You've all seen this… the BBC claims people have only read 6 on average. I’ve read a fair few more, in part because maybe 8 years ago I copied off a librarian list of top recommended reads. My plan is not just to tell you what I’ve read, but to advise you one whether YOU ought to or not.
I've read the ones in bold. I've read partial stuff in italicized stuff.
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen I know she is a classic and all, but this isn’t my type of thing… it’s a pastoral romance and well done for what it is. What it ISN’T is exciting. To me anyway.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte Worse than pastoral romance is pining for an arsehole. This isn’t my thing EITHER.
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling BEST. BOOKS. EVER.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee This is a really good one, and not too dense. I’d recommend it, but I think everyone has to read it in high school.
6 The Bible Worth looking into. Some of it is interesting. Some of it is even important. Mostly though, I think it is important to know where some portion of our culture is basing its beliefs. I think it would ALSO be good to read the Q’uran.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte This is my preferred Bronte. Like Jane Eyre, we have a piner, but Heathcliff is the original bad boy. At least he is worth pining for.
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell I graduated high school in 1984, so I think we all read this. This is one of those ‘you should read’ but more so you’ll sort of get the references than because it is so well done. It is sociologically important, but as a literary work I rank it about with Farenheit 452 (translation—mediocre).
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens Dickens has the odd distinction of having bothed loved and hated books in my book. This one falls solidly in the middle. It’s okay.
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott I loved this one, though I was fairly young when I read it.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller—this is on my ‘intend to read’ list.
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare I prefer Shakespeare seen to read, but some of the stories are great.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier This is that same plot as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and I stand by only Wuthering Heights pulling it off.
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien I liked this one… the style isn’t so different from LotR, but it is a little more playful or something.
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger—Also on my intend to read list.
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (movie yes… suspect, knowing me, it is the kind of story I like watching better than reading because of the central role of romance.)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald I found this dull. I don’t know if it is my age (I was 15) or my aversion and annoyance with pretty people or some combo.
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens--I own this, but it is far down on my list.
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams—I am ashamed I haven’t read this.
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky I couldn’t find ANYTHING in the MC about which to be sympathetic and there wasn’t adequate redemption or understanding to make it work. I HAVE read a Dostoyevsky I liked—The Brothers Karamazov is great. Read that instead.
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck—I’ve read two Steinbeck’s, and I THINK this is the second (Cannery Row is the other) and I think everyone should read one or two, but I’ve heard East of Eden is the best.
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll I call this a partial, as I’ve read a version, but it isn’t the full, original.
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame Same story as Alice.
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy I started this a long time ago, but it is a beautiful antique book, so I can’t read it where I normally read (bath or walking), so since I started writing, I haven’t really picked it up again.
33 Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis See how I did that? Daughter and I read the first 5, then she was done and I wasn’t compelled to finish… so we read most but not all.
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen This was me giving Austen another chance and confirming she just isn’t really my thing.
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis It’s a good book for reading to your elementary student. I’m not sure it merits picking up alone.
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini This is a beautifully told horrible story... meaning painful and hard to hear, but told in a way you need to read it anyway.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden I liked this as a cultural immersion and a book, but am not quite sure it is literature... maybe it is... it's worth reading... I'm not sure what's a little off.
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez Read Marquez review below.
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving—In intend to read this.
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery—It's possible... probable... I started this, but I was too old for the content by that time (seems I was 15 going on 25)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood This book is NOT enjoyable, but it IS important. I'm glad I read it.
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan all I remember of this is that I was mostly bored and then really dissatisfied with the ending. I have NO OTHER recollection of the experience.
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel This was cute until it was just too far out there. Boat with a tiger, fine. Man eating island? I think not.
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth started this and liked it but it's LONG (1500 pages) and it was a libarary book—I need to try again when I don't have a ton of conflicts.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens This was my first Dickens and very difficult to read, but it is a good plot, and the best open and close of any book EVER.
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov I adore this book because the narrator is so grotesque, yet somehow Nabokov pulls us into his head so we see BOTH that he's fairly insane (clinically disturbed) AND that he has no perception of that AT ALL. He thinks his urges are the girls' fault—always, and totally doesn't get it. It's not that he's stupid, and on some level he gets it isn't normal... I have no CLUE how an author pulls a reader into this kind of delusion (a straight mother of a teen, no less) but the writing is so sublime that he manages. Writing an unsympathetic but compelling hero is acknowledged in writing circles as a great skill—this is the strongest case of this I've ever seen.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold Another... you should read it, even though it isn't much fun, book.
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas This is EXQUISITE plotting.
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
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens This poor book was forced on me as a freshman in high school and I just wasn't up for the language. I hated it, but I don't think I would, had I encountered it as an adult. And Uriah Heep still gives me the willies (and not the good kind)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker I read this on a kick of old horror. It 'reads old'--it has some flawa in common with some of HP Lovecraft's stories... it has some of the same brilliant chills though, too. I think the turn of the century just wasn't a time famous for narrative style, but the tale is good. I think it's a must for anyone who likes horror—know your roots, and for anyone who thinks they like vampire stories...
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett—I should have read this. I know that. I may, yet.
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
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
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert—part of me thinks I read this, but if I remember NOTHING, that doesn't bode well.
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White GREAT kid's story. Everyone should read this as an early chapter book to their kids.
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 I loved this as a kid, but tried to read it to the son and he bailed... apparently it was good compared to what I was reading, but doesn't stand up to the modern options.
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare—I think I read this, but get it confused with MacBeth... I KNOW I read MacBeth (my high school Shakespeare teacher had a life goal of playing one of the witches in MacBeth)... and I know I read 'As you Like it' in that class... plus two more... (other years I read Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar, but there were 4 in this one semester class)--was Hamlet one? Seems it must have been...
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
So there you have it... the list... I've read 38 completely, plus three I think I have but can't quite remember, plus six in part... I've been telling people 42... there was an earlier iteration and I remember that was my score, but I am not remembering what was THERE, that isn't HERE. (I know Where the Red Fern Grows was)
I happen to think this list needs updating. My facebook friends agree, which makes it fact...
If I were to add to it, given modern books of import, I might add the following:
The Giver (Lois Lowry)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Drifters by James Michener (I actually prefer this to Kerouac's 'On the Road' as a Vietnam era tale... not that I've read On the Road, but I HAVE read Kerouac, and he never really gets a point across. Michener does)
The Shining by Stephen King—like it or not, King has a place in literary history and I think this is a nice, well-done, representative one.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I'd take off the couple duplicates (no need for Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe when the set is there. Same with Hamlet). I think Marques is the same from book to book, so I'd only include one. I'd probably include fewer from Austen... in fact honestly... I think there are several authors I'd include with a note of not CARING which... 'two books from Austen' seems a perfectly reasonable marker, no matter what they are.
I'm not sure what else... given time, I'm sure there would be many more.
What would you add to books everyone should read? What SPECIFICALLY would you remove?
Reader Recommended Adds
Uncle Tom's Cabin
A River Runs Through It,
The Bell Jar,
the Twilight Series
Huckleberry Finn (okay me, but in comments...)
The Chocolate War