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#9126 - 10/27/00 02:57 PM book lists  
Joined: Oct 2000
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xara Offline
xara  Offline

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 197
cary, nc, usa
Speaking of good books, I would like to have a good reading list. What books should a well read individual have read? Does anyone know if there is any such list anywhere online, or elsewhere? I'm thinking of a list of 100 or so of the most important literary pieces (in english, or translated into english).

#9127 - 10/28/00 11:27 AM Re: book lists  
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 460
paulb Offline
paulb  Offline

Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 460
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Well, xara, here's a start:

Callill & Toibin: The modern library: The 200 [194] best novels in English since 1950.

You are encouraged to add the other 6 titles yourself!

#9128 - 10/29/00 03:47 AM Re: book lists  
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belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel
belMarduk  Offline
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Hi xara,

I've been mulling over your question for the past few days. I think each person has a different view of what constitutes the most important literary pieces. What was written by Plato, or, (sorry folks), most of Shakespeare does not touch me, and consequently, I do not consider their work to be among the most important, to me. Do you want to read to please others or to please yourself? You can do both I am sure, but there is an expression that says ‘to thy own self be true’. The most important literary pieces are the ones that you love best.

That said, here are a few that I love best. Maybe you will too.

Who Has Seen the Wind – W.O. Mitchell
A portrait of life on the Canadian prairies during the early 20th century as seen through the eyes of one young boy. It captures something significant about the prairie psyche and the Canadian psyche as a whole.

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
You don’t have to grow old just because you grow up.

The Complete – Illustrated – Lewis Carroll
Wordworth Editions ISBN 1-85326-897-6
a) because it contains two of my favorite books; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, in their original formats (NOT Disneyfied)
b) because it has the rest of his writings
Carroll IS a wordmaster.

The Egg and I – Betty MacDonald
A terrific piece of Americana. Ma and Pa Kettle are created in this book. MacDonald describes her life with her new husband on a chicken farm in the Olympic Mountains of upper Washington State in northwest U.S.A. It is a brilliant piece of writing, touching in places and hilarious in other. A thought provoking picture of a woman’s life in the early 1900`s. Try to find an old version of this book.

Was It Heaven? Or Hell? – Mark Twain
I had the extreme good luck of finding a 1928 edition of The Complete Short Stories and Famous Essays of Mark Twain – P.F. Collier & Son Corporation, publisher. Like most people I was only aware of his Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn stories – which do not do justice to this man’s body of work. Twain is a curmudgeon, a humorist, an editorialist an essayist. He writes prose and verse. He is the mirror in which humans get a glimpse of themselves as they really are.

The specific story above is one of my favorites. I won’t tell you what it is about since it is quite short and I will give it away if I do. Find it, read it and have a hanky ready just in case.

What the body remembers – Shauna Singh Baldwin
The introduction says it best..."deeply imbued with the languages, customs and layered history of colonial India, What the Body Remembers is an absolute triumph of storytelling. Never before has a novel of love and partition been told from the point of view of the Sikh minority, never before through Sikh women’s eyes. This is a novel to read, treasure and admire that, like its two compelling heroines, resists all efforts to put aside.

#9129 - 10/29/00 08:42 AM Re: book lists  
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jmh Offline
jmh  Offline

Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,981
I agree with bel - it's probably more interesting to ask individuals for their recommendations but you asked for a list so here is one:


Assuming it's OK with the author I'll include the top twenty:

Rank Author Title Date
001 Fitzgerald, F. Scott; Great Gatsby, The; 1925
002 Orwell, George; Nineteen Eighty Four; 1949
003 Heller, Joseph; Catch 22; 1961
004 Steinbeck, John; Grapes of Wrath, The; 1939
005 Nabokov, Vladimir; Lolita; 1955
006 Joyce, James; Ulysses; 1922
007 Orwell, George; Animal Farm; 1954
008 Golding, William; Lord of the Flies; 1954
009 Salinger, J. D.; Catcher in the Rye, The; 1951
010 Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr.;Slaughterhouse Five; 1969
011 Huxley, Aldous; Brave New World; 1932
012 Ellison, Ralph; Invisible Man;1952
013 Faulkner, William; Sound and the Fury, The; 1929
014 Joyce, James;
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A; 1916
015 Hemingway, Ernest; Sun Also Rises, The; 1926
016 Wright, Richard; Native Son; 1940
017 Kerouac, Jack; On the Road; 1957
018 Woolf, Virginia; To the Lighthouse; 1927
019 Lee, Harper; To Kill a Mockingbird; 1960
020 Walker, Alice; Color Purple, The; 1982

It is a composite list of four lists: Modern Library list, Library Journal list, Koen Book Distributors list, Radcliffe Publishing Course list - the webpage below analyses their strengths and weaknesses:

I'm sure that there was a BBC programme with a list, so I'll keep looking.

