June 11, 2005

The UK's best-loved novels

Rebecca posted the top 10 of the United Kingdom's most popular novels. I am, as anyone knows who regularly reads this blog, a complete sucker for long lists of books of which I have only read a few.

She asks: "How many of the top 100 have you read?" Here's the answer.

The ones I have read are bolded:

  1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
  10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
  14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
  15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
  16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
  20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
  23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
  24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
  25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
  26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
  29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
  32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
  34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
  38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  39. Dune, Frank Herbert
  40. Emma, Jane Austen
  41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
  42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
  43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
  44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
  50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
  51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
  53. The Stand, Stephen King
  54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
  56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
  57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
  58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
  59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
  60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
  62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
  63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
  65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
  66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
  67. The Magus, John Fowles
  68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
  70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
  71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
  72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
  73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
  74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
  75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
  76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
  78. Ulysses, James Joyce
  79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
  80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
  81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
  82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
  83. Holes, Louis Sachar
  84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
  85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
  87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
  90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
  91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
  92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
  93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  95. Katherine, Anya Seton
  96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
  97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
  98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
  99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
  100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Once again, the number I have read is a clear minority: 33. I have yet to determine whether this is due to sloth (you may notice the distinct escapist slant in my reading list; while I try to balance my reading with some literary fiction, much of what I read isn't going to make anyone's "best of" lists, quite frankly) or just the fact that there are so many books that no one could possibly cover them all. "[O]f making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh" (Eccl. 12:12).

Rebecca also asks, "Would an American list be different? A Canadian one?" Naturally, the American list would include more American works. While a few greats, most notably John Steinbeck, get a nod, American notables like William Faulkner, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemingway are conspicuously absent (as are more recent luminaries such as Toni Morrison . . . meh). Beyond that I'll let the Americans deal with the Americans.

Naturally, a Canadian list would probably include Mordecai Richler, Farley Mowat, Margaret Atwood, and - if we take the gag off the English teachers - Margaret Laurence. My list of favourites, if I were to supplement the above with Canadian works, might include a number of the following Canadian novels which I have read and enjoyed, in no particular order.

  • Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang, Mordecai Richler
  • The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • Life of Pi, Yann Martel
  • Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Stephen Leacock
  • Life After God, Douglas Coupland
  • Tempest-Tost, Robertson Davies
  • The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe
  • Owls in the Family, Farley Mowat

I should add, in the interest of full disclosure, that I grew up in the 1980s when Canadian literature had a reputation for being dreck and the library slapping a maple leaf sticker on the spine of a book signalled the kiss of death. This longstanding prejudice against Canadian literature is only recently being reformed, thus my experience is necessarily limited. I'll let some of my other Canadian friends fill in some of the lacunæ in my education. In fact, given enough good suggestions, perhaps "No Sci-Fi September" this year should focus on good Canadian books?

Postscript: Rebecca follows this list up with a list of the top 100 wonders of the world. It's a good thing Niagara Falls made the list (at #87), because otherwise I would have never seen anything wonderful at all.