78 Out of a Thousand: A Lesson in Humility

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You may or may not have seen the Guardian’s list of 1000 novels everyone must read. Below is my woeful list of books that I”ve read off that list. Whenever there is a list like this that comes out, you feel like you need to have read most of the books on the list. Or at least heard of them. There are feelings of inadequacy. Then you start making excuses why you haven’t read more books on the list:

  • There’s a definite British slant to the list. (How many novels by Evelyn Waugh do you think we can manage over here. How many Americans have ever heard of  Evelyn Waugh?)
  • I’ve read other books by that author just not that one or that one or that one.
  • I’ve read some of these books twice and some of the ones I read are really big books so they should count twice.

But, what it boils down to is that you haven’t made a dent in the list and if it were not for any number of English classes you took, you’d look very sorry indeed. And then there are all those books you can’t remember if you actually read. Did you really read it? Did you start it and not finish? Did you watch the movie instead? Were you supposed to read it, but didn’t. The waters get really murky when you can’t remember if you read a book or just wrote a paper on it without actually finishing the book.You know you are comfortable with yourself, when you can just enjoy looking at the list without checking off all the books you’ve read and think of the list as a way to generate ideas for a few good books to read. Clearly, I’m not there yet.

1.The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
2.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
4.The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
5.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6.The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
7.Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
8.The Awakening by Kate Chopin
9.Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
10As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
11.The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
12.Narziss and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
13.A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
14.Ulysses by James Joyce
15.Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence
16.The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
17.Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
18.The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
19.Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
20.The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
21.The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
22.The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
23.East of Eden by John Steinbeck
24.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
25.To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
26.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
27.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
28.Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront
29.My Antonia by Willa Cather
30.The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
31.A Room with a View by EM Forster
32.Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
33.The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
34.A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
35.Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
36.Women in Love by DH Lawrence
37.Zami by Audre Lorde
38.Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
39.The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
40.The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
41.The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
42.The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43.The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
44.The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
45.The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
46.The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
47.Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
48.Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
49.American Gods by Neil Gaiman
50.Lord of the Flies by William Golding
51.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
52.Beloved by Toni Morrison
53.Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
54.Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
55.His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
56.Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
57.The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
58.The Time Machine by HG Wells
59.Disgrace by JM Coetzee
60A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
61.Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
62.The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
63.A Passage to India by EM Forster
64.July’s People by Nadine Gordimer
65.Passing by Nella Larsen
66.Animal Farm by George Orwell
67.Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
68.One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovtich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
69.The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
70.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
71.One of Ours by Willa Cather
72.Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
73.Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville
74.Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
75.Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
76.War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
77.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
78.Candide by Voltaire


2 thoughts on “78 Out of a Thousand: A Lesson in Humility

    kate said:
    January 30, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I feel exactly the same way! But you should feel proud! You’ve made a dent in the list and I’m also sure you’ve read countless wonderful books that didn’t make the list!

      ta said:
      January 31, 2009 at 12:30 am

      Thanks Kate. It’s true I have read some great books that aren’t on this list. I’m sure you have, too.

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