Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Love the Smell of New Books

image from Penhallow PressBearclau posted this about the top 100 books as decided by the National Endowment for the Arts (remember those people who give all the money to PBS so we could watch Reading Rainbow?).

Here are my results. For the record, I was an English major in college, and a ridiculously avid reader as a kid. So some of these were by assignment; others for fun. Oh, and I do love the smell of new books. It's one of the best smells in the world - one reason a Kindle will never replace the experience of a paper book.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (even got to see one of her houses when I was in England on an English abroad in college)
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (got to see the house the Brontes grew up in too & run in the fields of heather which inspired Wuthering Heights)
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (I discovered this series in 1999 before it was hugely popular in the U.S. I remember reading the first one in paperback on the subway and being so excited that the second one had just been released as well in the U.S.; I then promptly turned a good 4-5 people on to the series (Andrew resisted for a while, but then started reading over my shoulder one afternoon sitting in bed - guess his book wasn't as interesting! He was hooked after that))
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (yes, I have read the whole thing (although usually in bits and pieces) - for religious reasons and for a Bible History class in college)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (see #3)
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (this one I had to read in high school - hated it)
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (read this one many many times; love it, especially being one of four daughters; makes me cry, but such a great read - I would be Meg in this scenario in terms of age)
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (got to spend a week in Stratford-Upon-Avon and study Shakespeare's plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company - that's where I met Ralph Fiennes, before he was in movies)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (this was one of the longest books I've ever read - you thought the movie was long!; if you can skim through the ridiculously long descriptions, it's a great book)
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens (never got into Dickens, but my mom really liked this one)
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (yes, I live near Monterey and have never read Steinbeck. I'm sorry and will rectify it as soon as I can bear reading a depressing story again; I hear his novels are amazing, but I think I'll start with the short stories)
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (still love this one and the poem Jabberwocky; gotta love the authors who make up their own words - Shakespeare did it all the time!)
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (this was one of those books I would read over and over again; love it)
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (haven't made it all the way through this series, but enjoyed the first one long ago; I would put "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" in with this, but I guess it's like "The Hobbit" - not technically part of the series)
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres (the movie ruined this for me; not sure I could handle the book)
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (who doesn't love Winnie the Pooh?)
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell (as mentioned earlier, I hated "1984", but everyone told me this one was better, so I've always intended to read it)
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (yes, I am one of the few in the world who has not read this; I even bought it and then moved and lost it in a box)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (this is a whole series as well, that I promptly read all of as quickly as possible in elementary school; I love the Canadian mini-series that they used to show on PBS as well)
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood (did not enjoy this one, but love other books of hers like "Surfacing", "Alias Grace", and her short stories)
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (lumped in with "1984" in my mind - didn't like either of them, although I get the point of it being on the list; good to read at some point)
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (just got this amongst one of many classic hardbound books my mom had my sisters and I go through - there are a lot of classics that got added to my collection & my list that way)
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding (read this book and enjoyed it, but really, it's on the list over lots of other authors? don't know about that)
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (had an English teacher in college who loved Melville; I never got it; but it is the book Starbucks got its name from!)
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (can I underline this one twice? if I didn't have a book to read, I would pick this one up again and again; love it)
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce (took a whole class on Joyce; his stuff is crazy; Ulysses is much easier to understand if you've read The Illiad and The Odessey - or at least know the story well)
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt (I'm probably one of the few who liked this movie; have the book, never made it through the whole thing)
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White (this is one of those classics to have read out loud to you in elementary school)
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (also classics; we went through a period where the family would sit at the dinner table after dinner and we would take turns reading out of these collections - very fond memories)
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (did a whole term paper on comparing this with "Apocalypse Now" - made me appreciate both a lot more)
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (read it in French as well, for class; weird but in a good, fun way)
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams (bunnies should be enjoyable, right? wrong - made me cry so much)
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (uh, not sure why this is outside of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" as listed above, but ok...)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (another of the classics I would read over and over again; I enjoyed so many Roald Dahl books, though - "James and the Giant Peach", "The BFG", "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" - the sequel, although not as good, still enjoyable)
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (seen the musical lots, not sure if I can make it through the whole book)

So if I counted right, that's about 45 from the list. I haven't been reading much lately, but I never used to go anywhere without a book (including the bathroom!). Since I re-started school, I've spent most of my reading time on textbooks (and online!). I used to read every night before bed, and I would love to get back into that habit. But that would mean getting into bed before I'm over-tired and my eyes are all blurry.

Some of my happiest memories are of reading, visiting the library with the excitement of what adventure or world I would get absorbed in next (my family read so much we'd visit the library every other week and get 4-5 books each time). We had bookshelves of books we'd read and re-read, that we loved to have read to us by our dad, that I learned to read with. My mom even got me a Book of the Week club membership when I was really young and just learning to read. I'd get 4-5 little books each time, and have them all read at least once by the time the next weekly shipment arrived. Those were exciting days - not only a package with my name on it, but lots of new books! And the local library book fair? Those were dangerous days. Buy a paper grocery bag for $5 and put as many books in it as you could. Hours spent looking for books, and then lots of hours looking through your bounty.

There are a ton of authors that have become favorites over the years. These days I prefer to read books that will be enjoyable more than make me think (like many on this list are written to do). But those are just as valuable, and I'm surprised certain books and authors didn't make it on this list. "Fahrenheit 451"? Really? That's a great book (and not just because it deals with fire!). Madeleine L'Engle? Maya Angelou? I love back-to-school time at bookstores where they put out all the reading-list books. It's a great way to expand your horizons and find some great new reads. And this has made me realize that I really need to join our library out here again. Plus, once upon a time I had started a list of every book I had ever read. I'd love to try to put that together again. I'm sure it would be interesting to look back over. Books are my happy place. I should go there more often.


Clau said...

I was introduced to books at such an early age. I was reading by the time I was in nursery school (I guess I was around 4-5?)

I love to read. I remember spending whole days over the summer reading from my summer reading list, and when I was done, off to the library to get more. I was part of the summer reading club in the library where it was a contest to see who could read the most books. And even now, I have to make an effort NOT to buy every book I want to read at B&N. I can spend so much money there before I realize it.

I'm glad that I enjoy books. I can't understand people who don't read for pleasure. To me, it's an escape, a virtual vacation and I know when a book is amazing when I can cry, laugh or be terrified along with the characters.

For the sake of space, I've had to narrow down my personal library only to books that I know I will read over and over again. Among those are Anne Rice's vampire series, Harry Potter series, Twilight series (I have to get the new Breaking Dawn book), Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged'. There are many more, but rather than go through them all, I'll direct you to It's an online personal book catalog. I think you'll find it valuable.

Clau said... is also a good site. Probably more social than


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