Saturday, August 8, 2009

Masterpiece Book Theatre

[Left] My favorite book of all-time, The Phantom Tollbooth, and by the way, you can bet your sweet ass that I'm upset it didn't make this list. What gives, BBC??? No wonder you're a broadcasting company.

So, my friend Danielle tagged me in this survey the other day on Facebook, and because I couldn't answer it right away, I thought I'd do it here on the blog. I added comments where appropriate. Since Saturdays are normally slow days for hits anyway, I didn't think anyone would mind. Here we go!

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up? Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - x
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - x
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - x

Total: 5. The Lord of the Rings is really, really dry, and I wish people would just admit that the movies are better, as opposed to insisting that others read 1,500 pages of sluggish material about Elven words. I find Jane Eyre and 1984 just as sluggish and bad, but Mockingbird and Great Expectations are great and good respectively.

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - x
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller - x
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - x
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

Total so far: 8. I read Tess, but it was for some research paper in high school, and barely remember doing it. Catch 22 took me three attempts for no discernible reason; I loved it. And The Hobbit is Tolkien's actual great work, since it is accessible by just about any person or age grouping.

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - x
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - x
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - x
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - x
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

Total so far: 12. I share Hunter Thompson's opinion that The Great Gatsby is the best-written novel ever. It doesn't mean that it is my favorite book, but in terms of tone and skill of writing, I think it is what I grade out as the best. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the quintessential "wacky" book that everyone should read. Alice in Wonderland is overhyped a little; the movie is better. And Grapes of Wrath is important, but a bit dry and depressing to re-read.

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - x
34 Emma-Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - x
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

Total so far: 14. The CS Lewis books are a lot more accessible than Lord of the Rings, too. Oddly, I didn't have any sort of religious backing as a kid, so all of the symbolism and ideology inserted by Lewis went over my head. Also oddly, I haven't seen any of the movies.

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - x
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
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 - x
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - x
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

Total so far: 17. I had to read 1984 when I was in high school, but now, they make the kids read Animal Farm. I wish I had had that assigned to me instead, because I think it's easier to read and its political symbolism is better. I hated Lord of the Flies in ninth grade, but I had to re-read it in college, at which point I found it a lot better. I read Far From The Madding Crowd at the same time I did Tess, and I can't say I remember it any better. Given its title, I imagine that is the one about the harsh, silly judgments of society.

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
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 - x
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Total so far: 18. Brave New World was yet another book I had to read for school. I think between high school and college, I had to read it four times; ugh. The first half of the book is great, with the explanation of how the society worked, but the last couple chapters I just wasn't into at all.

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 - x
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding - x
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

Total so far: 20. Yeah, I've read Bridget Jones's Diary. So what, big whoop, you wanna fight about it? I thought it was a decent, breezy book, but I definitely wouldn't put it on the same scale as the others on this list. Speaking of, Count of Monte Cristo is a great, compelling story.

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 Inferno – Dante - x
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

Total so far: 21. In ninth grade, I thought the concept of the book sounded neat, since it's about Hell and what not. Actually reading it was Hell. har har!

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 - X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - x
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

Total so far: 23. Charlotte's Web is a classic, and I think I read it for class in fourth grade; it was the first chapter book we did. I've read various Sherlock Holmes tales, inspired by my childhood love of Encyclopedia Brown, and I liked them all.

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - x
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 - x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -x

Total: 27. Le Petit Prince! Our final project in high school French V was reading that book and translating it to English, I believe. It was a sweet little story. Likewise, although Les Miserables has a completely different tone, I did check out an English version after we covered it extensively in French class. I've head Hamlet a half dozen times for various classes, but I still enjoy it. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while a solid book, is better as a movie with Gene Wilder. The book's sequel is one of the first novels I actually owned, so it has a special place in my heart, even if I did find the vermicious knids scary at the time.

I think this list does underrate how much I read - My primary interest is non-fiction, so a lot of great non-fiction books, like All The President's Men, Moneyball and Outliers aren't even eligible. Boooo again, BBC!


  1. I already know you haven't read Harry Potter [blasphemy!] but cather in the rye and the davinici code too??
    do you live under a rock? sheesh.

  2. The DaVinci Code never appealed to me because I don't know anything about religion or theology. I have literally been inside four churches in my life - Once when they dunked me in water when I was a baby, once for the marriage of my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jeff, and twice in Quebec City for a class trip when we were touring cathedrals. As such, the book didn't have much of a draw to me, because I don't know anything about Jesus and the apostles anyway.

    Catcher in the Rye, I have read the Cliff's Notes and Wikipedia entry for, just because I like to stay on top of some classic literature. The kind of sad / scary / nerdy thing is that I know what pretty much all of the books on the list are about, even if I haven't read most of them.

    (Note: A good future blog series might be to read all of them one-by-one, and give my thoughts on them as I went along, but I'd have to be really strapped for ideas to go through with it.)

  3. I can't get through Catch 22 either, so you're not alone on your three attempts. Though I've yet to get finished, so we'll see if I ever do.

  4. Matt, Catch 22 is worth reading until the end. It ends, surprisingly, on a somewhat hopeful note.


Try not to be too much of an ass, unless completely necessary. You are subject to tyrannical moderation.


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