12 March 2007

A Change of Topic Is Needed...

...So, since I haven't knitted squat in days (*sniff*), and in honor of this disturbing news, I present you with a meme about books. I did this here and there while working my temp job today, and it served its purpose in keeping me from screaming during the odd moments of calm when those were basically my two options.

A meme, stolen from Ruth’s Place.

(Caveat: What follows is really, really long, so sorry I can’t use that “after the jump” feature here on blogger. As far as I’m concerned, though, I’m not so unhappy to have the previous unhappy posts relegated to the archives as soon as possible – let’s hope that symbolic act helps me to push it all out of my head!)

This meme reminds me so much of a game I vaguely remember from David Lodge’s novels about British and American Academe – I think it was called “Humiliation” and the point was somehow to admit which major books you hadn’t actually read. Although as it turns out I’ve read more from the initial top 100 than I would have thought (though still only 35) – after many years of sadly neglecting the literature of my own cultural tradition in favor of Russian lit and 1920s detective novels (my personal favorite genre of all time), I’ve been gradually making up for it. Oddly enough, that started when I was living in the Russia the first time, because the only free English-language books I had access to were from the American Center Library, and were therefore all American classics (though, strangely, they were all secondary classics – like Winter of Our Discontent instead of Grapes of Wrath, Tar Baby instead of Beloved, etc). That got me started, and it kept up while I’ve been in grad school (until lately when all I’ve been capable of is re-reading children’s books for an hour or two here and there).

I’ll also admit here to two shockers. 1. I still haven’t gotten all the way through War & Peace. This is awful not only because I’m a Russianist, but also because it’s set right in my period. But that’s the whole problem – it’s set in my period but written a few decades later, and the whole period setting was a way for Tolstoy to make his political points but make them seem (to the censors) like a harmless romance about bygone times. The thing is, though, that there’s not even the slightest attempt on Tolstoy’s part to be accurate about the bygone times (with good reason I admit), so that the book just drives me crazy every single time I try to read it. Not that Tolstoy isn’t fully capable of driving me crazy even without the anachronisms, but I have managed to read straight through Anna Karenina twice (that’s because somehow Anna is a great character DESPITE Tolstoy – that’s writer’s genius for you). I probably have read the whole of War & Peace by now, in pieces, but I’ve never been able to get through beginning to end.

Second shocker (I hope this doesn’t alienate too many people) I hated Wuthering Heights. I really, totally, hated it as a terrible read and a not very well-conceived book. I can see why it still has a very important place in the history of literature, but why anybody still reads it, much less loves it with a passion, is totally beyond me. I thought every single character was whiny, shallow and annoying in the extreme, without serving any meaningful purpose except to say, “look, people can be merely whiny, shallow and annoying” (and I already knew that, even if it hadn’t been portrayed in anything like mainstream literature at the time it was written). The plot seemed contrived, dull, and not at all tragic since I didn’t give a flying…well, you know…about any of those people. It kind of felt like hanging out in a trailer park in the Midwest of my youth, but with better clothes and better landscape (but worse weather).(Of course, I felt exactly that same way about the recent film Closer, which a lot of people also loved.) I’m not a huge fan of Jane Eyre, either, although I liked it a general kind of way and much better than Wuthering Heights. So I guess I’m just not a Bronte girl (even though I liked Villette very much and would like to someday try Shirley and Tenant of Wildfell Hall). I hope that doesn’t offend anyone – it shouldn’t, as it’s just my personal read with not even the slightest pretense of being anything more and has nothing to do with anyone else. I’ll still adore and respect the many people who love it (a list which includes my mother for godssake). Everything else that’s been bolded on these lists counts as a personal favorite, though, I think. Some of the ones on the top 100 that I didn’t italicize (meaning I want to read them) was because I’ve never heard of them, though I also admit that some of the ones I don’t actually care to read are in that category because I’ve heard too much about them – they’ve been not just overhyped, but hyped in ways that suggest I wouldn’t be into it. In other cases, I’ve read something else by the same author and wasn’t overly thrilled. There are a lot of books out in the world, and there’s only so much time….(and now I have a handy list next time I’m wondering what to read!)

With no further ado (you thought I'd never get there, didn't you?), the meme:

Look at the list of (100) books below.
Bold the ones you’ve read.
Italicize the ones you want to read.
Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.
Movies don’t count.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25 . Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

I would like to add the following, a combination of books I’ve read that I think belong on any top-100 list (even though that would put any such list well over 100) and books I really want to read (there are legions of those, but strangely not that many of them were on the original meme list).

