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A 100 books never read by most. Including me. August 6, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

Following on from harpymarx’s post over the weekend, here’s a game for all the family:

“The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.”
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

Hmmmm…. and the list?

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
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

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
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis*
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
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 (I read it – I wish I hadn’t).
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 (I read this too).

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
60 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
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
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

I can’t find underline, so asterisks will have to do for those that I either loved when I read them, or still do. I like a lot of the list. The Wasp Factory and the Bible are pretty good. Swallows and Amazons, although a million miles from my experience was great when I read it. Perhaps because it was a million miles from that experience. But it’s too long ago for me to be sure how I’d respond now. There are a couple of titles I’m unsure as to whether I read them or not. I think I may have read Wuthering Heights many many years ago, but then again. Same goes with Pride and Prejudice and Little Women. Anna Karenina? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s an interesting list, the original 100 – not mine. Not least because it’s so divorced from the near contemporary. For example, where are Calvino, Eco, Allende, Pamuk or Coupland? Or even going a bit further back Greene and Solzhenitsyn? So it’s all a bit staid, perhaps. On the other hand it’s a bit worrying to hear that the average number read from the list is 6… mind you, I’m not much better, there are some serious gaps.

But it’s a weird list too. Too broad in some respects to be a canon, too narrow in others.

Then again, I’m not going to beat myself up over it all. It’s hard to believe one life can contain enough time to read/hear/see/experience all that is worth reading/hearing/seeing/experiencing so even a stab at it is better than nothing.


1. David - August 6, 2008

There are only 13 books listed I haven’t read – nice list! 😀

(Number 14 makes 98 redundant…)


2. WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2008

Very true. But – hey, I had to up my number…

Looking at those I’ve read I think that I probably read most of them before I was 25. Which is a bit disturbing as well…


3. Kevin - August 6, 2008

20, my age.

I’m not surprised that most were before your 25th birthday party, WBS. Kerouac, Salinger, Orwell, Adams, Huxley, Steinbeck and Plath: throw in some Camus, and it’s permanent members of the canon according to the bookish kids in secondary school.

No Kingsley.
No Roth.
And, apart from within the Collected Shakepeare, no poetry.
Quel dommage.

Liked by 1 person

4. harpymarx - August 6, 2008

Oh, I read the Da Vinci Code…..and kinda liked it. Tis something I am sure I shoulda not admitted to…

I think this list came from the Big Read 2003 and there’s another one doing the rounds in the blogosphere that includes Tressell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Ha! I too liked Hitch Hiker’s Guide and The Handmaid’s Tale.

I still wonder how you treat books that you have half read…does it get a half bold..??


5. Garibaldy - August 6, 2008

I was confident I’d come in around 6, but too many books forced on me at school meaning I topped 10. If I knocked out dreadful shite like Animal Farm (the Bible is a much better book both in story terms and in its politics) I’d be closer to 6. No Emile by Rousseau, or Pamela by Richardson. Most shocking – not of course that I’ve read either, but they were the two most important novels of their period.
Most scandalously, only one Roald Dahl, and not even The Witches!


6. sonofstan - August 6, 2008

There’a a book on it I’ve never heard of! what. please is the Time Traveller’s Wife?


7. crocodile - August 6, 2008

This list, I assume, was the result of a public vote. It’s a blend of childhood favourites, recent middle-brow holiday reads and classics that people feel they should have read. It’s like public votes for the top films: they always have ‘Titanic’ and ‘Citizen Kane’ in the top 10, though I’d bet 10 times more people have seen the former. Quality control applies only to oldies.
Nothing by Henry James? Doesn’t fit any of those categories. Nothing by Updike, Bellow, Roth? Ditto.


8. harpymarx - August 6, 2008

Sonofstan: Time Traveller’s Wife is about a couple called Henry and Clare where the husband time travels. First the bk and now the film which is being released towards the end of 2008.


9. yourcousin - August 6, 2008

I’ve got about 30 in of them under my belt. So, not horrible but nothing spectacular. I’m coming around to the idea that literature and especially “classic” literature is largely just one big inside joke. That way when Erica Jong writes, “Jude (not the obscure)” those of us who happened to read about an unfortunate stone mason feel all the more smug. And does getting part way through Ulysses count?


10. Phil - August 7, 2008

Everyone‘s got partway through Ulysses (apart from my wife, who claims to have read it all). I got partway through Finnegans Wake when I was in sixth form, basically as an affectation (I’ve no idea whodunit, or indeed who’s there and what they might have dun).

No James, no Lawrence, no Forster; no Pynchon, no Updike, no Auster. V. middlebrow, really. Even the Dickens aren’t the great works (with the possible exception of Great Expectations).


11. Pidge - August 7, 2008

I’ve got 26 of them read – just finished the Time Traveller’s Wife recently. I still don’t know how to use dashes properly…


12. Pidge - August 7, 2008

Actually, wait, that’s 25. I got sick of War and Peace.


13. ejh - August 7, 2008



14. ejh - August 7, 2008

No Emile by Rousseau, or Pamela by Richardson. Most shocking – not of course that I’ve read either, but they were the two most important novels of their period.

Gulliver’s Travels? Tom Jones?


15. Garibaldy - August 7, 2008

Pamela is the first novel, and credited by some (perhaps ridiculously) with allowing its elite readership to develop a new sensibility towards the lower orders. As for Emile, it has a Europe-wide audience that neither of those two had, and again both reflected and encouraged a shift in sensibility among writers and the audience. The sheer sales alone indicate its importance.


16. skidmarx - August 7, 2008

Vonda N.McIntyre wrote an article on how to write science fiction called “The Straining Your Eyes Through The Viewscreen Blues” which includes the advice not to put all your neologisms in capital letters otherwise you will look silly after a while. The Haindmaid’s Tale breaks this rule without the compensation of being really good.


