7.05.2006

Books to Read Before You Die

I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird after Capote came out and there was a flurry of publicity about Harper Lee. I'd read it years ago of course, but it definately was even better the second time around.

It's the lead title on the list of Books To Read Before You Die compiled from librarians in England I think. Here's the link to the full list of 30. I'll give everyone a pass on reading the Bible cause very few people I know have read it all cover to cover, so of the remaining 29, how many have you read? (MS-10) How many had you never heard of previously? (MS-3)

I guess I'd better plan to not die soon, I've got a lot of reading to catch up on.

117 comments:

Elektra said...

Read: 16 (or 18 counting each LotR as a seperate book)
Never Heard Of: 5
Been urged to Read but Refused: 3
Books That Should Be On There But Aren't: Watership Down, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, A Little Princess

Anonymous said...

Read--13 (and part of David Copperfield)

Never Heard of--1 (The Master and the Margarita)

Anonymous said...

Ouch! I should die a lot later than Miss Snark. I don't know 10 of the books on the list and actually only fully read two of them (and another two partially)....

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I've read 13. Never heard of 2.

S.W. Hubbard said...

I've read 17 and not heard of 2, outdoing the Divine Miss S. Yowsa--what's this world coming to? (But she's read tons more poetry than moi.) I did much better with this list than the recent list of Best Books of the Past 25 Years published in the NYT Book Review. There I think I'd read one and not heard of half. What strikes me about this list is that all these books have PLOTS. My favorite book of the past 25 years appears on the librarian's list: THE POINSONWOOD BIBLE. I'm sure it didn't make the Times list because of its pesky and unfashionable inclusion of a plot.
Susan

Anonymous said...

I've read seven and not heard of about five of them. However, of those seven, I read five in junior high or high school and don't remember much about them. As for teh Bible, churches often have a study guide for reading through the Bible in a year -- I tried it and it took me five years. Ezekiel was tough sledding but the Gospels were hard to put down. Those librarians sure like Dickens, don't they :)

Malia said...

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Bible (by God!)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
A Christmas Carol
Jane Eyre
Pride and Prejudice
The Grapes of Wrath
The Lord of the Flies
Winnie the Pooh
Wuthering Heights
The Wind in the Willows
Gone With the Wind
Great Expectations
David Copperfield
A Clockwork Orange

Wow! I have read most of these (listed above) in the past year and a half because of my teenager's literary requirements for her English class. I checked, and what she hasn't read (take out the entire Bible and 2-3 of those titles) is on her requirement sheet to have read before the end of her senior year. I'm impressed, and not to say a little shocked, that her high school has their act together.

Ric said...

How scary is it that I came up with 10 and 3 just like Miss Snark?

Bernita said...

Read - 16
Never heard of - 4

The Queen-a Athena said...

Okay. Read all the way through: 7, including the Bible (hey, do I get double points for that?). Read another half dozen part way, got bored & quit (probably because I was too young), and should probably go back and finish them. Never heard of three or four.

Not a total dunce, but not as high up as I probably should be, either :-)

Melinda said...

I've read 15 of them (including most of the Bible, though I skipped most of the histories). I haven't heard of Birdsong, the Alchemist, or the Master and Margarita. The others I've heard of (and some I keep meaning to read someday).

Did you notice that the Bible was the only ancient text there? There was nothing from before the Victorian era on that list. Hey, what's wrong with the Odyssey? And why not read the Bhagavad Gita instead of the Bible?

But others may think differently.

jaywalke said...

I've read thirteen of the other twenty-nine, and healthy chunks of the big B. Two of those titles do not sound familiar.

Lots of good choices, although arguable. I just don't get Pullman. I read the first and second book in the series, but finishing the second was a real struggle. It really had no effect on me . . .

Sherry Decker said...

I read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was in high school. I've bought it as gifts for others. I should probably buy it for myself and read it again. Great book.

Linda said...

I've read 20 of the books listed and not heard of 3. Seeing as so many on the list are great favorites, looks like I'll be checking out the ten I haven't read! Consider them added to the Christmas list.

Alison S said...

I've read 17 and never heard of three - my three never-heard-ofs were "The Prophet", "Master and Margarita" and "The Poisonwood Bible".

Some interesting choices on there. I enjoyed "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime", but put it up there with Jane Eyre? Really?

Anonymous said...

Really? I'm not "well read" anymore, these days my favourite books have 32 pages and beautiful illos- but I had heard of all 30 and have read at least 17.
I'm Australian (37) and wonder if these Librarians are my age. Many of the books are novels we studied in English at high school.
Julie

BuffySquirrel said...