101. The Sandman (Neil Gaiman)
102. American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
103. Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)
104. Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

105. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
Artemis Fowl: The Criminal Mastermind Collection (Eoin Colfer)
107. His Dark Materials (Trilogy, Philip Pullman)
108. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
109. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
110. Eugene Onegin (Aleksandr Pushkin)
111. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

112. Middlemarch (George Eliot)
113. Silas Marner (Georg Eliot)
114. Indiana (George Sand)

115. Changing Places (David Lodge)
116. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark)

117. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh)
118. Psmith in the City (P.G. Wodehouse)
119. The Story of the Treasure Seekers (Edith Nesbit)
120. Swallows and Amazons (
Arthur Ransome)
121. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
122. Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)
123. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
124. The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
125. The Custom of the Country (Edith Wharton)
126. The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)
127. Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton)

128. Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust (Nathanael West)
129. A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)
130. Evelina (Frances Burney)
131. Gaudy Night (Dorothy L. Sayers)
132. The Talisman Ring (Georgette Heyer)
133. A Civil Contract (Georgette Heyer)
134. The Sherwood Ring (Elizabeth Marie Pope)

135. The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe)
136. Castle Rackrent (Maria Edgeworth)
137. Emile, Or On Education (Jean Jacques Rousseau)
138. Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (Samuel Richardson)

139. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
140. Collected Plays (Tom Stoppard)
141. The Red and the Black (Stendahl)

142.Washington Square (Henry James)
143. The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
144. Orlando (Virginia Woolf)

145. Tar Baby (Toni Morrison)
146. Testament of Youth (Vera Brittain, technically a memoir)

147. Possession (A.S. Byatt)
148. Mary Barton (Elizabeth Gaskell)

149.Little House on the Prairie (Series, Laura Ingalls Wilder)
150. Earthsea Trilogy (and beyond, Ursula K. Leguin)

151. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
152. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers)
153.The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
154. The House of Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
155. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

156. Collected Stories (Grace Paley)
157. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
158. Letters of Madame de Stael
159. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
160. Chronicles of Barsetshire (Anthony Trollope)
161. Kristin Lavransdatter novels (Sigrud Undset)
162. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy)
163. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
164. Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)

165. Dawn’s Early Light (Elswyth Thane)
166. Burr (Gore Vidal)
167. Room Temperature (Nicholson Baker)
168. Father Brown Stories (G.K. Chesterton)

169. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
170. Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett)
171. Pastors and Masters (Ivy Compton-Burnett)
172. A Passage to India (E.M. Forster)

173. The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck (James Branch Cabell)
174. Happy All the Time (Laurie Colwin)
175. Death in a Tenured Position (Amanda Cross)

176. Shiloh (Shelby Foote)
177. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Laurie R. King)
178. Motherless Brooklyn (Jonathan Lethem)
179. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
180. The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
181. Call it Sleep (Henry Roth)

182. Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger)
183. The Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
184. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Gertrude Stein)

185. The Enormous Room (e.e. cummings)


Nichole R. said...

I must say, we have very similar taste in books! I am a huge Gaiman fan. I think you would enjoy Ayn rand, and I don't know anyone who hasn't liked SMK's The Secret Life of Bees.

Frances said...

I've read 29 of the initial 100 and 6 of the next 85. I think it would be fun to list the books from the list that I bought because I thought I should read them, books I abandoned in disgust, and books I read but wish I could get the time back (Da Vinci Code, anyone?).

I hearted Wuthering Heights in High School, but I just listened to it on CD and cannot understand how I made it to the end when it wasn't assigned reading. There wasn't an attractive character among them.

I HIGHLY recommend The Eyre Affaire by Jaspar Fforde (and sequels) for good, clean literary humor and (for the Russianist in you) alternate Crimean history.

Beth said...

o.k. Anna Karenina. I've read abut 2/3 of it. Couldn't finish. Everybody hasd like 8 gabillion names and so I can never figured out who he's talking aobut. It makes me crazy. And Anna...I don't know. Her husband...I kinda feel sorry for him.

Anonymous said...

i've read a good number of them, i was a little surprised (had some excellent English teachers in HS and college). i did decide a good number of years ago to flat out stay away from any writers whose personal and political viewpoint is so off to me. just don't waste my time with that negativity any longer (Left Behind series is another example), there are too many good books on my list. to that end also, i don't any longer (since I'm not being graded on it) read any book that doesn't really grab me right away, so many books, so little time.

ruth said...

