50 Books to Read Before You Die

I collect bookmarks. Leather, metal, cardboard, plastic, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have as many bookmarks as printed books, but I’m working on it.

A few years ago I bought a stainless steel bookmark with a list of 50 Books to Read Before You Die. Here’s the list, with my comments on the ones I’ve read (in bold) and whether I intend to read the others. Where I haven’t said anything it’s because I don’t know enough about the book.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien: I’ve read this more than once. A modern classic.
1984 by George Orwell: Another modern classic. Cynical and pessimistic, but good.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
A true classic that spawned a fantastic adaptation by the BBC in 1995. One of my favourite classics.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: : A modern classic, but not one I’ve read. Maybe, one day
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I read this for my English Literature ‘O’ level many years ago and hated picking it apart. A modern classic that it took me years to read again.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë:
A classic, but not one of my favourites.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë:
I read this once. That was enough.
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: Another for the ‘Maybe, one day’ list
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: I read this at school and didn’t enjoy it.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare: I definitely want to read this one.
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: It’s OK, but not one I’d rave over.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger : I’ll probably never read this. The description makes it sound too American and too young male-oriented for an Englishwoman of a certain age.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: I read this a long time ago and don’t remember much about it.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank: Haven’t read it but I’d like to.
Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes: I read an abridged version of this Spanish classic years ago. I’d like to read it again.
The Bible:
I’ve read it cover-to-cover including the Apocrypha
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer:
I have a beautiful version in modern English. Middle English is too much like hard work.
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Money by Martin Amis
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: All of them? Why? It’s not going to happen.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: Another that I’ve read once and once is enough.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame:
A beautiful children’s classic.
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman:
Yes, yes, yes!!! These are modern classics. I’ve only read them once, but I love them.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:
You need some life experience to appreciate this classic.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:
One of my all-time favourites, along with Through the Looking-glass.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier:
A modern classic that I must read again some time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope: I have this on my Kindle, but haven’t read it yet.
The Outsider by Albert Camus
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Another that I have n my Kindle, but haven’t read yet.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This isn’t a horror story, it’s a tragedy.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells:
A classic from the father of science-fiction.
Men without Women by Ernest Hemingway
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: A classic that deserves to be reread.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:
A short classic that’s shown every year.
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Robinson Crusoë by Daniel Defoe

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: Another of my favourites.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri: The translations by Dorothy L. Sayers are very readable.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:
The darker side of Oscar Wilde.

This list strikes me as very subjective. Why Huckleberry Finn but not Tom Sawyer? Why The Count of Monte Cristo but not The Three Musketeers? It’s also male dominated, with only ten entries for female authors. Surely women have made a greater contribution to literature than that.

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