100 good books? I don’t think so.

Awlbiste’s Thicket had a post about the books we’ve read, and apparently a typical American has read less than 6. No idea where this list is from, but This is from the National Education Association’s Top 100 books, part of NEA’s “The Big Read” program, to me it appears to be based upon “classic literature” rather than entertaining fiction (there I said it). The list has only a few books that would be accessible to children and adults who are under the age of 25, and frankly I don’t think this represents the good reading material that is available today.

Ian M Banks makes the list, but having Harry Potter on here makes me question what the hell the list has to do with anything. I liked all the H.P. series very much, but its hardly difficult, growth, or challenging reading.

At least 10 of these books below may as well be the same novel for all the interest or value they hold for me. i.e. Anything which is merchant ivory in style won’t get a look in my library.

Bold those we have read, Italicize those we intend to read, and Underline the books we love.

My version of the list is pretty poor, only 22 of the 100 have been read, and only three I would consider novels that I love. Further I could not see much on the list I wanted to read. And I consider myself an avid reader, who consumes 6-10 books in a slow year.

I’m no lit major and spent too much time playing games, playing RPGs, and reading “trashy” sci-fi and fantasy (go read a Warcraft novel, its just like Harry Potter but with cooler bad guys).

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I guess not the *complete* works…)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
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
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
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
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
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 Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
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
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
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
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

*Edited to show the source, and a few blogs that also have this 100 list.

7 thoughts on “100 good books? I don’t think so.

  1. I’m not even sure how they chose the books, it was done by the NEA so I’d guess having something to do with education? It’s really a total mish-mash of things.

    I’m not one to judge a person by the books they read (I’m also an avid reader) though I do agree the “classics” aren’t always that entertaining. Don’t tell anyone else but Jane Austen puts me to sleep. If it weren’t for wanting to be an English Major way back when I wouldn’t have many of these read.

    I do highly recommend the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman though.

  2. I seem to be running from site to site about this.

    It’s not from the National Education Association, which does have some lists. Nor, if you chase the links back far enough, is it from the National Endowment for the Arts which also has a reading program. It is about 3/4 or so the BBC’s 2003 “Big Read”, with some other odds and ends tossed in.

  3. Kirk pointed out in a comment on my blog that the source I cited (citing someone else’s cite, actually) is in question.

    Not that big a deal…I had my own quibbles with the list; but it’s interesting to see how “well read” we may or may not be. 🙂

  4. OH! And as Kirk also pointed out: NEA is ambiguous. I guessed National Education Assoc., but certainly could be National Endowment for the Arts, or the Newspaper Enterprise Assoc.

  5. Unfortunately the person from whom I got the list was not specific on NEA either – and I can’t seem to find it. Perhaps we should do the ALA’s Banned Book list instead? (Many of the same books are on that list, ironically)


    Anyway – I too disagree with many of the books on the list, and I’m one that generally LIKES classic literature! But, as The Game Dame so insightfully said – if it gets us talking about reading, it can’t be all bad 🙂

  6. I believe this is just one of the too-numerous-to-count Top 100 books list that get done from tim e to time:
    Etc, etc

    Nothing special about any of the books, though looking at the books that are creeping into the list may just be proof for the Theory of Devolution.
    But really it’s just the fact that thanks to the internet Johnny Nobody can now have his say on what’s a good read.
    50 years from now there’ll probably be no ‘literature ‘ on most of these sorts of lists unless they are created by ‘academics’ and even then when you consider that academics are takingthe tripe churned out by JK Rowling (well tripe is probably a bit harsh for what’s a bit of fun and a series of books that’s a good example of why editorial control of a published book should never be given to the author) that might not be so true…
    for example
    I’m sure none of it was ever intended, but I’m sure she’ll insist it was – $Ka-Ching$

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