sense of failure, it works for me. It probably all stems from elementary school when they made us read “50 favorites” and check them off on some master list before we graduated 5th grade . . .
An extreme example of this crazy is when I used to take piano lessons and my teacher would want me to only learn one movement of a sonata. JUST ONE? Real pianists don’t just learn one movement, I’d say indignantly, knowing full well that I was not a real pianist but finding that utterly beside the point. Realistic time management was also utterly beside the point. Anyway, it would drive me wild.
A sonata is a whole piece of music and the movements are like as to chapters in books. Would you just want to read a chapter of something really good? Would you feel like your task as an artist was complete if you had only explored half of what another artist was trying to say? It always bothered me a lot. (An aside: why aren’t there more pictures of pianists banging their heads against the piano in frustration? I know I did it . . . seems curious to me).
Hence, I am often over-ambitious and will feel like I’m failing at something prematurely.
So maybe it isn’t healthy that I’ve found a 1001 count book list, but the list certainly has some suggestions that I will explore, and I will try not to get too caught up in the challenge of reading them all before I die . . .
From the fake BBC (I have crossed out my reads and starred my mostly or partially read):
Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte*
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman*
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens 11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy*
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller*
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare* (Ed note: WTF?)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier *
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
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
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
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen (can’t remember . . .they tend to blend together)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini 38 Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
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 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
0 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 (Does audiobook count?)
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
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens 72 Dracula – Bram Stoker 73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
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 Albom
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
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole*** (have read halfway thru twice, never finished)
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Conclusion: This BBC list is somewhat silly but has some good suggestions along the way.