The top 100 books you must read – according to whom exactly?

A couple of months ago, I asked a friend the question “What book are you reading at the moment?” Nothing unusual about that – I ask that question of my friends constantly and regularly – but Ash’s response was not just a simple “the latest Stephanie Meyer/John Grisham/insert well-known author here”, but rather she told me she was reading a list. A list of books, that is. At her bookclub the previous week, they had discussed a list of the top 100 books we should all read and after realising that she had only covered off about a quarter, Ash decided she needed to make some inroads into the list.

Naturally I was curious, so I started searching for the list and though I don’t think that I ever found the one they used at Ash’s bookclub, I did discover that there are many and varied lists on this topic of ‘must-read’ books.

The BBC Big Read
• The Big Read was a survey carried out by the BBC in the UK in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation’s best loved novel of all time.
• This list was very UK-centric, including lots Jacky Wilson’s and Terry Pratchett’s books as well as all the Harry Potters listed separately (!!), plus lots of classics, the Tolkien’s and some modern classics by Rushdie, Faulks and Irving.
• My total count on this list: 15 books.

The Best 100 Lists website
• This website conducts a series of ongoing, online polls, designed to find the best 100 of various things, as voted by regular people.
• This list included some more contemporary popular novels like The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life of Pi, but still contained a majority of classics.
• My total count on this list: 11 books.

The New York Times
• I was surprised I didn’t come across a more recent NY Times list, but the one I found was 1998. A list of novels drawn up by the editorial board of Modern Library. Most (where possible) were linked to the original NY Times review.
• Though it did include a lot of the titles mentioned on the other lists, there were a hell of a lot of books that I hadn’t even heard of and I thought my knowledge of books was fairly up to scratch!
• My total count on this list: a shameful 2!

Angus & Robertson Top 100
• In March 2010, A&R took a vote, with over 100,000 Aussies taking part.
• This list included many classics and old favourites, but also plenty of newer titles, including some vampire tales and film tie-ins.
• Though I thought I would fare much better (and it was my highest score!), I still didn’t even crack 25%!
• My total count on this list: 18 books.

There was a list from the UK Telegraph, divided into categories (classics, literary fiction, romantic fiction, children’s, sci-fi, crime etc) and I was hopeful, but again scored very poorly, with only five books. Another list was put together by TIME critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo, who picked the best 100 English-language novels from 1923 to the present. It wasn’t ranked, but rather listed alphabetically and typical of literary critics, was filled with utterly obscure novels! I got to four! There was also a list from the Guardian UK in 2002, but let’s not talk about that one (one!!)…

So, in order to make things easier on myself, I’ve put together my own list. It combines a selection from all the lists I’ve looked at, as well as recommendations from friends & family, plus books I’ve heard about more than once and which to me seem as though they should be included on this kind of list, some contemporary bestsellers that have taken the world by storm, plus a few books that I’ve read and loved and which I think should absolutely be read by everyone.

So here we go, in no particular order or ranking. I’ve read 40 (of my own list!).

Lizzie’s Top 100 – books we should all read.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
6. A Fortunate Life, A.B. Facey
7. The Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
8. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
9. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. The Kite Runner, Khaled Husseini
14. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
15. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
16. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards
17. Persuasion, Jane Austen
18. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
19. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
20. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
21. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
22. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
23. Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
24. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
25. The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas
26. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
27. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
28. The BFG, Roald Dahl
29. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
30. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
31. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
32. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
33. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
34. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
35. What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt
36. Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín
37. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
38. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
39. The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
40. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
41. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
42. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
43. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
44. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
45. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
46. Middlemarch, George Eliot
47. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
48. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
49. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
50. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
51. Ulysses, James Joyce
52. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
53. Q&A, Vikas Swarup
54. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
55. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne
56. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
57. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
58. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
59. The Other Hand, Chris Cleave
60. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
61. The Pilot’s Wife, Anita Shreve
62. Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey
63. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
64. Watership Down, Richard Adams
65. Marching Powder, Rusty Young
66. Losing My Virginity, Richard Branson
67. Down Under, Bill Bryson
68. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
69. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
70. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
71. Tomorrow When the War Began, John Marsden
72. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
73. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
74. The Twits, Roald Dahl
75. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
76. Joe Cinque’s Consolation, Helen Garner
77. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
78. The Millennium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson
79. True Pleasures, Lucinda Holdforth
80. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
81. Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali
82. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
83. Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin
84. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
85. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
86. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
87. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
88. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
89. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
90. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
91. The Twilight Saga, Stephanie Meyer
92. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
93. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
94. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
95. The Story of Tom Brennan, J.C. Burke
96. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
97. Animal Farm, George Orwell
98. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
99. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
100. Exodus, Leon Uris

And just so you can see how you go against the big guns, here is the BBC Big Read list:

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

So what’s your number?

Happy reading!

x

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About Tablecloths & Talking

Food. Friends. Fun. Preferably together. I love to eat, drink & be merry. I love to write. Tablecloths & Talking is me writing about doing the things I love.
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