I have this thing I do. When I’m procrastinating doing something important and actually worthwhile to my life I like to look up booklists and tick off how many books on the list I’ve read. And one of the lists I always end up on is “books to read before you die”. I then came across a Medium article where one man had collated all the books on these lists, culled them all down and found the 100 books most frequently cited as a top 100 book to read before you die. So today I wanted to look at how many on the ultimate list have I actually read.
Before I start, a note about these lists: Although I think it’s fun to read these lists a lot of the time these lists reinforce the status quo by citing the same books by the same people. And while no doubt many of these books have been impactful, it is worth thinking about who gets left off of the canon – and why? Most of these lists centre white male authors and I do want to note I think it’s problematic and a byproduct of the fact people don’t consider that publishing and social structures have prevented many voices breaking into, and then being lauded, in literary history.
This all being said, I’m a bitch who loves to tick boxes and feel a rush of self satisfaction no matter how meaningless the achievement so lets get into it.
so which ones have I read?
- #1: The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald → One of my FAVOURITE classics, I’ve read in three times. I don’t know exactly why I like it so much but I alway just find something clever about it everytime I read it. This was apparently put into every single list.
- #3: On the Road by Jack Kerouac → I read this in 2016, I was obsessed with the Beats for a hot minute there. This was hard to read and I thought it was okay? Has some real nice quotes though.
- #4: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee → I read this in December of 2017 and I’m gonna be real with you chief … I think this book is overrated. Whoops. I did like the characters though.
- #9: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol → This is one of those classics I like but not as much as everyone else seems to love it? Since found out Lewis Carol is a Massive Weirdo though which gives me bad vibes about this book.
- #10: Ulysses by James Joyce → I finished this last month and wowee what an effort that was. An incredibly hard to read book feels good I finished it though.
- #11: Lord of the Flies by William Golding → I read this in early highschool but weirdly I don’t remember heaps about it? I don’t think I liked it much because I just remember being confused.
- #14: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte → I read this in 2017 after I saw the movie adaptation and really enjoyed it. Jane is such a cool main character!
- #23: Animal Farm by George Orwell → I read this in Year 10 and liked it a lot! It was one of the few assigned readings I actually liked reading. This is a pretty clever book and fun too because it’s all about farm animals!
- #34: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte → I actually .. did not finish this book. I got pretty close!! But I just DID NOT CARE about any of the drama in this book.
- #45: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman → I read this when I was in primary school and then reread the first book when I was about 16 or 17. I want to reread this whole series one day, I really love it a lot.
- #53: The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood → I read this in 2016 as part of my literature course but I actually really enjoyed it. The dystopian elements are very cleverly crafted and I both love and hate the ending.
- #55: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf → I read this only a few weeks ago and I found it so difficult to get through. I didn’t like the characters much at all but I want to give Woolf another go.
- #80: Charlotte’s Web by E.B White → I read this many times in primary school. Still makes me sad to think about to this day, Charlotte is the ONLY spider I stan.
In total: 13/100
So that is actually a lot less than I thought! Many of the classics I’ve read didn’t make the cut apparently. Although some I expected to be there appeared, like Ulysses and The Great Gatsby.
which ones are on my TBR?
Although I would eventually like to read all these eventually some are much more higher on my TBR than others. So below are some of the books on my this list that are also on my TBR
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley → This classic has always appealed to me! I think it sounds like something I’d really like and I plan on reading it soon.
- Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie → this is a really iconic post-colonial text and I’ve read extracts of it for uni which really interested me.
- 1984 by George Orwell → I really liked Animal Farm which is why this book 1984, which is Orwell’s most popular book, is on my TBR.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley → For some reason I’ve wanted to read this classic for a long time, it’s a classic dystopian and it’s always appealed to me.
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe → This details pre-colonial life in Nigeria and I’ve heard lots of good things about this novel.
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens → Ever since I saw the BBC mini-series for this I’ve wanted to read the book. I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities and really like Dickens writing.
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys → I currently have this out the library! This is a kind of Jane Eyre prequel and I’ve heard really good things about it.
- The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde → Another classic I’ve always been interested in reading. This one seems a bit dark which appeals to me.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle → I saw the new movie adaptation of this and added it to my TBR because I really really enjoyed the movie
And there we have it! I’ve been interested in trying to work through the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list and I thought a good start would to get the 100 books down first. I was surprised by how many of these I’d already read / really wanted to read though a fair few I’ve never heard of either.
until next time!