Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'll Die Unliterated

Miss Snark cites an article at Wordwing Editors, Read It Before You Die, which lists 30 titles that a poll of British librarians determined every adult should read before relinquishing this mortal coil.

In order, they are:
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Bible (by God!) [sic]
  3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque
  9. His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
  10. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  11. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  12. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  13. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  14. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  15. Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne
  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  17. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  19. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  20. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  21. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  22. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  23. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  24. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  25. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  26. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  28. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  29. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  30. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Evidently the librarians are better at literature than math, because the two trilogies bring the volume count to 34, not 30. But if we accept each trilogy as a single title, then I have read half the ones on the list. (However, I think I should get extra credit for having read the entire Pullman trilogy aloud to the Boy Wonder.)

Shame-faced confession: I've never read (or seen) To Kill a Mockingbird. I'll do it this summer, honest! But I sure as hell won't read Gone with the Wind anytime soon--if ever.

I read the Tolkien at 13 and had such horrible nightmares about the Ring Wraiths that I never went near his books again. I didn't see the movies either. I read Tess after seeing the Polanski movie, and that put me off Hardy for good.

I'd never heard of two titles: Birdsong and Master and Margarita. I've read parts of the Old Testament (known to my crowd as "the Torah.")

I loved The Lovely Bones, but think that Love in the Time of Cholera is infinitely more essential. Couldn't get past page 10 of Time Traveler's Wife, nor page 5 of anything by Coelho. And why list them instead of, say, Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby?

I love Dickens, but why three of his works and not Madame Bovary--or any French titles? Oh,'s a British list. No wonder. (Reminds me of my honeymoon with Husband #1. We were at a restaurant in a fishing village in Cornwall, where many of the exterior walls were embedded with oyster shells. We eagerly ordered oysters, but were told they'd all died of "a French disease."*)

Most of all, why are all the books, with the exception of The Prophet (puh-leeze!), by whites from Europe or the U.S.?

*an archaic term for syphilis


Annie Dean said...

I'm a lit barbarian too, I guess. Everyone touts The Lovely Bones as being so fantastic, but it did the unforgivable to me: it bored me. I'll take shock, pain, sorrow, joy, cheap laughs, anything so long as it doesn't make me wonder whether my oven is dirty. I agree 100% on Love in the Time of Cholera but then I'm a big Marquez fan.

You should try The Hummingbird's Daughter; I bet you'd like it.

Anonymous said...

I've read 24, plus some of the Bible and Lord of the Rings.

Most fantastic:

Pride & Prejudice
David Copperfield


The Lovely Bones (sorry, Bella)
The Alchemist

Does this mean I can die sooner than you?


Bella Stander said...

Fine with me!

jerry said...

The Lovely Bones also left me flat. Seemed to me to be written by committee.
A book you might add to your list, Herb's First 1oo Years by Randy Perkins

guile said...

hmmm.. i thought the lovely bones was alright :)..