I've read sixteen, and the first book of the Pullman trilogy (so, sixteen and a third?). I'm not counting Western Front, as I know I started it, but I'm not sure I finished it. The only title I don't think I've heard mentioned before was Master and Margarita.

I did try and read Middlemarch a few times.

Lorra said...

Missing from the list, I believe, is Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."

Anonymous said...

Read 16 and hadn't heard of 6.

The Bible is one I tried to read but couldn't get past a few paragraphs.

Angelle said...

I've read 14 (including the Bible in its entirety, though not for devotion's sake. I was sick for a week and had read everything else in my room.)

I've never heard of: 3--The Master and the Margarita, Birdsong or The Alchemist.

Books on the list I started but gave up on in irritation: 2

lady t said...

Well,I've read about 15 of the titles(can't count Tolkien since I've only read The Hobbit)and some I've tried to like Middlemarch and Tess.

Poisonwood Bible(along with a few other Kingsolver books)has become a permenant fixture on my TBR pile but some day I'll just hunker down and give it a go. What's up with Phillip Pullman being on the list? I know his books have this big"so much more artistic than Harry Potter" rep but spare me the hype.

Anonymous said...

Read Nine, but six of them in high school and college. To Kill a Mockingbird wasn't required in high school, but I decided to read it last year on my own and liked it.

Hadn't heard of six of them.

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Have read 19 of them...and have heard of them all.

Some weird choices. The Time Traveler's Wife?? Birdsong? That was terribly uneven, but then, so was Tess...

Jenny said...

Well, I've heard of them all but I suppose that's not so surprising as I'm British.

Read all - ish. Run screaming from a few, lie Tess of D'Urbervilles. And I hate, Hate, HATE Lord of the Flies. Golding wrote some fab books - The Spire, Darkness Visible. Why do teachers and librarians persist in pushing this vile story of cruel schoolboys? It's enough to make you cut your throat.

You may not have read The Prophet, Alison S, but I bet you've read an excerpt or two from it on the odd passing tea towel. Terrible tosh. I think you can check it out here http://www.columbia.edu/~gm84/gibtable.html. Actually I'd put the Coelho fantasy in the same category but then I'm a hard hearted Hannah. (Though not, of course, in the same gin division as the divine Miss S.) The Master and Margarita, on the other hand,is a truly classy fantasy/satire, based on the Faust myth. If Terry Pratchett had lived in 1920s Communist Russia . . .

And I'm with you on 'A Little Princess' Elektra.

C.E. Petit said...

I must be a literature geek, because I have at least started all thirty books on the list at one time or another, and I finished all but four of them (which were not worth finishing). I certainly didn't like all of them—for example, of the Dickens works only A Christmas Carol holds up to any searching examination—but I have read them.

But then, I commented that "The Language or the Kiss" (Indigo Girls) seems taken straight from "The Dead" (James Joyce, in Dubliners) the first time I heard it, so I guess "geek" is right. Then, it doesn't hurt to know that Emily Salier's mom is a librarian…

viscose turnip said...

Read: 16.
Disagree with: a lot. In fact I think a lot of these choices are uninspired. But I am a grumpy turnip.

The Master and Margarita is a very good choice though. Go and read it immediately all of you!

Tori Scott said...

Read: 13, including the Bible all the way through--twice

Never Heard of: 5 (but I'm sure my oh-so-literary daughter has heard of them)

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

I guess I'm in good company. I tied Ms. Snark. 10/3.

As if I didn't have enough things to feel guilty about not accomplishing before I die... Sheesh!

I absolutely devoured Time Traveller's Wife but it still seems odd to see it ranked up with many of the other classics in that list.

jellybean said...

Read: 15
Never heard of: 5 (embarassing)

I was disappointed to see "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" on the list. I found it self-indulgent and very boring.

Charity said...

Oh, The Master and Margarita. Be still my heart. Very odd, very wonderful, and if you don’t know much about the Soviet Union in the 1930s, possibly obscure. It was, purportedly, Mick Jagger’s inspiration for Sympathy for the Devil.

Maya said...

Twelve read and four never heard of.

Most were read as assignments in school, but there are three that are among my favorite books ever.

Cheryl Mills said...

Read five, never heard of eight, have two others on my bookshelf, waiting for me to get to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised nothing by Mark Twain is on the list. Love his work.

literaticat said...

I've read 19 and at least started or looked at all of them.

But then, I was an English major, and I'm a bookseller.

Julie Doe said...

Read all of: 11
Read some of: 6
Never heard of: 4 (His Dark Materials, Birdsong, The Alchemist, The Master and Margarita)

I think it's time for me to hit the library again...

Steorling said...

Well, I've read 22 of the thirty. But I'm a Lit. teacher...and thirty is not a "life reading" list in my book, not by leagues.

