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11 April 2008

35 Down, 75 to Go

An article in the Telegraph earlier this week lists the 110 best books to create the perfect library. I read a lot but I usually prefer books that are a bit quirkier than your average NYT bestseller and I don't like very much pre-20th century writing; well, maybe it's more accurate to say that I am a modern lass at heart and don't really go for all the swooning and ankle flashing of the 19th century. Mediaeval literature is slightly different; I've always had a soft spot for Tristan, Iseult, Arthur and all his chums - I guess I have just romanticised the 13th and 14th centuries massively, but, you know...there are worse times to live than the Mediaeval period if you're a beautiful princess enjoying some serious courtly lovin'.

Anyway, as such, I wasn't expecting to have read very many of the top 110 books from this list, so almost one third isn't such bad going. Still, all three of the Italian books on the list that I have read were read as part of my degree; one of the French ones (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) is one of my favourite novels and the other (A la recherche...) is one I have read but didn't really enjoy or take in properly - I read it to have read it.

Inevitably, such a list can't hope to be comprehensive. What about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Margaret Atwood? Julian Barnes? Jilly Cooper?! No, seriously, as I look at my bookshelves, which contain a combination of my all-times favourites and "books I have read recently, some of which I quite enjoyed, others of which, I am glad to have finished," and I'm not sure that any of them would make it onto one of these lists (apart from Dante and Chodlerlos de Laclos, which are already on the list).

Maybe if there were a science/non-fiction-other-than-history section in this library, Steve P would make the cut (I would hope so). Perhaps Bill Bryson would make it into a travel section with The Lost Continent, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow would definitely be in the "magical realism of the 20th century" section, Polo by Jilly Cooper would be top of the "bonk-busters involving handsome cads, horses and feisty Argentines" section and The Dreamers would be featured in the "incestuous twins who have a really messed up relationship with each other and an American guy in Paris in soixante-huit" category. My library, in effect, would not be best categorised in the Dewey decimal system, on account of the eclectic nature of its contents, so I make do by dividing it into fiction and non-, and then alphabetising each section. Oh, I do like to alphabetise!

Here are the books from the Telegraph's list that I have read (a couple of these, I literally read but didn't really take in the meaning of the words; others, I read a while ago and the details are a bit fuzzy; a very few, I have ready many, many times; the majority, I have read once and liked well enough):

Classics
Madame Bovary (Flaubert)

Poetry
Sonnets (Shakespeare)
The Divine Comedy (Dante)
The Waste Land (Eliot)
Collected Poems (Hughes)

Literary Fiction
Portrait of a Lady (James)
A la recherche de temps perdu (Proust)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Hemingway)
The Human Stain (Roth)

Romantic Fiction
Rebecca (Du Maurier)
Le Morte d'Arthur (Malory)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Choderlos de Laclos)
Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
Tess of the d'Urbevilles (Hardy)

Children's Books
Swallows and Amazons (Ransome)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Lewis)
Babar (de Brunhoff)
The Railway Children (Nesbitt)
Winnie the Pooh (Milne)
Harry Potter (Rowling)
The Wind in the Willows (Grahame)
Treasure Island (Stevenson)

Sci-Fi
Frankenstein (Shelley)
Brave New World (Huxley)
1984 (Orwell)
The Day of the Triffids (Wyndham)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Dick)

Crime
The Talented Mr Ripley (Highsmith)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Le Carré)

Books That Changed the World
The Prince (Macchiavelli)
On the Origin of Species (Darwin)

Books That Changed Your World
The Tipping Point (Gladwell)
Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Truss)
Schott's Original Miscellany (Schott)

Lives
If This Is a Man (Levi)

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