Monday, April 28, 2008

Books, books, books: part two

Below is Waterstone Book Stores choice of the greatest novel from each year from 1900-1998. And it’s interesting to compare lists – this list, to the list of unread books on Paul’s blog and that of the Waterstone’s 100 most popular books. (I should also add that this ‘toast’ seems to be a very Anglo-centric list with only a few novels that don’t fit this mold).

Sadly, although I have read many novels by authors on this list (such as Huxley, Steinbeck and Maugham) and have others in our bookshelf (Wind in the Willows, Sons and Lovers, and The Remains of the Day to name a few), I have only actually read TWO on this list – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I do far better on Paul’s list of books that sit on a shelf to make you look smart and interesting.

And that I find it a weird quirk of human behaviour. Why buy a book that you never intend to read? Yes, there are probably at least fifty to a hundred books in our bookshelves that have not been read yet, but they are there with the intention of being read some day. I would never buy a book to just put it there … or to impress someone.

What would happen is someone asked if I had read [insert novel name]? I’d go red and my nose would itch as I tried to concoct some type of half truth (I’m the world’s worst liar – thus the blush and give away ‘your nose will grow if you lie nose thing’ I do when I’m not being entirely honest). What do people who have these books on their shelves for the specific intention of creating a false persona say when others ask after their collection of books?

I’m rather proud of our collection of books (one day we aspire to have an actual library in our home – complete with the groovy sliding ladder that moves you from case to case). The majority of the ‘good ones’ belong to my partner who reads only highbrow literature (I’m not sure what he actually calls it though). I’ve always been more interested in a cracking yarn (Clive Cussler and Wilbur Smith etc) than something that expands the horizons of my mind. In my defence I have read in my time some ‘literature’ of my own accord (as in not because it had to be read for school) ‘Of Human Bondage’ the most poignant because of the juxtaposition of the story and my life as an employee on a cruiseboat at the time of reading. There may be changes afood though.

My partner raised an eyebrow when I asked over the weekend if we had Crime and Punishment. And that’s just the beginning. From the list below there is any number of books that I want to read one day … it’s just a matter of time. And that’s the thing about committing to writing … committing to reading.

I set myself the goal of reading a book a month this year. I wanted to set a number that committed me in a way that was achievable – after all, there is still writing to do and a family to take care of.

In January I managed to read the 600+ pages of Wild Swans which told me that I have it in me. It meant turning the computer off at night in January, rather than being sucked down into mindless internet surfing. I took my book with me wherever I went incase there was a chance to sneak in a page or two while I was waiting somewhere. I even chose to just go out for coffee and a read as one of my Artist Dates. And I managed to get through all 600+ which was a great way to open the year.

This month I have managed to read two books, so I’ve decided to raise the bar a little – two books a month? Why not! And having said that, my battery is about to run out of oomph, so it’s off to continue with Gerald Seymour’s The Unknown Solider, my Dad’s addition to my reading list for this year and perhaps the last cracking good yarn for a while.

How many on this list have you read? How many do you intend to read ‘one day’? What ones are noticeably absent (the first to spring to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird)?

Feel free to copy and post the list to your own blog but please link back here – even if it’s just to honour the time it took to type this list up from the photocopied list gifted to me by Annie gave me. As to how the list came about - I don't know. I can't find a reference to it on the web.

TOAST OF THE CENTURY - Waterstone Bookstores
1900
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum

1901
Kim – Rudyard Kipling

1902
The Hounds of Baskerville – Conan Doyle

1903
The Riddle of Sands – Erskine Childers

1904
The Golden Bowl – Henry James

1905
Kipps – HG Wells

1906
The Railway Children – Edith Nesbit

1907
The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad

1908
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahme

1909
Tono-Bungay – HG Wells

1910
Howards End – EM Forster

1911
In a German Prison – Katherine Mansfield

1912
‘Twist Land and Sea – Joseph Conrad

1913
Sons and Lovers – DH Lawrence

1914
The Ragged Trousered Philantropist – Robert Tressel

1915
The Good Solider – Ford Madow Ford

1916
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce

1917
Uneasy Money – PG Wodehouse

1918
Return of the Solider – Rebecca West

1919
The Moon and Sixpence – Somerset Maugham

1920
The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

1921
Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley

1922
Ulysses – James Joyce

1923
Riceyman Steps – Arnold Bennett

1924
A Passage to India – EM Forster

1925
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

1926
Winne-The-Pooh – AA Milne

1927
The Lighthouse -Virginia Woolf

1928
Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh

1929
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemminway

1930
Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers

1931
The Waves – Virginia Woolf

1932
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

1933
Love on the Dole – Walter Greenwood

1934
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

1935
Mr Norris Changes Trains – Christopher Isherwood

1936
Absalom!Absalom! – William Faulkner

1937
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

1938
Brighton Rock – Graham Green

1939
At Swim-two-Birds – Flann O’Brien

1940
Farwell My Lovely – Raymond Chandler

1941
Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton

1942
The Robber Bridegroom – Eudora Welty

1943
The Last Summer – Kate O’Brien

1944
Fair Stood the Wind for France – H E Bates

1945
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

1946
The Member of the Wedding – Carson McCullers

1947
Whisky Galore – Compton MacKenzie

1948
The Naked and the Dear – Norman Mailer

1949
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

1950
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

!951
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

1952
The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

1953
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

1954
Lord of the Flies – William Golding

1955
Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov

1956
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith

1957
On the Road – Jack Kerouac

1958
The Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – Alan Sillitoe

1959
The Naked Lunch – William Burroughs

1960
Rabbit Run – John Updike

1961
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

1962
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

1963
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Ian Fleming

1964
The Wapshot Chronicle – John Cleever

1965
An American Dream – Norman Mailer

1966
The Magus – John Fowles

1967
The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

1968
A Fan’s Notes – Fredrick Exley

1969
Portnoy’s Complaint – Phillip Roth

1970
The Vivisector – Patrick White

1971
Something Happened – Joseph Heller

1972
Bird of Night – Susan Hill

1973
Fear of Flying – Erica Jong

1974
The War Between the Tates – Alison Lurie

1975
Changing Places – David Lodge

1976
SAville – David Storey

1977
Staying On - Paul Scott

1978
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

1979
Treasures of Time – Penelope Lively

1980
Earthy Powers – Anthony Burgess

1981
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

1982
Lanark – Alasdair Gray

1983
Waterland – Graham Swift

1984
Money – Martin Amis

1985
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

1986
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

1987
Bonfires of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe

1988
Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

1989
The Remains Of The Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

1990
The Buddha of Suburbia – Hanif Kureishi

1991
The Famished Road – Ben Okri

1992
The Secret History – Donna Tartt

1993
The Shipping News – E Annie Proulx

1994
The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields

1995
Behind the Scenes at The Museum – Kate Atkinson

1996
Everyman for Himself – Beryl Bainbridge

1997
Enduring Love – Ian McEwan

1998
Underworld – Don DeLillo

6 comments:

Paul said...

Right, time to see how many I've read...

More to the point, how many have I even heard of! It's funny that I'm more aware of the books at the start of the list than the ones at the end....

Dave said...

I've read 21, with 3 on the not sure list as I think I read them eons ago in high school. They musn't have had much impact on me if I can't remember if I read them!
Personal favourites (on this list):
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
The Shipping News – E Annie Proulx

Paul said...

OK, I kind of feel pathetic!

I managed five...

Smiler said...

I have a love/hate relationship with these lists. On the one hand, I enjoy being reminded of all the wonderful books I haven't read yet but at the same time I wonder what the hell I've been doing because seems to me like I always have my nose in books, but I guess that's only half true.

I cannot for the life of me imagine buying a book to make an impression, though I do have books which sit there for years until I realize I cannot go on living without having read one in particular. And though I am not in the habit of quitting, there are quite a few books I've tried to stick with and then abandoned — who needs the torture of reading something that just doesn't work for you, right? — and then there are also countless books I've read and promptly forgotten about due to my woeful lack of short-term memory.

So the only ones I've read on this list are
The Moon and Sixpence
The Lighthouse (I think)
Murder on the Orient Express (I think since I read so many of her books!)
Of Mice and Men
The Catcher in the Rye
Lolita
The Handmaid’s Tale
and
The Secret History

Tricksy Pixie said...

I have read seven (The Great Gatsby, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, Lolita, On the Road, Naked Lunch.) These lists always terrify me. They make me feel like such an inadequate reader ;)

I also have many books on my shelves that are unread; that I buy because I say "That's a classic. I should own that. I should know it." Unfortunately "real life" and things that are probably not nearly as important, always get in the way.

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