It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

I like me some meme


I found this on Larry’s blog here, where he says the following list is the results of a recent online poll on Lit Net. Whatever that might be. Still, a meme. A book meme. Bold those you’ve read, italicise the ones sitting on the TBR…

1 The Bible (I bought a copy of this last year, the first time I’ve ever owned one. It’s for reference, of course. And yes, I have the Qur’an and the Talmud as well)
2 Hamlet by William Shakespeare
3 The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
4 The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
5 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6 Ulysses by James Joyce
7 Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
8 Don Quixote by Cervantes
9 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
10 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
11 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
12 The Odyssey by Homer (I have the illustrated version of this somewhere)
13 Paradise Lost by John Milton
14 In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (I really must tackle these one day)
15 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
16 Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire
17 The Illiad by Homer
18 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
19 Essays by Montaigne
20 The Stranger by Albert Camus
21 The Oresteia by Aeschylus
22 Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
23 Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
24 The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin
25 Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
26 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
27 The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
28 Emma by Jane Austen (the one Austen I haven’t read)
29 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
30 The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
31 Eugene Onegin by Pushkin
32 Watership Down by Richard Adams
33 The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (my copy is one of my father’s Penguin classics)
34 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
35 Walden by Henry David Thoreau
36 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
37 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
38 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
39 Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
40 The Trial by Franz Kafka
41 Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
42 Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
43 The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
44 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
45 Fictions by JL Borges
46 El Aleph by JL Borges
47 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
48 Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
49 The Magus by John Fowles
50 Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
51 Testament by RC Hutchinson
52 Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
53 A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin (WTF? Certainly doesn’t belong on this list. Read the first three, gave up…)
54 Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
55 Oedipus the King by Sophocles
56 The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
57 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
58 Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
59 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
60 Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs
61 Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
62 Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
63 Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
64 No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
65 Othello by William Shakespeare (have seen the BBC adaptation; you don’t read a play, you see it performed)
66 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
67 Vanity Fair by William Thackerey
68 Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
69 Voss by Patrick White
70 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
71 Manfred by Lord Byron
72 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
73 Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
74 The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
75 Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
76 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
77 1984 by George Orwell
78 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (an even less deserving entry than GRRM’s)
79 The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramagos
80 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
81 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
82 Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne
83 The Tree of Man by Patrick White
84 The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
85 Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
86 2666 by Robert Bolano
87 Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
88 If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
89 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
90 The Arrow of Gold by Joseph Conrad
91 The Recognitions by William Gaddis
92 The Castle by Franz Kafka
93 I Canti by Giacomo Leopardi
94 Man’s Fate by André Malraux
95 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
96 Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (have read the first, have a few more on the TBR)
97 Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
98 Confessions by Rousseau
99 The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer
100 Julius Caesar by Shakespeare (have seen the BBC adaptation)

Well, it’s a very traditional list. The odd pre-19th century book can’t disguise all the obvious choices made for 19th and 20th century fiction. Not to mention a couple of frankly bizarre ones: A Song of Ice and Fire? Really? Atlas Shrugged? You think so? As for my “score”… Not so good: fourteen read (mostly), and a further eight on the TBR. I also count a mere  six women (Austen appears twice), which is appalling. This is literature as the province of Dead White Men, and pretty much what the entire field has been fighting against for the past two decades or more. And, of course, it’s woefully US/UK-centric, with a handful of other nationalities. So, not a very good list at all, then.

Lit Net, must do better.

7 thoughts on “I like me some meme

  1. I manage twenty, with six on the TBR pile. My sister accuses me of only reading sf, but when I count up the non-sf in the library, I find that although the proportion is well to the favour of sf, my non-sf selection is a) better than most of the population at large’s, and b) of perfectly acceptable quality. So I’m quite happy.

  2. I’m not surprised by the results of the poll, or at least the first 50 or so, as that correlates with similar lists I’ve seen produced by magazine reader polls and the like over the past decade and a half or so. I wouldn’t say it is a “bad” list (it contains several novels key to Anglo-American reading curricula/Zeitgeist), but rather an incomplete one that illustrates who is marginalized.

    That said, if I were to develop a Top 100 list, it would be “American”-centric of a different nature, dealing with Latin America much more, not to mention some anti-bourgeois lit.

  3. You certainly can read a play.
    I have read (rather than seen) quite a few Shakespeare plays – though not Othello. That was because they were on the English syllabus at school when I were a lad.
    I can still ream off lines, even whole soliloquies. I did so today. (The pupil on the receiving end was a bit bemused.)

  4. “A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin (WTF? Certainly doesn’t belong on this list. Read the first three, gave up…)”

    Agreed, it probably doesn’t belong on this list. And I’m assuming it isn’t your cup of tea, Ian.

    Still, it’s good. Engaging characters. Use of hooks and cliffhangers to keep things exciting without dumbing down the prose. Detailed and expansive. A lot we can learn from GRRM!


    • I used to read quite a bit of epic fantasy, but I gave up on it several years ago. A Song of Ice and Fire is no better and no worse than most. It’s better-written than a Wheel of Time (not difficult), but it’s less inventive. Its characterisation is of a level you’d expect in a fat thriller. But like, all epic fantasy series, it quickly succumbed to Extended Bloat. From what I remember of book three – I forget its title – very little happens: everyone tramps up Fantasyland, and then back down again.

      I’ve been watching the first season of the television series, and while the production values are good, it has demonstrated how badly-plotted the books are. Things happen because GRRM wants them to happen, not because they are plausible consequences of the characters and their actions. Of course, that may just be the TV series writers, not GRRM…

  5. “It would be unfair to say I did not come to this book with high expectations.” Umm what?

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