(title courtesy of my Grandad Mawdsley, used whenever he didn’t like the direction of conversation, or simply couldn’t hear it!)


Apparently the BBC thinks most people will have only read six of the following 100 books . Let’s see how we all do.

How do you shape up?

Despite my degree and years of teaching English, I was a bit nervous when I read the statement above, but on reading the list I found I could breathe again. I was, and am!, pleasantly surprised by quite how many of these I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Which on the list would you rate most? Are there any that you really think shouldn’t be on there?

For my part, Swallows and Amazons caught my eye as it captured my imagination as a child; I read the whole series over a summer, wishing that I could be whisked away to play with the children in the books. Wonderful stories, but I suspect they have lost most of their audience now. I don’t think girls and boys dream of living in a boarding school and playing, well swallows and amazons, through the fields of their friends’ parents’ houses – not unless, of course, you can learn magic at said boarding school!

Birdsong is a beautiful book, stunningly written and desperately moving.

I think the book that has most effect on my life is Hamlet, I’ve studied it three times since GCSE and taught it three times. A tragedy it may be, but the wit and humour in it are utterly marvellous; it’s rather sad that so many people only know ‘the skull scene’, which they typically misquote ‘Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio (it’s NOT ‘I knew him so well’ *sigh) and think of it as a dreary, three-hour play. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bring existential hilarity equalled only – nearly – by Pinter. Polonius is a bumbling fool, impressed by his position and believed abilities. The gravedigger brings such a realistic and matter-of-fact view of death, while Hamlet ums and ahs over the qualities of life. It’s pure pleasure for me to snuggle in with my very-well-thumbed, annotated copy of Hamlet and immerse myself in his ditherings.

Why are The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Hamlet listed separately? Are not more of his works worthy of a whole number all to themselves? Similarly, why does The Bible make the cut, but there is no mention of any other religious books – not even a Complete Idiots’ Guide to Religion as a catch-all. With religion being such an important part of some peoples’ lives, surely the ‘top 4’ should have their books represented. I’d be inclined maybe to have each of the Victorian authors chose their best book and let them put that in and add The Old Testament (I’m assuming by The Bible they mean The New Testament), the Qur’an, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Any road up! I could get stuck on here waffling for hours about the list and probably end up rewriting one or discussion each selection in turn, but I’m sure you have about as much time as I have and are unlikely to want to read 100+ reviews and musings.

The List (courtesy of Facebook Notes. Interestingly, when I searched for the original BBC link it was no where to be found. I wonder if it was the BBC at all!)

1) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2) The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6) The Bible
7) Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9) His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11) Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12) Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14) Complete Works of Shakespeare
15) Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16) The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18) Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19) The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20) Middlemarch – George Eliot
21) Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22) The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23) Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25) The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26) Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27) Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28) Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29) Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30) The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31) Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32) David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33) Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34) Emma – Jane Austen
35) Persuasion – Jane Austen
36) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39) Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40) Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41) Animal Farm – George Orwell
42) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43) One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44) A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45) The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46) Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47) Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49) Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50) Atonement – Ian McEwan
51) Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52) Dune – Frank Herbert
53) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55) A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56) The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57) A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58) Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60) Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61) Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63) The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64) The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65) Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66) On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67) Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68) Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69) Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70) Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72) Dracula – Bram Stoker
73) The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74) Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75) Ulysses – James Joyce
76) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77) Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78) Germinal – Emile Zola
79) Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80) Possession – AS Byatt
81) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83) The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85) Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86) A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87) Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88) The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90) The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91) Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92) The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93) The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94) Watership Down – Richard Adams
95) A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96) A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97) The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98) Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl x38
100) Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

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