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50 Books (well, more than 50)

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I was scanning Amazon.com this morning for book titles, considering what novel I should purchase next. I was considering the Life of Pi. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Two of my most well-read friends had varying opinions on it. One said she thought it was a very spiritual and conceptual book, the other said it was too abstract to make sense.

I want to read it, but the phrase “so many books, so little time” rings true. So I need to focus on how to make the best of my book reading time. I really want to read all the major classics, to get myself on the same page with the rest of the world, to abuse a pun. I feel that having a solid base in the book world’s greats will allow me to catch all the little literary allusions I’ve not been privy to in the past.

I looked on Google for a list of the 50 greatest books of all time. Here’s what I found:

Readers’ top 50

1. 1984 – George Orwell I think I’ve read this, I can’t remember. Probably means I should read it again.

2. Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein Do I really need to read this? I saw the movies..

3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen Read it. It was “ok”. I’m not much in to that kind of literature, although I admire Austen as a writer.

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling I guess I do want to read these, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. There are like 7 books out now. Or, I think the 7th one comes out in July.

5. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee I read it in middle school. What I remember: Boo Radley and themes of bigotry. I don’t remember what the title refers to. Perhaps that means I should read it again. *Wait. I just looked it up. It says in the book that it’s sinful to kill a mockingbird, referring to Boo, who was persecuted because of his race, but was really a harmless and kind person. I don’t need to read it again afterall!*

6. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown Hm. I don’t really know if I agree with this. I mean, I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, but I did read it’s predecessor, Angels and Demons. Although it had some really interesting themes and he made it seem amazingly realistic with all the thorough research, it’s so obviously written to be turned into a movie, it’s practically a screenplay. I get irritated when novelists write that way.

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte I’ll put this one on my list.

8. Animal Farm – George Orwell I read it in highschool. I remember it being highly political. I don’t remember much else, except the pigs were bad. I probably need to read it again.

9. Lord of the Flies – William Golding I read this in college, for fun. I remember enjoying it. Some of the themes and scenes from the book are still pretty fresh in my mind, some 7 or 8 years later. However, The Simson’s recreation of that story is much more vivid, now, in my mind. I definitely feel this book should be here on this list.

10. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte I don’t know what this is about, but please tell me it’s not about another righteous match-making socialite who has a strong will and loads of cash. Because if it is, I simply don’t care. Or, I may have it all wrong. It may be wonderful.

11. His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman Never even heard of this.

12. The Bible *sighhhhhh*…….ohhhhhhhhhhhhh kayyyy, I will. But later.

13. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams I always liked the silvery-hologram cover edition of this book. I do want to read it, although the movie was terribly geeky.

14. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller Never read it, but I use the phrase all the time, so I guess it’s about time I read it, eh?

15. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley Haven’t read it, but I heard it’s got a we-live-in-the-future-and-we-fear-Big-Brother type of element, like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. I like those kinds of stories.

16. The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank I read this in middle school. I remember two things about the book: her Jewish family hiding from the Nazis in an attic during WWII, and she starting her period and thinking it was wonderful. Couldn’t relate on either account, but I do remember liking the book. Who out there thinks this was actually a diary that was found, and not a historical novel written much, much later?

17. The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin Well, seeing as I’m such a huge fan of evolution and Darwin, I suppose it’s about time I crack this one. It’s kind of big and scary, tho.

18. The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald I read this in highschool. I remember liking it, but finding Gatsby flaky and weird. I remember something about “old money versus new money” and Daisy. Also an automobile accident outside of a party at some rich person’s house. I think the moral of they story was not to be materialistic, but perhaps that’s too simplified a summary of the book.

19. The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer We read parts in highschool. I seem to remember thinking it was mildly interesting, although not all that engaging. It’s written as a poem, right? I have a hard time with poems. But I remember some of it being about drinking and partying and riding on steeds. I’ll give it points for that.

20. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde I’ve always been a fan of Oscar, although I’ve never even read one of his books. I have read amazing things about him, but what sticks out in my mind is my friend Ryan hating this book because Oscar Wilde was going into great and boring detail about his wardrobe. But I do want to eventually read it. Frankly, I don’t even know what it’s about.

21. A Brief History of Time – Stephen W. Hawking
Danny told me that Stephen Hawking once said that time and space are the same thing. I can’t quite wrap my small mammalian brain around that one yet. I’ll put this one at the end of my list, perhaps when I’m a little older and wiser.