What I found disheartening was the bashing the Bible took in this little survey. First being given "a pass" on it because no one ever read the whole thing? Ah, come on. And those who commented who had read it had to disavow any and all religious motivation for doing so. lol lol So, maybe Ann Coulter isn't crazy after all. Liberalism must be a religion, otherwise it wouldn't be so afraid of the bible. ;)

Let me just say...you should have all read the scriptures...if for no other reason then (by every estimate I've ever heard as a Literature teacher) 80% of allusions in Western Literature come from the Bible.
(And I'm not just talking about those stuffy victorians, you ever read anything by James Joyce or H.D.?)

And just for my own two cents in addition...if a few more supposedly literate people had read it (or knew anything about its actual history), perhaps there wouldn't be so many nitwits basing their spiritual understanding on the writings of Dan Brown.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, I’ve read The Bible through, cover to cover more than once.

I’ve also read all the books on the list but these: Faulks; Haddon; Sebold; Coelho; Bulgakov, Martel; and Burgess

Bren said...

I've read 14, never heard of a few of them. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorites. I first read it when I was 14, loved it but didn't understand everything, then read it again as an adult. I loved it even more. I then took my kids through it as a homeschool unit. What a book.

I'll have to pick up the ones I haven't read. This looks like a good list.

Nick said...

Well, I've currently read seven on that list and currently have The Fountainhead on my desk with a Magic card haphazardly jammed about fifty pages in.

So, what do you call 2,000 birds that ridicule what they hear?

Two kilo-mockingbird!

I'll never get tired of that one.

Marva said...

13 read / 4 never head of.

I've got some reading to do, or need to find a list of books I'm actually interested in reading. If I haven't read it yet, I'm probably resisting it. Particular avoidance paid to 19th Century romances.

Anonymous said...

Read: 20, but only because reading is my favorite form of procrastination when not writing.

Never heard of: 3

Text note: More often cataloged as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Most impressive inclusion: Master & Margarita. This Mikhail Bulgakov samizdat from Soviet Russia escaped Stalin's iron curtain during the "rehabilitation" phase in the late 1960's. The Burgin & O'Connor translation is the consensus fave. Also generally agreed to avoid the Ginsburg translation, since it is based on censored original material.

Why to read it: Seventy years before Dan Brown re-discovered the appeal of the early church, and forty years before Elaine Pagel's popular revelation of the Gnostic Gospels, Bulgakov recast the crucifixion and Judas' role in it as a story of international intrigue between Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman secret police in Jerusalem. And he poked fun at all later authorities by updating Faust so it could get past the Soviet Socialist Realist censors. More relevant now, here, in the US, than ever.
-kd

Harry Connolly said...

I read ten of them, never heard of four.

The Time Traveler's Wife?

pjd said...

Read 11 and haven't heard of five. I agree with anonymous who thought something by Mark Twain should perhaps have made the list. With Twain snubbed and three Dickens titles making the top 30, perhaps the Brits are still a little miffed about that little affair back in 1776.

Cara said...

11 were required reading in school, since then have read 4 more.
I bought To Kill A Mockingbird when I was pregnant with my first child. Many thought I was crazy because I started my daughter's TBR pile while she was still in the womb!!
Thankfully Canterbury Tales isn't on the list (exhausted just thinking of having read that!)

Yoyogod said...

How sad, I've only read 9 and never heard of 10.

I'm also disappointed. I'd think a bunch of British librarians might have been able to get at least one Wodehouse novel on a list like this.

Leslea said...

I've read of 13 of them (but the trilogies should count as more, c'mon!), not heard of 3 of them.

Considering how much you enjoyed Jonathon Stroud, I hope you have read the His Dark Materials series. It's not wickedly funny like our darling Bartimaeus' plight, but the protagonist is definitely full of surprises.

Bay said...

18 I've read; 7 I would be hard pressed to read (including the Bible and Tess), and 5 I've never heard of. I was surprised that The Time Traveller's Wife was on the list. I mean, yeah, I enjoyed the heck out of it, but ... really? Read before you die?

I'm glad those British librarians decided to do a list of only 30. I would be in trouble if it had been a top 100.

Thomma Lyn said...

Read: 15
Never Heard Of: 2 (His Dark Materials and Birdsong)

Many of the others were already on my To Read list, and I'm working my way to them. Looking forward especially to The Master and Margarita.

Anonymous said...

I've read 14. Only enjoyed some of them. Wanted to slit my wrists after Grapes of Wrath.
Haven't heard of 3 of them.
Loved Time Traveler's Wife.

dink said...

15 1/2 ha.Mostly the older ones. One *was* the Bible (can I get extra points? :-D) My dad made me read the entire thing before he'd buy me my own.


