As I write this, there there’s a stack of books on the floor, beside my desk. It’s my “to read” pile; books that I’ve bought because I know I want to read them at some point in the no-so-distant future, depending on my mood or what interests me next. (Sometimes it’s unpredictable. For example, after Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary popped up in my Netflix queue, I was so intrigued that I ended up watching Downfall next. I was so intrigued that I ended getting a copy of The Bunker via link Bookmooch, and may end up reading more.)
Aside from my “to read” pile, I also have “to read” list, kept in various places, of books I (a) want to read someday or (b) feel I really should have read by now. Yet, despite being an English lit. major, I have a rather extreme aversion to canonical lists of books one absolutely must read. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t help but notice what (and whom) most of those canonical lists left out. (In college, I avoided taking the required “pre-1800” classes until my advisor sat me down and told me I had to.) Still, I was intrigued when I came across this list of the 110 “best books” at The Best Article Every Day.
The list is offered without any more explanation than this:
From classics and sci-fi to poetry, biographies and books that changed the world… we present the ultimate reading list.
Which is usually enough to put me off immediately. “The best books”? So, there are books any “well-read” person must have read? There was a time when the implication would have sent me off on a tirade, but now I know that most people could live an entire lifetime as avid readers and never manage to read all of these titles, unless they make it their goal to do so.
So, I wondered how many of them I’ve actually read so far. Here’s what I came up with.
- The Illiad and The Odessey
- Gulliver’s Travels
- David Copperfield
- Sonnets, Shakespeare
- Cantebury Tales
- The Waste Land
- Paradise Lost
- Songs of Innocence and Experience
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles
- The Lion, THe Witch, and the Wardrobe
- The Lord of the Rings
- Brave New World
- The Prince
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Good grief. Out of 110 books, that’s it? And I’m someone who’s almost always reading two books at the same time. (I usually read them on alternate days. I used to have more than two books going at one time, until my former ADD coach suggested I keep it at two, and maybe increase my chances of finishing them.)
On one hand, you might say my education is sorely lacking. But I’m sure that most people never come close to reading that whole list in their lives, even people who are well-read. Beside, there’s a few titles missing from that list.
My personal list would probably be very different. What would be on your “best books” list?