17. ejh - August 7, 2008

Pamela is the first novel

No it isn’t.


18. Garibaldy - August 7, 2008

Well blame Lynn Hunt who I heard say it was 🙂


19. chekov - August 7, 2008

Where does this list come from?

The BBC big read site has a somewhat different top 100: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml

The US big read site doesn’t seem to have any top lists that I can find apart from this one for kids: http://www.teachersfirst.com/getsource.cfm?id=8498

Neither print books and I’ve never actually heard of a publisher called the “big read”. I suspect that the list has been generated by chinese whispers. In addition to overlapping of shakespeare, the CS Lewis entires at 33 and 36 overlap.

The similar, but different, BBC list was compiled by 750,000 popular votes. If this list purports to be similar, it has some very strange additions – germinal by Zola for example – a world class book for sure but not one that a whole lot of anglophones have read.

On the other hand, the BBC list also includes Ulysses, which is bizzare due to the fact that it’s a dreadfully impenetrable and confused book and very few people have read it either.

“Nothing by Henry James? Doesn’t fit any of those categories. Nothing by Updike, Bellow, Roth? “

That’s because very few people enjoy their books. I assume that the list was British in origin and relatively few people would have read their books on this side of the Atlantic. Also, those who do read them over here do not have an emotional attachment to their place in the ‘great American novellist’ pantheon, so are more easily able to spot the fact that they are rubbish. I still kick myself for having put enough faith in literary canons to have ploughed through their work looking for something to like.


20. Garibaldy - August 7, 2008

Perhaps on reflection i misremembered what she said.


21. Hugh Green - August 7, 2008

Ah yes, I fondly remember the afternoon I spent reading the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

By the curious mix of weighty classics -the sort of thing people aspire to read on their holidays but never do- and popular bestsellers, do I get the feeling that the list originates from the hired help of some bookseller chain, perhaps one with a presence in airports?


22. ejh - August 7, 2008

Tell you what Hugh, if that list was representative of airport bookstalls I’d have a lot more time for them than I actually do.


23. Claire - August 7, 2008

I just reread ‘Swallows and Amazons’ during a trip to the Lake District. It’s still good!


24. Starkadder - August 7, 2008

Someone’s not a Frank Herbert fan? I must have read
“Dune” at least three times now, and am currently working
my way through his “The Green Brain”.

I like a lot of writers that are good but never end up
on these lists, like Talbot Mundy, Lord Dunsany
and Richard Condon.


25. WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2008

Didn’t much like Dune. Mind you I read it 25 years ago or so and my opinion (FWIW !) does change over time. The Green Brain was more to my liking at the time. Not sure though in retrospect that that was a good assessment.


26. Starkadder - August 8, 2008

You could try the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series of “Dune”-it’s
pretty interesting. Ian McNiece and Saskia Reeves are very
good in it, although William Hurt is on snooze mode.

The sequel Children of Dune, has Steven Berkoff,
Alice Krige and a “before-he-was-famous” James
McAvoy, and is even better-one of the best bit of
small-screen science-fiction ever made,IMO.

The David Lynch film,er…..it’s visually interesting, and
some of the performances are good,like
Francesca Annis*,but it’s badly scripted,and ineptly
edited.if you don’t know the novel you probably
won’t enjoy it.

*In every adaption of Dune, the actress playing
Lady Jessica (Annis,Reeves,Krige) is always excellent.


27. Book Learnin’ and Other Sorry Lubbery « The Irish Pirate Review - August 8, 2008

[…] outbreak of landlubbery and Deppian falsity at Shiver me Cedars takes the form of a banal shopping list of buiks whose names are horrid to soil-fearing buccaneers on every wave. Frantic questions reverberate […]


28. WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2008

Must check that out Starkadder. I saw the ads at the time the TV series was out. Certainly it seemed better than the movie, which sort of had its pleasures but was too broad…


29. WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2008

Deppian falsity. Genius.


30. ejh - August 8, 2008

Larnin’, surely?


31. skidmarx - August 8, 2008

To wind back to a previous discussion for a moment:

“The terrible snow-storms which sweep over the northern portion of Eurasia in the later part of the winter” – from Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. So the Russian winter “sweeps” forward, I don’t know what that is in metres per second.


32. WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2008



33. Claire O'Brien - August 9, 2008

40 and quite a number of halves, but many by dint of having an English degree. For that reason, there’s very little there that I’ve read since leaving college and quite a few that I read before I turned twelve.

It’s a very conservative list with a few token modern (as in last ten years) novels and while it’s good to see page turners like Zafon and Sebold, it’s a disappointment not to see Paul Auster, Roth and any Irish writer other than Bram Stoker and Joyce.

And where’s Agatha Christie?

It strikes me that a significant number of them are chick-lit of varying standards – from Jane Austen to Anne of Green Gables to Brigid Jones Diary, which also might explain why I’ve read a few more than most. I’m not sure where Bill Bryson fits in a list made up almost exclusively of novels.

Moll Flanders, by the way, is credited with being the first novel.


34. WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2008

That’s central Claire, your point about little read on the list since leaving college. That’s my sense of it too.


35. crocodile - August 9, 2008

Encumbered, like Claire, with an English degree , I’ve been immunised against the Richard’n’Judy likes of The Time Traveller’s Wife. I’ve only read the hard ones, but the easy ones don’t appeal.


36. Jane Warren - November 25, 2010

Just come across this via Facebook (yet another list). I checked the original BBC list and had read 71, and this list and had read 69 – but this list has more favourites on it! And I too read the Da Vinci Code and seriously wish I hadn’t.


WorldbyStorm - November 25, 2010

That’s hours of our lives we’ll never get back.


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