"To Kill a Mockingbird" vies for my favorite book --I also love the movie and think it's one of the best examples of a conversion from book to screen.

I've never heard of "The Master and the Margarita" or maybe I have and I've just blocked it because of my adversion to margaritas (I think tequila shouldn't be mucked with)
or "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"

I've attempted a few of the remaining books "LOtR (it's my 1/2), Middlemarch, The life of Pi, A Clockwork Orange and I couldn't get lift-off.

Some of the rest are on my TBR list.

Amanda said...

Read: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. I own the last book in the series.

Never Heard of: 15

Never Going to Read No Matter How Important This List Says It Is: The Lovely Bones, (read summaries online and on the back of the book, sounded like emotion-mongering crap) The Bible.

On the bright side, I'm only 17 so I've got a lot of time to catch up on my reading. =D

And Elektra's right. Hitchhiker's should absolutely be on this list. Shame on you, list makers!

Anonymous said...

Lovely Bones? No. One can die quite comfortably without having read that. A great hook does not a great novel make.

Bethany said...

Read: 10
Never read but plan to: 8
Never read and have no intention of reading: 3
Read and regret the loss of several perfectly good hours I could have spent watching grass grow: all of the Dickens on the list
I've heard of all of them.

I actually have read the Bible all the way through. I was 11 and trying to be religious. It didn't take, but it's helpful for playing trivia games.

Pepper Smith said...

Read: 5, including the Bible cover to cover multiple times.

Some of the others I'd heard of, a bunch I hadn't. Took a quick look but didn't bother to count on those. Sometimes I wonder about what people consider important literature, but I suppose it's all subjective, anyway.

Chumplet said...

Well, I read 16 out of the thirty:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lord of the Rings (about seven times)
1984
Christmas Carol
Jane Eyre (three times)
His Dark Materials (can't wait for the movie)
Grapes of Wrath
The Lord of the Flies (there's a copy in the downstairs bathroom)
Tess
David Copperfield
Wind in the Willows (got kids)
Gone With the Wind (I'll think about that tomarra)
Great Expectations (What? No Tale of Two Cities?)
Winnie the Pooh (Awww, still love it)
Wuthering Heights (too depressing)
Life of Pi (a fellow Canadian!)

I can't really count the Bible as I only dabbled in it - the only complete version I ever read was Charlie Farquarson's Old Testament - "First there was nuthin'. That'd be yer Void."

The only version of The Clockwork Orange I read was in Mad Magazine.

What should be on the list:
Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
Silas Marner by George Eliot
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (I don't think I spelled that right)

Daisy said...

Read: 7 (8 if you count the Bible in cartoon form)

Never heard of: 3

It's hard to argue with most of this list, though with ten out of thirty being from the last twenty years, I'd say it is a little biased towards modern works.

Anonymous said...

Read-14
Never Heard of-5

Excuse for not having read more: science grad school.

Darren said...

Read: 12.
Never heard of: 4.

The Curious Incident of ...
The Lovely Bones
The Alchemist
The Poisonwood Bible

I'm wondering if I should be embarrassed about the ones I've never heard of.

otterb said...

Read all the way through: 13, plus 3 more started but not finished. Never heard of: only Birdsong.

Carmen said...

I've read 5. Would have been 6 if I could ever have made it past the third chapter of Wuthering Heights when I was young; I ought to try again, I guess. I haven't heard of 6 of them. The Poisonwood Bible has been on top of my "need to read" list since reading excerpts of it in a fiction writing class in college.

Debby G. said...

I read 15. I've heard of all but one.

I'm not a Dickens fan or a Lovely Bones fan.

Would have liked to see instead on the list: Catcher in the Rye; Madame Bovary; The Odyssey; Hemingway; Philip Roth; Toni Morrison; Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Anonymous said...

Yipee, I love lists like this one.

Read - 13
Never heard of - 5
Somewhat surprised to see - Ivan Denisovich. Read it in college and can't remember one thing about it now, so it could not have made much of an impression.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one that I reread every 6-8 years. A truly great book.

Not a great list, but you can't expect much with just 30.

Eileen said...

I knew that English degree would come in handy! I've read 18, most likely understood closer to 14. 4 that I never heard of.

JLauren said...

I've read 13, never heard of 5. Interesting that people don't like Tess, but it's one of my favorites. I'm so glad Middlemarch is on the list because that is my favorite book of all time.

Laurie said...

I read 14 of the books on that list.
Never heard of 3 of them (His Dark Materials, Birdsong, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich).
I read one of the 14 books at least 12 times (Pride and Prejudice); another one twice (Middlemarch). Guess I should branch out a little.
Another book to read before you die is The Kite Runner.

