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120 Books to read before you die

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Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is:

Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

The reason this book is so close is because I found it at a library book sale on Saturday for 50 cents. It’s a dust jacket-less hardcover of faded green that reminds me of the well-loved (or hated) tomes we used to be given at school. Only they smelt of dust, tears and sweat whilst this smells (quite literally) of peaches! (Take that eReaders, bet your ‘books’ don’t smell of stone fruit :p)

But this fruity aroma was not the sole reason I purchased this copy. Certainly, the rather enticing price was a major incentive, but the reason I selected this from the array of books on offer is simple; it has been on my reading list for years, and now I own my own copy perhaps I will get around to finally reading it.

As I meandered home it got me thinking of all the other books out there that I’ve been meaning to read for years. The classics that many people have read (and loved or despised) over the years that for whatever reason I never got around to reading.

It reminded me of a list I read a long time ago (2010, I believe), a collection of 100 books that the BBC had decided are the 100 Books you must read before you die, so in the middle of the night I slinked back online and tracked it down, curious to how many I’ve read and how many I have to go:

The “BBC’s 100 books you need to read before you die” list:

(Note: Bolded titles are ones that I have read; Italicised titles are ones that I have started but never finished.)

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

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

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

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

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 – A.A. 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 Inferno – Dante

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 – E.B. 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 (In French)

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

So, with eighty down and nineteen to go (for after attempting the Harry Potter books many times in my life I have zero intention of ever going back to try to finish them!) I realised I couldn’t write a post scolding myself over being a literary ignoramus because, quite frankly, eighty is an almighty achievement I should be proud of!

But as I re-read the list the anomalies I noticed all those years ago still stood out. Why is Hamlet included at (98) when The Completed Works of William Shakespeare is at (14)? Why is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on the list (36) when three places earlier there is the Chronicles of Narnia (33)? Why in God’s Earth is The Da Vinci Code on this list (42) when, after reading it, you are likely to be overwhelmed with an urge to gouge your eyeballs out with a spoon? Where is Brideshead Revisited? Where is The Forsythe Saga? Where is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay? Where the hell is Matilda?

Someone seriously needs to be spanked for that almighty error!

So, I have decided to write an addition to this list. An extra twenty titles that I think should be read before one wanders off this mortal coil:

Addy’s “Twenty more books you need to read before you die” list:

1. Matilda – Roald Dahl

Every single human being on the planet should read this book. No exceptions, no excuses. It is a sublime work of genius!

2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michal Chabon

A stunning achievement in every conceivable sense that should be on everyone’s ‘before I die’ reading list.

3. The Forsythe Saga – John Galsworthy

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t read it, but I’ve been told (on trusted authority) that it’s excellent.

4. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

See (3) above.

5. Little, Big – John Crowley

One of the forefathers of Urban Fantasy and a work of immense imagination and beauty.

6. Voss – Patrick White

A novel of extraordinary power and virtuosity.

7. Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James

Purely so people can understand the damage that bad writing and disgusting stereotyping can cause!

8. Artemis Fowl Series – Eoin Colfer

A children’s series that was (unfortunately) eclipsed by the boy wizard phenomenon. Which is a shame, because it’s much, much better!

9. The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy – Anne Rice (writing as A.N Roquelaure)

So people who have read E.L. James can see how it should be done.

10. Thongs – Alexander Trocchi

Why? I wrote a post on it here…

11. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Don’t be intimidated by its size…it’s worth the effort :)

12. The Stornoway Way – Kevin McNeil

Contemporary Scottish fiction at it’s finest.

13. Lanark: A Life in Four Books – Alasdair Gray

See (12) above.

14. Glue – Irvine Welsh

See (13) and (12) above :p

15. The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe

Yes, it’s a poem, not a book. But seriously, you have to read this before you die!

And as it will only take you a few minutes, you have no excuse!

16. The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear – Walter Moers

Ingenious, delightful, imaginative, compelling, inspiring. All the reasons why someone should read a book in the first place.

17. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes

Fascinating and brilliantly written book detailing the early convict history of Australia.

18. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

Personally, I didn’t like it (hence why I couldn’t finish it)…but why not make your own mind up.

19. The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

Quite possibly the best retelling of the Arthurian legend, ever!

20. ‘Anything’ – Robert Louis Stevenson

Anything is not a book title. Anything means absolutely anything from this author, whom I am stunned is not included on the BBCs list. My personal recommendation would be Kidnapped (as I’m a sucker for Scottish historical) but Treasure Island, Catriona and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are also worth every second of your time.

So, with all that said, all we need to do is convince people in this era of technological overload that reading is still one of the greatest past-times known to human kind. Perhaps if only we could break it to these people by degrees we would be able to get more people reading these wonderful works of fiction.

(Okay, apologies for that. But I realised I hadn’t technically worked the line into the post so had to squeeze it in somehow, sort of!)

What about you? How many of the BBC’s books have you read? And do you have any that you think should be on the list?

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5 thoughts on “120 Books to read before you die

  1. I’ve read Of Mice and Men and that’s it out of that lot lol

    Like

  2. I’ve read 11 :P

    I was wondering if I should check out Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice. I’ll think about it.

    Like

  3. I’ve read The Raven. Awesome. I suggest to read letter to a young poet.

    Like

  4. i’m fond of poe’s works, he’s genius

    Like

  5. No Faulkner? Hmm

    Like

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