#9130 - 10/29/00 10:03 AM Re: book lists  
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,981
jmh Offline
jmh  Offline

Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,981
Here's a UK website where you can vote for the best children's books. The numbers are still small but the selection of books is interesting:

Here are the top 25 at today's date:
1. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by JK Rowling (26 votes)
2. "Bogwoppit" by Ursula Moray Williams (19 votes)
3. "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame (12 votes)
4. "The Hobbit: or there and back again" by JRR Tolkien (10 votes)
5. "Bottersnikes and Gumbles" by SA Wakefield (9 votes)
6. "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin (9 votes)
7. "Fattypuffs and Thinifers" by Andre Maurois (9 votes)
8. "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" by CS Lewis (9 votes)
9. "Jennings Goes to School" by Anthony Buckeridge (8 votes)
10. "The Silver Sword" by Ian Serraillier (8 votes)
11. "The BFG" by Roald Dahl (7 votes)
12. "Charlotte's Web" by EB White (7 votes)
13. "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" by Alan Garner (7 votes)
14. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by JK Rowling (6 votes)
15. "Just William" by Richmal Crompton (6 votes)
16. "Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome (6 votes)
17. "Finn Family Moomintroll" by Tove Jansson (6 votes)
18. "Goodnight, Mr Tom" by Michele Magorian (5 votes)
19. "The Diary of a Killer Cat" by Anne Fine (5 votes)
20. "Nortern Lights: His Dark Materials 1" by Philip Pullman (5 votes)
21. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" by JK Rowling (5 votes)
22. "The Demon Headmaster" by Gillian Cross (4 votes)
23. "The Story of Tracey Beaker" by Jacqueline Wilson (4 votes)
24. "Johnny and the Bomb" by Terry Pratchett (4 votes)
25. "Five on a Treasure Island" by Enid Blyton (4 votes)

#9131 - 10/29/00 10:13 AM Re: book lists  
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jmh Offline
jmh  Offline

Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,981
I think that the easiest thing to do is to type in something like "20th Century books" or "best books" into a search engine such as Google and you will get a seemingly infinite number of lists, make your own selection from the ones given (or ignore them all if you feel that you know better).

As lists go, I liked this list of "important" books, broken down by year:

I think it would be interesting if we all listed our top five books and see where we end up.

#9132 - 10/29/00 11:11 AM Re: book lists  
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emanuela Offline
emanuela  Offline

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Posts: 315
Italy - Perugia is a town with...
>>The most important literary pieces are the ones that you love best.
I absolutely agree. So the question could be translated as
Which books would you bring with you in a desert island? I have no doubts:
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance - R.Pirsig.

But, Xara, I regret the fact the I read it in an Italian translation, since it would be a long hard work for me to try to read it in English. But I am aware - mostly after these months of AWADtalk - that you cannot really understand and appreciate a book unless you read it in the original language - not everything can be translated without loosing a part of the meaning...

#9133 - 10/29/00 02:41 PM Re: book lists  
Joined: Jul 2000
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Jazzoctopus Offline
old hand
Jazzoctopus  Offline
old hand

Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 1,094
Cincinnati & Loveland, Ohio, U...
Is it just me, or does seeing "Greatest Books" lists like that give anyone else a sentimental, almost patriotic, inspiration? Lists like these give a realization of the importance these books have had. They summarize our history in such few words because merely the titles of these books bring out vivid pictures of who we are and where we've been. It's like walking through Liberty Hall and feeling the magnitude and importance of where you are. Such lists are the Mount Rushmore of literature, bringing to light the greatest and most meaningful.

Last year around this time Kenny G came out with a Holiday CD and on it was a version of Aud Lang Sein with audio clips of the most important events of the century playing over the song. That CD gave me the same feeling as these lists, like I was experiencing history.

#9134 - 10/29/00 02:44 PM Re: book lists  
Joined: Apr 2000
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tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
wow! This may well be the most subjective question yet asked herein. Others have given you their approaches, but there are many you could take. One might ask the bridgekeeper's question (MP allusion): "What is your quest?" Do you want to be able to grasp literary allusions? (read the 'classics') Do you want to be able to talk about current popular books with friends and colleagues? (see the NYTimes bestseller lists or equivalent) Do you want to be inspired? Laugh? Cry?

My approach is to just read anything and everything that falls into my path (you have to recognize the chaff, of course :). The last two books that I've read are:
- The Voyage of the Narwhal, a novel by Andrea Barrett
- The Soviet Tragedy, by Matin Malia

Not that I'm necessarily saying that you should run off and read these; I'm just trying to illustrate the point: "Be eclectic -- you'll have more fun!"

I could never choose 2 books to take to a desert island -- I'd drown trying to make a choice -- or list my 25/50/100/200... favorites. When I'm asked, I generally list some favorite writers, those that I have learned to trust with my time or those that I reread. In no particular order these include: John LeCarre, John Hassler, John McPhee, Gene Wolfe, Kate Wilhelm, Ursula LeGuin, Shelby Foote, Carl Hiaason, Thomas Pynchon, Joseph Campbell, Peter Matthiessen, Joyce, Hemingway, Heinlein, Elmore Leonard, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.... Well, you get the idea.

#9135 - 10/29/00 05:09 PM Re: book lists  
Joined: Mar 2000
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Jackie Offline
Jackie  Offline

Carpal Tunnel

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Louisville, Kentucky
Hi, xara--

I have been at a loss to know where to start in responding to this. Glad others are quicker off the mark.
ATTENTION, those of you who get bored at work and can go on-line there:
This site has 4,000 (free) books you can read online--

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