Zachary Gole said...

Read: 9. Wow, that's pathetic.

In my defense, though, I've almost read the Bible (I've read the entire Old Testament, but never got around to finishing the New, which is the easy part--I ought to finish it someday just so I can say I have), and several of the other books on there are already on my "to-read" list--in fact, I've read the earlier books from some of the authors represented on the list, but since I have this odd desire to read the books of authors in the chronological order in which they were written, I haven't worked my way to their later books yet. (Example: Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I've read Thomas Hardy's first three books; I'll get to Tess eventually.)

On the other hand, some of the books I have read on the list I read in high school and now remember little or nothing about--I ought to re-read them sometime.

(I have in fact read The Master and Margarita--as, of all things, an assignment in a "Russian Science Fiction" college class that fulfilled the Ethics requirement of the General Education program. However, looking at the book now to see which edition it was (I still have it on my shelf), I find that it's the Ginsburg translation, which anonymous #9 said to avoid--maybe someday I ought to track down another edition to see what the Ginsburg translation's missing.)

Never heard of: 7. Okay, I really am pathetic. Clearly my literary education has been sadly neglected. (Though I have been consciously trying to remedy that lately...I most recently finished reading Sir Walter Scott's Waverley, and am currently working my way through the complete works of Robert Burns...)

Ken Boy said...

Read 5, never heard of 5. Maybe a couple of others in high school (largely a blur).

Yeah, I'm illiterate.

Christine said...

Read: 10
Never heard of: 4
Read, but would never recommend to anyone: 2
Would have to be paid big bucks to read make me read: 1

Lisa Hunter said...

I'll vouch for The Master and Margarita. I'd have included it on my own best of 30.

But my own list would be quite different. Darkness at Noon is far better than Ivan Denisovich. And where's The Great Gatsby? Where's War and Peace? Or Doctor Zhivago? Or ... don't get me started.

McKoala said...

Read 23, never heard of 3. Birdsong really surprised me, as did Pullman. Both overrated I think. I like that it's a mix of the mostly middlebrow - things that people might actually read/have read.

skylar said...

READ--14 (including the Bible cover to cover once; the New Testament cover to cover 3 or 4 times)

NOT READ--16
Of those not read:
-- Never heard of--6
-- Tried to read but couldn't--3
-- Want to read but haven't--3
-- Have no desire to read--4

A sad list indeed--way too contemporary in its slant. How can The Brother's Karamazov be absent from this list?!

Anonymous said...

Read: 15
Hadn't heard of: 3

It was nice to see so many recent titles on the list.

archer said...

Where's Huck? Where's Tom? The Lovely Bones listed with David Copperfield? Gibran, the mystic's answer to Liberace, with anyone? I'd rather suffer death by baklava.

And the Bible together with Pullman, whose trilogy features the murder of God? Someone is going to get yelled at.

Anonymous said...

18, plus first of Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (many of them in Eng Lit classes). Never heard of: 2 (Birdsong, Master and Margarita). Surprised to see on list: Lovely Bones.

Virginia Miss

JerseyGirl said...

7 I've read; TKAM, LOTR, 1984, Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Flies (The Simpsons has a sick but funny version of it ;-)), GWTW, Winnie the Pooh.

I've read most of The Bible, but not all of it.

Dark Materials - read a few pages of the 1st volume before I put it away out of boredom.

One that I'll probably never read: The Lovely Bones.

~Nancy

Nessie said...

I read 25
Never heard of 3 of them (BirdSong, Wind in the... & Master &...)
Never read but they are right next to me in the better-get-to-it-soon shelf 2: Grapes of Wrath and Tess.

Interesting choices. You can tell its british though but still wonderful choices.

Christine Fletcher said...

Read 19, never heard of 3. Read all the New Testament, most of the Old--does that count?

I also vote for Twain (I mean, come on, The Lovely Bones? Nice book, but come on, it's no Huckleberry Finn). Also, where the heck is Tolstoy?

nice anonymous said...

I am thinking sadly of the wonderful things that were left off this lsit so that Niffenegger and Sebold could make an appearance here. I mean, they wrote nice books, but to put them into the "before I die" category?

nir said...

8 (and I've read the Bible cover to cover several times) A lot of those I've never heard of.

Oh, well.

Readersomething said...

Read: 21. That's what an English degree will get you these days...and not a heck of a lot else, eh?

Stacy said...

