A list to make you feel stupid

Newsweek recently released its list of the “Top 100 Books” (of all time, I’m assuming).  Now, this list wasn’t carefully compiled by a group of literary scholars and editors, shoved into a back room and refused food and water until they came up with an orderly list of the “best of the best.”  Instead, newsweek crunched the numbers from 10 other top book lists (Oprah, Modern Library, New York Public Library, etc) and came up with a numbers-based system that put all of the great books in their proper place.

Now, I don’t know how I feel about this method.  I’ve looked at a LOT of book lists over the years, searching for guides to my own reading.  I appreciate that this list is objective: there are no biases here and it’s all “fair.”  However, I don’t know if the numbers method works for books.  Some of the results are a little strange:  I mean, no Portrait of a Lady but instead Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller?

Regardless of how it was calibrated, I’m happy to say I stand pretty well with this list:  I’ve read 43 of the top 100 (well, 101 if you consider they stick The Iliad and the Odyssey together as one book…it’s not).  That’s what you get for being an English major, folks: exposure to all the obscure and significant texts in the canon.  I won’t say it was completely enjoyable, but I did it all the same.  I would like to up my average to .500 sometime soon, which is looking likely because there’s a lot of books on the list that are high on my own to-read list.  However, there are quite a few daunting-looking nonfiction titles on there–deTocqueville and Darwin–that I would love to read, but don’t know if I have the brainpower.

Here are the 43 I’ve read (yes, I’m going to boast because this is my blog).  How well did you do?

1984 by George Orwell
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Iliad by Homer
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Brave New World by Alduous Huxley
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
A Passage to India by EM Forsterbooks
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Light in August by William Faulkner
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Hamlet by Shakespeare
King Lear by Shakespeare
Othello by Shakespeare
Sonnets by Shakespeare
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Night by Elie Wiesel
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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