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Books to read before you die

5. July 2006

Britain’s librarians have been getting together in their secret underground lairs and come up with the top 30 books you need to read before you die.
All I can say is, ho-hum.

The Top 30

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible (by God!)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

What do you make of this list? As an English major, I am happy to report I was forced to read most of these at some stage or another, but I wouldn’t put all of them in the must-read pile of a dying person for sure. About half of them, maybe.
How many of these books did I actually like? Hmmm. 6? 7? Maybe.
And I definitely think this list is lacking some beautiful classics, from The Neverending Story and Watership Down to The Princess Bride and Snow Falling On Cedars. And The Name of The Rose.
Oh, and do we conveniently ignore the Harry Potter phenomenon here? Or are they too popular to be on anyone’s intellectual reading list? Humbug.
Maybe it’s further down the list?

Good to see that Anglocentric Christian world views are still alive and kicking strongly. I’ve heard someone’s argument for having the Bible this high up was that most of the Western world’s literature was influenced by it. Do yourself and your world view a favour. Read outside your own cultural background at least once a month. It will do wonders for your understanding of people who are not reinforcing what you already consider ‘inevitable truths’.

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