The Top 30

*To Kill a Mockingbird - required reading in high school, arguabley the best book ever written.
*The Bible - read it because I needed to know what it said. Plus, I didn't want Derek Walcott to know that much more than me.
*The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - read the The Hobbit and the first 2 before I was 15 (working my way through the fiction section of my school library) but didn't find a copy of The 3rd book until university. I was so thrilled, I had to read the whole thing again. And again when my husband gave me all 4 books for Christmas. Good times.
*1984 - also in my school library. Blew my mind. It was a good library - the school librarian at the time now works for the national library, very special and knowledgeable lady.
*A Christmas Carol - I laughed, I cried. Wow.
*Jane Eyre - I reme,ber thinking at the end 'Oh, now that he isn't pretty anymore, the plain girl can have him?'
*Pride and Prejudice - I tried to do my thesis on Jane Austen, but I couldn't find a topic that hadn't already been done.
*All Quiet on the Western Front - I know I read this, but I can't remember anything about it.
*His Dark Materials Trilogy - heard of it, haven't read it.
*Birdsong - haven't heard of it.
*The Grapes of Wrath - Read it, appreciate the quality, but Steinbeck makes me too, too sad.
*The Lord of the Flies - This book was amazing. It made me think, which is never, never a bad thing.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Never heard of it
*Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Read it as a literature teacher. Hardy needed Prozac.
*Winnie the Pooh - Mild and weird. Didn't like it, except for Tigger.
*Wuthering Heights - Felt more than understood the epic romance. Heck, I was 13.
*The Wind in the Willows - read it. Good fun.
*Gone With the Wind - everybody's heard of this, but never felt like reading or watching it. Honestly.
*Great Expectations - Better than Bleak House.
*The Time Traveller's Wife - never heard of it.
*The Lovely Bones - Heard of it, haven't read it.
*The Prophet - read it. Was too young to get it, I think.
*David Copperfield - read it.
*The Alchemist - heard of it, haven't read it.
*The Master and Margarita - haven't heard of it.
*Life of Pi - haven't heard of it.
*Middlemarch - Hated this book so much.
*The Poisonwood Bible - heard of it, but haven't read it.
*A Clockwork Orange - heard of it, haven't read it.
*A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Wonderful read.

Read: 18
Never heard of:5

Anonymous said...

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck(I hate this book!)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I would like to add: The Count of Monte Cristo and The Bridge Across Forever, The Collective Works Of Edgar Allan Poe and anything by HP Lovecraft(although he couldn't write dialogue to save his life.)

litagent said...

I always finds these sorts of lists fascinating, both for what is included and what isn't. I think the only one on my top 30 list is Wuthering Heights, but I've read 13 completely and another 3 or 4 partially. I've heard of all of them, but it's what I do. Sadly, these days I'm more often reading someone's bad prose than anything memorable.

Robin L. said...

Read 15 (including the Bible - if we count LOTR as three, can't we count the Bible as 66?!)

Gotta say, having read the 14 that I have I'm very surprised that The Poisonwood Bible is in that list. I really liked it, but it doesn't even beat Animal Dreams by Kingsolver on my personal list. And now I'll go pick up The Lovely Bones - also very surprised to see that there. I thought it was just good current fiction, not top 30 material!

Books that are notably absent: The Great Gatsby, anything by Toni Morrison, and Absalom Absalom

Anonymous said...

Read: 11
(While I am not going to count the Bible I did read most of it.)

Never heard of: 2

Can't believe they are on the list: 2 (Gone with the Wind, The Prophet)

I'm surprised Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, or Saul Bellow didn't make the cut. Oh well. Also I'm shocked (but glad) that the Brits left off their reigning Queen of children literature--J.K. Rowling.

gradstudent said...

21. Haven't heard of 3. I'm currently too prejudiced against Kingsolver to pick up Poisonwood. Maybe someday.

Anonymous said...

Where's Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the list (Hundred Years of Solitude)? (and of course Twain's Huckleberry Finn)
What about Cervantes--Don Quixote? and all those other classic authors we love? Ah, well, I imagine no two people would agree on the 30 books to read before you die, but these are at least interesting.

Thanks to Miss Snark for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Let me just say...you should have all read the scriptures...if for no other reason then (by every estimate I've ever heard as a Literature teacher) 80% of allusions in Western Literature come from the Bible.

Oh it ain't necessarily so...the things that you're liable to read in the bible, they ain't necessarily so...

I didn't bash it, I simply couldn't get past the stories. They didn't make sense to me.

Also, why should I read it if I don't want to? This list is just someones or a committee's opinion of what they think are must reads. Plus, can you imagine the flame wars if it weren't on the list?

Anyway, to have read more than half of the list ain't bad for an engineer, methinks.

Anonymous said...

Read 22/30. Never heard of 4. The Lord of the Flies was required reading in an AP Sociology class way back when. Love Dickens. Read the Bible and TKaM multiple times.

I like Miss Snark's reading choices: Michael Connelly, Thomas Perry, Sara Paretsky.

