Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let's make our OWN list of the top stories of all time!

So, there is a note travelling through Facebook claiming that the BBC believes that the average person will only have read 6 books off a list of 100 very important books. Most of my friends and I scored at least 15, so I guess we’re doubly as well-read as the BBC claims we should be.

However, I have to say, I was very confused by some of the books on the list. Now, I am not doubting the merit of any of the books, particularly given that most of those that I raised an eyebrow to were among the nearly 70 I hadn’t read, but still…. I am uncomfortable with Bridget Jones’ Diary following the Color Purple.

Thus, since you all know how I love to solicit feedback and talk about the great books, I want to collaborate with you all on our own list of the 100 most important or relevant or exciting books/short stories/plays of all time.

Now, since this is my blog, I am going to be a tyrant and contribute heavily to the start of this endeavor—but please add as you see fit! Here we go, in no particular order. I am trying to restrict it to one book per author for the sake of fairness. Three or four millennia is a lot of fodder for picking a list!

  1. King Lear—William Shakespeare
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany—John Irving
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee
  4. The Dead—James Joyce
  5. Native Son—Richard Wright
  6. Ender’s Game—Orson Scott Card
  7. The Hobbit—JRR Tolkein
  8. Dune- Frank Herbert
  9. Roots—Alex Haley
  10. 1984- George Orwell
  11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame—Victor Hugo
  12. Indian Killer—Sherman Alexie
  13. The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood
  14. It- Stephen King
  15. The Turn of the Screw—Henry James
  16. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  17. The Once and Future King—TH White
  18. Emma—Jane Austen
  19. Little Women—Louisa May Alcott
  20. All the Kings Men—Robert Penn Warren
  21. Cry the Beloved Country—Alan Patton
  22. Love in the Time of Cholera—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  23. The Odyssey—Homer
  24. Catcher in the Rye—JD Salinger
  25. The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald
  26. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—CS Lewis
  27. The Lovely Bones—Alice Seabold
  28. The Glass Castle—Jeanette Walls
  29. Lord of the Flies—William Golding
  30. On the Road—Jack Kerouac
  31. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest—Ken Kesey
  32. The Aeneid—Virgil
  33. Beowulf
  34. Dracula—Bram Stoker
  35. The Color Purple—Alice Walker
  36. Beloved—Toni Morrison
  37. Ceremony—Leslie Marmon Silko
  38. Of Mice and Men—John Steinback
  39. Fahrenheit 451—Ray Bradbury
  40. Things Fall Apart-- Chinua Achebe

So what else shall I add?

Think about it, and think about trying the lamb, eggplant skins at Joe Squared this week. That place is truly my muse!


  1. Thanks for correcting my egregious blunder. Fahrenheit 451. Doh! I'm not a numbers gal. Also, you read Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle and it made the list! Fantabulous and wholeheartedly agree. The most influential book for me has to be, hands down, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. After that, probably T.C. Boyle's The Inner Circle.

  2. Ooh! Yay!

    Okay, first off, Milan Kundera's 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being.' There are not words to express the depth of my love for Kundera and Lightness is his very best. Secondly, Homer's Iliad, which I adore -- though I'm literally the only person I know who has read it voluntarily, and therefore the only person I know who enjoyed it. Michael Ende's 'The Neverending Story', Arundhati Roy's 'The God of Small Things', David James Duncan's The Brothers K, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (another book that I loved that everyone else loathed), Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Antoine de St. Exupery's Le Petit Prince, Shakespeare's Hamlet (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE), Marguerite Duras' The Lover and, much though it may be an unpopular suggestion, Gregory Maguire's Wicked. It is my very favourite book of all time; it is genius in two ways. First of all, it's a clever reimagining of a childhood classic and secondly, it's a brilliant examination of good, evil, government and revolution and where, why and by whom the line between those things is drawn.

    If it were my list, I'd also put Leon Uris' Mila 18 on it because it not only completely changed the way I saw the world after I read it (when I was 17), it is THE reason I study revolutions. If I hadn't read that book, I would have ended up studying the effects of gold mining on some town in Montana or something.

    As for...Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favourite books of all time, Ender's Game, which I finally read last summer at the suggestion of about a dozen friends who don't know each other, blew me away, Gatsby is another one that I love that everyone else seems to hate, and there is literally only one book in the world love more than On the Road.

    The Tolstoy of choice is an interesting one, incidentally...though not an unreasonable one. I'm still working on getting through War and Peace, but I really liked Anna Karenina.

  3. Fantastic list! I would add Catch-22 to it, as well as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (which was so much better than Indian Killer, in my opinion). I love it that you included Stephen King on your list (though I'm not sure I would've gone with IT, even though it is amazing), and I'm super-excited to see Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony.

    One thing I've noticed these lists never include is poetry, which I think is unfortunate. I can think of plenty of poetry books that should be on these lists. . . .