I hated Wuthering Heights too, the reason I have so many from the list is that I did a double major History/English at university and many of them were required reading. It did serve to make me look quite intellectual though :)

Rhiannon said...

I'm usually a lurker, but the scary lady in the picture scared me.

I absolutely love Neil Gaiman. In addition to his books, you should watch his movies. There's Neverwhere (there's a novellization of that, but the movie is suberb), and Mirrormask, which was Gaiman and Dave McKean, who did a lot of the conceptual artwork for Sandman. Gaiman's wonderful.

Kathryn said...

I second The Eyre Affaire recommendation, and I'll add any of Andrei Makine's novels. The most well-known is Dreams of My Russian Summers. Do you have thoughts on top-100 non-fiction works, or top-100 poems?

Anonymous said...

Hi hon - I wanted to browse through your entire blog, but as usual got stuck on your last post :) I'm proud to announce having read 40 on the original list, but find it rather worrisome that it's mostly kids/youth books. I soooo need to get into some of the classics!
Off to read more now - and I'm sending the address for this blog to a friend who's a librarian. It's hilarious to read how similar the two of you are in some ways! Remember Siri?

Klem fra Tone

PS. How long did you have to fiddle around to find the Å ???

Wendy Dorrel said...

Oh wow I've only read 11 of those. That's just embarrassing! I think I'll be making friends with the library soon. I should read the Harry Potter books, a friend bought the most recent one for me.

I'm so thrilled your Mom is happy with her tarts!! Very, very cool. :)

(our sills really aren't all that clean, the picture is totally deceiving,lol)

Louisa said...

Interesting lists there! I've read 37 of the first list and 14 of your second set. I'm a fantasy/sci-fi nut and also in my youth went through a lot of the old classics. I love re-reading them now from an older adult point of view! (Hated Wuthering Heights for the same reason you did. Whining weenies, the lot of them!) I was also interested in how many of the books listed that I haven't actually read but have seen at least one movie version. Generally if I read the book, I like it better than the movie. Thanks for the fun exercise!

PS My son owns a comic shop and totally agrees with you on Neil Gaiman. I'll have to check him out.

Carrie said...

I am shocked and appalled to see that I have read only 31 of the original list, and even worse, only 5 of your second list! Truth be told I haven't had much time for leisure reading in a long time. I will third the recommendation for The Eyre Affair, though I do think the subsequent novels were a disappointment (they were entertaining, but could have been much more). As for your "to read" books, I must commend your choices of Ender's Game (all of the Ender books, really), Watership Down, and Catch-22 (brilliant, that one). And I heartily recommend Brave New World (old school sci-fi) and Dune (the later books get crazy (unnecessarily) complicated and Herbert seems to have some sort of a God-complex, but the first really is a classic. Oh, and I also recommend the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars,Blue Mars, and Green Mars). They are excellent in both their scope, technical detail, and their "polical-ness" (don't know what else to call it). Loved them.

Specs said...

Let me also recommend _The Eyre Affair_. A friend bought me a copy as a thank you gift for a scarf I made her, and I spent a very pleasant weekend reading it. It's a literary fluff mystery that lets you play along at home if you've read _Jane Eyre_.

I was shocked by how many canonical works were left off. No Chaucer! No Thomas Hardy! I put a month into reading _Clarissa_ and it's not on there.

I've reposted this on my blog with my answers and commentary.

Ginny said...

With you on lots of this - the Heyer, Sayers and Britain that haven't been commented on, too. (And the Pratchett Monstrous Regiment, great!). I haven't read the Father Brown's for years now, must go back to him, I loved those as a teenager.

Do you have any other recommendations for 20s detective stuff? Someone mentioned a Miss Silver series (Dee from Posh yarns, I think) which sound good.

kmkat said...

I did this meme on my blog, too - I'd read 65 of the 100. Although I'm a CPA by training, I've dabbled in being a librarian so that's how I've come upon some of those books. I live in Wisconsin, out there in fly-over land, but guess who else lives here -- Neil Gaiman, in Menomonie! I heard him speak several years ago at a Wisconsin librarians' conference, boyohboy is he gorgeous. Besides being a good writer, of course. Neverwhere was my favorite.

I used to read a lot of 20s mysteries -- have you ever read Edgar Wallace? He was my favorite. Search him out if you can.