Emelle

Richard said...

The list is just this side of ridiculous. "Curious Incident" makes it, but "The Great Gatsby" doesn't? "Lovely Bones" makes it, but "The Sun Also Rises" does not? Also missing in action are Faulkner, Joyce, Salinger, Twain ... hells bells, the list is more notable for who is not on it than who is. "To Kill a Mockingbird" number one? I read it twice ... but both times it was as a twelve year old. In fact, the consensus of all the recently stirred-up publicity about Harper Lee is that 1) TKAM is not as good as most of us remember it to be; and 2) it's essentially a children's book. The Time Traveller's Wife? That's not even the best book of the last fourteen months. Gone With the Wind? Great movie, nobody ever accused it of being a good book. Silly list. I'm surprised you bothered to give it any ink, Miss S.

Anonymous said...

29 of the 30 are resolutely fiction. Which kind of begs the question about the inclusion of the bible.
A Christmas Carol isn't really a book - I'd always thought of it as a long short-story, or novella. Anyway, read 25 never heard of 2: The Master and Margarita and Poisonwood Bible. Used excerpts from The Prophet at our wedding (along with Shakespeare's sonnet no ) 11 years ago.
Surprised no non-fiction in this list.I laughed when I read somewhere in the comments about the exclusion of Saul Bellow. And dismayed to see no Cervantes, no Calvino, no Goethe, no Gaarder, no Melville. But, hey, these are are British librarians.....like asking plumbers to vote for their favourite car.

dana p said...

Read - 16
(It would have been 17, but The Lovely Bones was so mind-numbingly boring that I couldn't finish it.)

Never heard of - 1
(The Master and Margarita)

What an idiosyncratic list. If I was making my own list of 30, I think only a half dozen of these would be on it.

Anonymous said...

Reading all these comments, I started to think, JUST WHO PUT THIS LIST TOGETHER? And why are we paying so much attention to it?

Librarians.
I don't know. I've never been impressed by the average librarian's taste. I've had a lot of mediocre stuff urged on me by librarians and booksellers.

I am curious, though, Miss Snark, as to which 3 books you'd never heard of...
you are obviously well-read.
Just curious.

Mama Rose said...

I've read 11. Heard of all except 2. Several are on my TBR list. :)

Linda

mkcbunny said...

Read 10, with an 11th on my nightstand [Curious Incident]. I've never heard of The Master and the Margarita or Birdsong, although I know of Faulks.

My husband has read two of the ones I haven't, so they're in the house [Alchemist and Poisonwood]. The Poisonwood Bible is staring at me right now. Has been for years. I'll go pick it up and move it to my nightstand right now.

Miss Snark said...

The three I didn't know:
His Dark Materials
Birdsong
The Master and Margarita


and for those wondering where Mark Twain is...this was a list from a UK library I think. Although how they managed to exclude Gatsby I can't begin to explain.

Sarah said...

I agree with steorling. Especially that last bit.

Read: 14, and two are on my list for school next year.
Never heard of: 4.
Read partially: The Bible (in progress), Lord of the Flies (gave up), Jane Eyre (an abridged version when I was much younger).

I also agree that Hitchhiker should be on there... kind of. You either really like it or you don't.

blaironaleash said...

I can't believe The Dud Avocado isn't on there. Can't believe it.

Yeh yeh point and laugh already.

A quote of a quote of Jack Black in High Fidelity: 'A few new classics thrown into a list of old standards. Very PUSSY!!!'

-approximate quote, High Fidelity

Posted by Kop at June 18, 2004 09:22 AM

Yeh, this list is so pussy Killer Yap should chase it and break its neck. This list is the mix tape you make hoping to get laid by proving your erudition, eclecticism and that you're down with the kids. Most of the recent stuff will produce a blank look and a 'Hmm?' in ten years.

And what is draggy creepy fascistic crap like Philip Pullman doing on there INSTEAD OF ELAINE DUNDY?

Anonymous said...

Never heard of: 10
Read: 5

Bella Stander said...

I was going to post a comment here, but had so much to say that I did my own blog post, I'll Die Unliterated.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to take reading suggestions from a list that posts "God" as the author of the bible.

ryan said...

Maybe its just the Brits heaping luarels upn themselves, but come on ANtohony Burgess makes the list with " A Clockwork Orange". Burgess was a much better essayisty and critic the n he was a noevelist. The religous theme driving " A Clockwork Orange" is incoherent and inconsistent. If it were not for the Stanely Kubrick Masterpiece of the same name this novel would have been left to the dust heaps long beofre now.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

What is it about lists like this that attract so much attention? The thirty books to read before one dies has a number, death (seems to have replaced sex as a selling concept), bit of a quiz or puzzle, and in a forum, a chance to compare one's reading accomplishments with others. It's got to be something fundamental to the human condition, like the seven sacraments or twelve steps. The number thirty seems odd though. Creative journalism? Lack of column inches/centimeters?