22. Hamlet – William Shakespeare Of course it’s an amazing play, but it’s not my favorite by Shakespeare. I always liked A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest better. But I do remember the monologue with the skull in the graveyard. Who doesn’t, tho, really? People use that all the time in TV and movies. I know for a fact there’s a Simpson’s episode that does something similar.

23. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien Another Tolkien book? Good grief.

24. The English Dictionary Hardy har har.

25. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson Out of the entire list, this is the one that caught my attention most. Possibly because the title is impossible. I was thinking to myself, how audacious to assume that you could fit everything into one book? So I went to read the reviews on Amazon. Turns out a lot of people really liked that book, it scored a 4.5 out of 5 stars over a range of 507 reviews. I read the first couple of pages, and it seemed entrancing. I think I may have to go pick it up this weekend.

26. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens This is a good book. Memorable characters, and haunting scenes. My favorite was always Miss Havisham. I loved his description of her on her chair, with the stopped clocks and the cobwebs. I bet I would even enjoy reading this again.

27. Angels and Demons – Dan Brown Him again? Really? This book? I mean, yeah, it’s a thriller with lots of cool stuff about the Illuminati, but if you ask me, the characters are totally totally two dimensional. Just flat. Robert Langdon is boring and the woman in the story is kind of boring. I mean, I’ll admit, there were parts of this novel I couldn’t put down and was racing through. But THIS novel made it to the list, but Lolita, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Moby Dick, One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Heart of Darkness did not? Shame, shame.

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck OK, this is a great book. I do like this one. Partly because some of the book takes place in Oklahoma and I was living there when I read it, so I really related. Lots of desolate vignettes of the dust bowl. I should probably read it again. But I don’t know if I ever will. Steinbeck is not easy to read, and he’s got a bunch of others I kind of want to read, ‘specially East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll I have this somewhere. I think I’ve read bits and pieces of it. I would like to read the whole thing though. It’s really the coolest story. Wasn’t Carroll chasing the dragon, like, the ENTIRE time he was writing this? Plus it inspired an awesome song by Jefferson Airplane.

30. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
OK, here is the first author that I think truly deserves to have two novels in this list. He’s a classic writer. I haven’t read this book but I really want to.

31. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon I’ve heard great things about this book. I think I would really really like it. But it’s so new! I don’t think it’s had enough of a shelf life yet. It needs to mature a little before it’s compared against the likes of Shakespeare as the top 50 books of all time, eh?

32. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley Ok, another one for my “to read” list. I *might* have read it in highschool, but have no real recollection.

33. Life of Pi – Yann Martel Hey! Here’s this book again.

34. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulkes
Never heard of it, but I like the title.

35. The Outsider – Albert Camus
I’ve never read The Outsider, but The Stranger has an opening line I’ll never forget: “Maman died today.” The Stranger was my first real exploration into existentialism. I remember reading through paragraphs of almost unpunctuated italic text: his stream of consciousness. I thought it was a neat way to write, albeit a bit confusing.

36. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden My old roommate loved this book. I haven’t read it, I think I might like to.

37. The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
Haven’t read it.

38. On the Road – Jack Kerouac Tried to read it when I was 15 or 16, couldn’t get through it. Put it down. I don’t know if I had enough life experience at that point to really appreciate it. I’ll try it again someday. I’d actually like to read a bunch of the beat writers…the only one I’ve really read is Bukowski.

39. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Have this on my shelf waiting for me to pick it up. Trouble is, I’ve had it there for about 8 years. I just need to get into it.

40. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy Haven’t read it, or anything else by Tolstoy. But I love Russian writers, as a rule, so I’m open to this book. I bet it’s big and long, with lots of description. Am I right?

41. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams One of the more memorable books (plays) I read in highschool. I was so confused by the sexual tension and plays for power, it was so strange and complex to me. It contains one of the most famous quotes of all time: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I loved the movie. Marlon Brando was never so hot.

42. The Science of the Discworld – Terry Prattchett
I’ve never read any books by Terry Prattchett, but my I think my friend Logan is really into him, which should be reason enough alone to buy and read it, because that guy’s got good taste in words.

43. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Ruined my perception of love forever, because you and I both know we’ll never have anything so powerful. Thanks Shakespeare. Thanks a lot.

44. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath I remember taking this book with me to my grandmother’s house in the country. My mother and I were spending a week there, and sometimes there wasn’t much to do, especially since I wasn’t old enough to drive then. I read this book and it kind of wigged me out. But then again, Sylvia Plath committed suicde by sticking her head in an oven, so I can understand why the book was unsettling.

45. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas Another one for my “list to read”! Do you remember the reference to Dumas in the movie The Breakfast Club?

46. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
I suppose I should read this, but I saw the movie, and it was so g*d depressing that I don’t think I could tolerate it.

47. Bleak House – Charles Dickens Wow, this book number three for Dickens. I’ve never even heard of this story. Is it good?

48. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Yes, I want to read this one. My father has spoken highly of this story.

49. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri
Read it, loved it. Hell never seemed so interesting!

50. A Child Called It – Dave Pelzer
Is this the story about the kid who was tied up and neglected in the house by his parents? Will I be better off after reading it? I’m not sure…

and here’s more, from

The Financial Mail on Sunday and Boookofcourse.com top 50 must-read student books, in association with NatWest

(there are 50, but I’ve removed ones that already appear in the above list)

5. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess Ooh! Exciting! I really want to read this. I saw the movie when I was 15 and loved it. I started reading the book in the library one night, but was so confused by his freakish vernacular that I couldn’t read anymore. I should try again.

6. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
I don’t know about this one.

9. The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger Most people read this in highschool, but I never did. I’ve REALLY been wanting to read it lately. I’ll try to get it soon.

10. Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
The movie defined everything I now know about drugs. It was terrifying. I heard he’s a great writer.

11. Jamie’s Dinners – Jamie Oliver Never heard of it. Title is sort of interesting?

20. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson This is one of my favorite movies. Johnny Depp is amazing. I’ve never read the book, but I did read another by him, The Hamburger Diaries, and I loved it. Now that I actually live in Las Vegas, I should deinitely put this hight on my list.

21. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby This was a book before it was a movie? And it’s by Nick Hornby? Interesting.

26. The Qu’ran
Yeah, I probably should read this.

27. The Odyssey – Homer
It’s a great story. Super cool imagery and what an imagination that Homer had! However, it’s in epic poem style. Hard to digest. I get distracted.

28. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift Yeah, I need to read this one. Thanks for reminding me, List.

29. Motorcycle Diaries – Che Guevara Ooh, definitely. I loved the movie, and love reading about Cubans.

30. The Illiad – Homer Ditto response to #27.

31. Das Kapital: A Critique of Political Economy – Karl Marx
Intimidating!

32. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
This book is a behemoth. I almost bought it once, but then was sort of scared off by it’s girth. However, I would like to read it someday.

33. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
When I read this book it seemed to unbalanced to me. The crime takes place in the first 48 pages of the book and then the next 300 or so are the punishment. However, I admire Dostoyevsky as a writer, and would like to read it his other works.

34. The Republic – Plato I’ll put this on the list, too.

35. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
Hm! I’ve never even heard of this, but I’ll bet it’s great. Is it an autobiography? That would be fascinating.

36. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins I’ve definitely heard of this, but never picked it up. Does anyone know what it’s about?

37. Breakfast at Tiffanys – Truman Capote Wow. I had NO idea Capote wrote this. Well, I was never interested in Truman Capote until I saw the movie, Capote. Now I want to read everything he’s written; he was such a freak.

38. The Sonnets – William Shakespeare I read these in 8th grade, but don’t remember them.

41. Europe: A History – Norman Davies
Oooh. Definitely on the list. I remember sadly little of my European history lessons.

42. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
I have never read Philip K. Dick, but I did see A Scanner Darkly, which was cool. Is it another book about a distopia?

43. The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith I think I’ve heard of this book? Eep?

44. Sophie’s Choice – William Styron I thought for a second this was “Sophie’s World” until I looked it up. This book looks depressing!

45. Mr Nice – Howard Marks Never heard of it.

46. The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud
Yeah, I digg.

47. Beloved – Toni Morrison
?

48. Are You Experienced? – William Sutcliffe Do you mean Jimi Hendrix?

49. Oedipus Rex – Sophocles Wow, images from this story are still burned into my skull. Plus I played a part of the “chorus” in this play for a small audience, for my friend’s theater directing class in college.

50. Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka This book was dark and funny and totally terrifying. I recommend!

While this list contains many awesome books, I’m surprised many classics didn’t make the list. Books that influenced my life and the lives of others, greatly, were not included, but Bridget Jones’ Diary was? I have to be a snob and say that this list is wrong.

Here are a few that should have been included, in my not so humble opinion.

Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes
100 Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Slaugterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conway
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Maus (I & II) – Art Spiegleman
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
The Wasteland – T.S. Eliot (a poem I happen to love!)
The Satanic Versus – Salman Rushdie

These are only a few, but they certainly carry merit that many on the above list do not!

—–
Currently listening to Evolve by Ani DiFranco.

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Written by pocheco

February 22, 2007 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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