Nov 06

After a long and relaxing weekend, I happened to browse through MCF’s blog, where he talked about the Time Magazine top 100 novels, and how many of that list he had read. Being a derivative type I thought I would have a go myself and was worried to find that I had only managed 18 of them. My reading habits have improved a lot since my teenage years (I still read a lot then, but tended towards Star Trek and Star Wars novelisations, which let’s face it are to good books what a stick of bubblegum is to a roast beef dinner) but it’s refreshing – if a little humbling – to see that I still have a lot of reading to do, and a lot of ideas to be exposed to.

For the record, here is what I have managed to get through so far:

  1. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  2. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
  3. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  4. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  5. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
  6. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  8. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
  9. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  10. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  11. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  12. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  13. 1984, George Orwell
  14. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  15. The spy who came in from the cold, John le Carre
  16. To kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  17. To the lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  18. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

From reading through MCF’s thoughts on the list, and the comments left at Wendy’s Blog after she talked about the list, I would have to agree that there are many books missing from the list that I would like to see on it: for one thing, if Watchmen made it I think Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series should be in there somewhere. If 1984 got in to fly the dystopian flag then surely Huxley’s Brave New World should get in there to help. If one C. S. got in there then surely C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels could have featured? And what the dickens happened to Dickens?

Still, entertaining enough to read through. Having just finished Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell (and an excellent read it was too – I highly recommend picking it up if you like a fascinating story written in an interesting way) I’m about to get stuck into Judas Unchained, the second part of Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga. After that…well, who knows, but I now have at least 82 suggestions to work with.

5 Responses to “Bookworm”

  1. MCF Says:

    Brave New World–! Now that’s a glaring exception. The Scarlet Letter? The Old Man and the Sea? Any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories? It’s funny how, as with the movies list, 100 doesn’t seem to be enough to cover it.

  2. FawnDoo Says:

    100 was never going to be enough, but part of the fun of lists like that is identifying the glaring gaps! ;-) While we’re at it, how about War of the Worlds, or The Life and Times of Tristam Shandy, or Moby Dick, or Pride and Prejudice, or The Man or even Trainspotting? (just to fly the flag for a local boy!)

    I will need to check out the top 100 list you mentioned on your blog MCF…don’t think I will do too well on that one though.

  3. Ron Franscell Says:

    From novelist/blogger Ron Franscell at

    Who knows why an author becomes an author. A tricky wiring of the senses? A quest to recapture some too-brief moment in the distant past? A hubris that allows him to believe he has something worth somebody else’s attention? A wan attempt at immortality? Keener-than-normal typing skills?

    I wrote “stories” when I was very young — snippets, really, without the pretention or self-awareness I now combat. I read voraciously and unwittingly collected a vocabulary that stood me in favor with English teachers. I started working on the school paper when I was 12 and never stopped.

    But it wasn’t until college, when I read “The Magus” by John Fowles, that I believed I could write a book. Not because it seemed too damned easy, but because Fowles was alive and because his writing was rich beyond belief. Intensely erotic in its language, incredibly brave in its structure, and utterly asymmetrical in its intellectualism — it opened a door that had been cracked only a sliver. Here was this Brit who spoke so beautifully and viscerally and poetically when all I knew about British literature to that point was stuffy, overwrought and exceedingly long. And the ending … inconclusive, atmospheric, an unanswered question. To this day, “The Magus” remains among the two or three books that made my life better, both as a writer and a man.

    Fowles’ death Saturday, then, gives me pause. We’d never met, although I had hoped someday to shake his hand and to tell him what his writing meant to me. I spent some time in his old hometown — Oxford, England — while doing some international reporting years ago, and I asked about him, but I was discouraged from knocking on his door like a troublesome literary groupie — which, I suppose, I was. After all, he was a private man and the fact that I had written two novels gave me no unique dispensation to ask him to share a pint at the corner pub and tell me a secret. I’m sorry now that I didn’t.

    John Fowles did what a writer must do: He created his alternate, parallel world and invited me in. More than the others whom I admired — the literally all-American passel of Hemingway, Steinbeck, London and Fitzgerald — he showed me possibilities I hadn’t considered. His later books taught me everything I needed to know about non-linear storytelling, the free-verse that prose could be, and diabolic irony. And more than the rest, he showed me that poetic eroticism and visuality — not the strength of the Americans either — wasn’t only the country of women writers. But his mystery was no mystery at all; he knew there were no magic beans, no answers, no perfect resolutions, no knowing what comes next, except dying.

    I’ll miss Fowles. And I promise: If any young writer ever knocks on my door to tell me he became a writer because of something I wrote, I’ll let him take me to the corner pub for a pint. I just won’t have any secrets to share. I’ll just hand him a copy of “The Magus.”

  4. Kelly Says:

    Like you guys are saying, 100 isn’t nearly enough, and I think that’s why Brave New World wasn’t on there. Only really enough room for one scary tale of the future. And then, at that point, how can you not include We or Farenheit 451? I agree that I think they’re missing some really great books, but overall I think they did a decent job of mixing in some very interesting books.

    Which was your favorite book from that list of 18? Were there any you didn’t like?

  5. FawnDoo Says:

    Ron, I must admit to being a little shocked at Fowles’ death myself…though I will now be adding “The Magus” to my reading list! :-) I worked through “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” in university and enjoyed it so I have high hopes for the rest of Fowles’ stuff.

    Kelly, if I had to pick I would probably end up with two favourites: Catch-22 and Watchmen, both excellent, both challenging and both left me feeling that I had read something of great worth when I was finished.

    And I should slap myself on the head – Fahrenheit 451! How could I forget that? D’oh!

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