Really, these 100 books? You sure?

I see these lists sometimes of the 100 Books That Everyone Should Read, and I usually ignore them. But earlier this month, for whatever reason, I decided to dig into one to see how I would measure up. As an unrepentant English major and English/writing teacher, I felt some strange need to see how the literary prognostications of a business publication would compare to my own reading history. Here are my results from their list of one hundred titles:

These I read cover-to-cover and remember fairly well:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  2. “1984” by George Orwell
  3. “The Lord of the Rings” (1-3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  4. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
  6. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
  8. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  9. “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
  10. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  11. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wadrobe” by C.S. Lewis
  12. The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  13. “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  14. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
  15. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
  16. “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
  18. “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  19. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
  20. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  21. “The Odyssey” by Homer
  22. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
  23. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  24. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
  25. “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
  26. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
  27. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  28. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  29. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  30. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
  31. “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
  32. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
  33. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
  34. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  35. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  36. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

These I started and didn’t finish, or only read parts:

  1. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  2. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  3. “The Holy Bible: King James Version”

These I saw as a movie, TV, or stage play adaptation— I know, that’s cheating . . .

  1. “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
  2. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  3. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  4. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
  5. “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larrson
  6. “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
  7. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  8. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  9. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
  10. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
  11. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
  12. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  13. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
  14. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

These I’m certain that I’ve read, but to be honest, I can’t remember specifics:

  1. “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank
  2. “Night” by Elie Wiesel
  3. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  4. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain

These I’ve never read, but I’d like to:

  1. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
  2. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  3. “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller
  4. “The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver

These I know about and am not opposed to reading— I just haven’t . . .

  1. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  2. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  3. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
  4. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  5. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
  6. “Wuthering Heights” Emily Bronte
  7. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
  8. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
  9. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
  10. “The Stand” by Stephen King
  11. “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card
  12. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
  13. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
  14. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  15. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
  16. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (#3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  17. “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
  18. “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
  19. “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
  20. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
  21. “The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)” by Pearl S. Buck
  22. “Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)” by Suzanne Collins
  23. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
  24. “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough
  25. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving

These I’d never heard of:

  1. “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese
  2. “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
  3. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
  4. “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
  5. “Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge” by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
  6. “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett

These I’ve never read it and, at this stage in my life, don’t intend to:

  1. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
  3. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
  4. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
  5. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
  6. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  7. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
  8. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Once I was done remembering, sifting, and assessing, this exercise revealed something that surprised me. Apparently, I’ve only read barely more than one-third of the “books” that everyone should read. Everyone, really? Of course, I also have some objections to the seriously flawed reading list, if it truly is for everyone:

  1. The list contains no William Faulkner novels at all!
  2. There are hardly any African-American authors here.
  3. Although Harry Potter novels and Hunger Games novels are counted separately, all three Lord of the Rings books, the whole Narnia series counts, and the whole King James Bible each only count as one “book”!
  4. The lack of current literary writers, like Colson Whitehead, Jesmyn Ward, and Don DeLillo, is auspicious.
  5. Another couple of inarguably great novels are missing: Their Eyes Are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
  6. The list only contains two poetry selections, “The Raven” and “The Odyssey,” and no Beat Generation poetry at all. Hello . . . “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg!

So, my dissatisfied response has been to make my own list, which I hope everyone will click: 101 Books.

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