Pleased to see The Life of Pi in there. It's the only contemporary one that I know, but then several are strangers. Others are unfortunately familiar. Pi was recommended by a bright and excited grocery checkout lady. Irresistable and enlightening, both the lady and the book.

archer said...

Here is the recent article on Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials) in The New Yorker.

Nessie said...

The Dark Material series is AMAZING! I used it for a university paper about Eastern philosophic inspirations in Western Lit. Even though it was required reading, please pick it up Miss Snark. And maybe since your in the biz, get a canadian copy. Pullman is british (one other clue where this particular list came from)

I would most definatly have added The wheel of Time Series (it can definatly replace the bible which I read twice: 11 years old and 17. all those juicy stories without th e 'father of XYZ' over and over) and of course The Count of Monte Cristo.

Also missing: Hinton's The Outsiders, Pride and Prejudice, Heart of Darkness, Othello, and McGuire's Wicked. Of course plenty others (I mean only 30!!). If anyone is looking for great recommendations that are a little off the wall check out Harold Bloom's How To Read and Why.

Anonymous said...

Beverage alert, with fully qualified rant----

Yanno (tm->$toMS), I expect more from a group of librarians. I thought I would let this pass with a note, but it's obvious the list has done its damage----

Один день Ивана Денисовича
One day of Ivan Denisovich

One day NOT "A" day.

Russian--'AhDEEN' = "1"

The Russian language doesn't even HAVE an indirect article!

Fiction is alphabetized within the author's last name! Searches are done on computers! "O" isn't even on the same hemisphere of the alphabet as "A."

This crime is right up there with everyone who calls the Keats poem "Ode to a Grecian Urn" -- Its the Ode ON a Grecian Urn. That's the whole point of the poem!

And the whole point of Solzhenitsiyn's book is that the pain, grief and suffering of a whole life can be experienced in ONE day. Every day in the gulag is that ONE day. That is the whole point. ONE

Librarians! Sheesh!

-kd

Anonymous said...

I love that The Lovely Bones and The Time Traveler's Wife are on there! Both great books. Also, The Life of Pi.

What should be on there but isn't? The Invisible Man. The Great Gatsby. And probably a lot of others that would bump the list way past 30. But at least those.

mswas said...

Read: 12
Never heard of: 4
Started but never finished: 3

re: Lovely Bones

After I had my first child, I found myself no longer able to read books about the death of children. I just can't get past that.

re: Gone With the Wind

Marvelous saga. Movie does not do it justice.

re: Hitchhiker's

Glad that was mentioned in the first post

re: To Kill a Mockingbird being essentially a children's book

I disagree. Do you feel the same way about Huckleberry Finn?

Kim said...

I've read 13 of them, have never heard of 2, and can't help but wonder why The Catcher in the Rye was left off the list? It was required in high school, but now holds a place of honor on my bookshelf.

V said...

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
***The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

***Just started reading.
there are actually a few I haven't heard of, others I started reading but didn't finish.

Katrina Stonoff said...

Read: 20
Never heard of: 4

Three of the ones I haven't read are on my TBR list. And I have read the Bible, cover to cover. Do I get extra points for that.

Of course, all this means is that I'm a compulsive overreader, as my friend Trudy Morgan-Cole says.

Anonymous said...

Read 17
Never Heard Of: 5

Georgia Girl

Rashenbo said...

I definitely enjoyed:

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

And, to kill a mockingbird is fantastic. Not sure about some of the others on that list though....

jude calvert-toulmin said...

I've read 10:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1984 by George Orwell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


...and parts of The Bible.

Not heard of:

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Know that I should read Lord Of The Rings but the genre puts me off.

Glad to see that two of my favourite books of all time, The Alchemist and The Grapes Of Wrath are in there. The Lovely Bones is also a great book.

All lists are dubious though, imo. Where's Dostoevsky and Sartre for example?

Phil (England) said...

I had a good look at the list and really I am suprised at the lack of depth. I think its missing a few seminal classics like Cider with Rosie, What Katy Did, The War of the Worlds, to name just a few.

Phil (England) said...

I am suprised that the list is lacking some excellent classics, like Dumas's The Black Tulip, Cider with Rosie, Nemesis (A.Christie), Catch 22 - Heller to name a few. I think English librarians need to read more.

noparadiselost said...

Read: 26
Never Heard of: 4

I'm ashamed to admit to gross pride at the fact that the only ones I haven't read are the ones I haven't heard of.
I'll have to look them up.