From Somebody Else’s List

Jason Kottke recently posted a link to a book called 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, foreword by Peter Ackroyd and Edited by Peter Boxall. (I’ve used Jason’s referral code, as I’m not a member of Amazon’s program, and somebody should get the bump, should you decide to buy the book from that link.) Posting about a book like this is worthless, really, unless you’ve managed to take a look at the list, and so here it is (or so I’ve been given to understand). The list is composed entirely of fiction, and by that they mean prose fiction so nobody has to worry about struggling through Shakespeare or Milton (why Shakespeare should be much of a struggle is beyond me, but plenty of folks seem intimidated). It’s also pretty heavily biased in favour of books published after 1900, and we could debate forever why some books were chosen and some were not. Why choose Byatt’s The Virgin in the Garden, an excellent book, certainly, but not the follow-up Still Life, the only work of literature other than Othello to reduce me to tears? Why so much Faulkner, but no Light in August? The list seems compiled rather than considered, but I suppose that’s the way of lists. And even though this list is presented with less behind it than, say, Harold Bloom’s The Western Cannon, here’s what I’ve read from it (note that I’ve included The Recognitions, because I’m reading it now, and that I have excluded those works that I have not read in full):

  1. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
  3. The Double, by José Saramago
  4. Fury, by Salman Rushdie
  5. Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
  7. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
  8. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  9. Underworld, by Don DeLillo
  10. The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker
  11. The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields
  12. Regeneration, by Pat Barker
  13. Possession, by A.S. Byatt
  14. Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  15. Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco
  16. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  17. The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, by Douglas Adams
  18. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams
  19. The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson
  20. Watchmen, by Alan Moore & David Gibbons
  21. White Noise, by Don DeLillo
  22. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  23. Flaubert’s Parrot, by Julian Barnes
  24. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
  25. The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
  26. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino
  27. The Virgin in the Garden, by A.S. Byatt
  28. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  29. The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
  30. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
  31. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
  32. Slaughterhouse-five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  33. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles
  34. Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, by Vladimir Nabokov
  35. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  36. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  37. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
  38. The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon
  39. V., by Thomas Pynchon
  40. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  41. The Collector, by John Fowles
  42. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  43. Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov
  44. Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges
  45. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
  46. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  47. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  48. Naked Lunch, by William Burroughs
  49. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
  50. The Bell, by Iris Murdoch
  51. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
  52. Pnin, by Vladimir Nabokov
  53. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  54. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  55. The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  56. The Recognitions, by William Gaddis
  57. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  58. Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming
  59. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  60. Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
  61. Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
  62. Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake
  63. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  64. Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges
  65. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  66. The Glass Bead Game, by Herman Hesse
  67. Between the Acts, by Virginia Woolf
  68. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
  69. Murphy, by Samuel Beckett
  70. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  71. Absalom, Absalom!, by William Faulkner
  72. Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West
  73. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  74. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
  75. Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse
  76. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  77. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
  78. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  79. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
  80. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  81. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
  82. The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan
  83. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  84. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad
  85. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  86. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
  87. The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  88. The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells
  89. The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells
  90. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  91. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  92. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  93. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  94. The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
  95. Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll
  96. Silas Marner, by George Eliot
  97. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
  98. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  99. The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allan Poe
  100. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  101. Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  102. Émile; or, On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  103. Pamela, by Samuel Richardson
  104. A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift
  105. Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe
  106. Love in Excess, by Eliza Haywood
  107. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Okay, I’ll be honest, I just like posting lists every so often, and I feel like I’m due. And 107 books, from a list like this one, really isn’t so bad, especially considering I was twenty years old before I started reading much beyond spy novels and bad fantasy.


Writer. Editor. Critic.

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