Monday, July 6, 2009

What kind of reader are you?

Newsweek has published their Top 100 Books: the Meta-List, derived via “number crunching” from various top-10 books lists. The purpose of this note is to gather a bit more information about your experience with the books on their list. I’ve started the process using the following key. If you’re interested in participating, please copy the list and replace my numbers with your own, and tag me. Please note that more than one number may be used per book. More information available on each book by clicking the link at the beginning of the post.

1 = read it

2 = saw the movie

3 = in my “to read” stack at home

4 = someday I’ll read it

5 = have made at least one attempt to read it, but didn’t finish

6 = no interest in reading it

(4/5) War and Peace—Tolstoy

(1) 1984—Orwell

(4) Ulysses—Joyce

(6) Lolita—Nabokov

(4) The Sound and the Fury—Faulkner

(3) Invisible Man—Ellison

(4) To the Lighthouse—Woolf

(3) The Iliad and The Odyssey—Homer

(2/4) Pride and Prejudice—Austen

(4) Divine Comedy—Alighieri

(5) Canterbury Tales—Chaucer

(5) Gulliver’s Travels—Swift

(6) Middlemarch—Eliot

(4) Things Fall Apart—Achebe

(1) The Catcher in the Rye—Salinger

(5/6) Gone with the Wind—Mitchell

(3/5) One Hundred Years of Solitude—Marquez

(5/6) The Great Gatsby—Fitzgerald

(3) Catch-22—Heller

(2/3) Beloved—Morrison

(1/2) The Grapes of Wrath—Steinbeck

(4) Midnight’s Children—Rushdie

(1) Brave New World—Huxley

(2/4/5) Mrs. Dalloway—Woolf

(1) Native Son—Wright

(4) Democracy in America—de Tocqueville

(4) On the Origin of Species—Darwin

(6) The Histories—Herodotus

(4) The Social Contract—Rousseau

(6) Das Kapital—Marx

(6) The Prince—Machiavelli

(4) Confessions—St. Augustine

(4) Leviathan—Hobbes

(6) The History of the Peloponnesian War—Thucydides

(2/5) The Lord of the Rings—Tolkien

(1/2) Winnie-the-Pooh—Milne

(1/2) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—Lewis

(2) A Passage to India—Forster

(4) On the Road—Kerouac

(1/2) To Kill a Mockingbird—Lee

(1/2) The Holy Bible (RSV)

(4) A Clockwork Orange—Burgess

(1) Light in August—Faulkner

(4) The Souls of Black Folk—Du Bois

(4) Wide Sargasso Sea—Rhys

(4) Madame Bovary—Flaubert

(6) Paradise Lost—Milton

(4) Anna Karenina—Tolstoy

(1/2) Hamlet—Shakespeare

(1) King Lear—Shakespeare

(1/2) Othello—Shakespeare

(4) Sonnets—Shakespeare

(1) Leaves of Grass—Whitman

(4) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—Twain

(4) Kim—Kipling

(2/5) Frankenstein—Shelley

(3/5) Song of Solomon—Morrison

(2/4/5) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—Kesey

(4) For Whom the Bell Tolls—Hemingway

(4/5) Slaughterhouse-Five—Vonnegut

(6) Animal Farm—Orwell

(1/2) Lord of the Flies—Golding

(2) In Cold Blood—Capote

(4) The Golden Notebook—Lessing

(4) Remembrance of Things Past—Proust

(6) The Big Sleep—Chandler

(4) As I Lay Dying—Faulkner

(1) The Sun Also Rises—Hemingway

(2) I, Claudius—Graves

(2/3) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter—McCullers

(4) Sons and Lovers—Lawrence

(6) All the King’s Men—Warren

(4/5) Go Tell It on the Mountain—Baldwin

(1/2) Charlotte’s Web—White

(6) Heart of Darkness—Conrad

(1) Night—Wiesel

(3) Rabbit, Run—Updike

(2/6) The Age of Innocence—Wharton

(4) Portnoy’s Complaint—Roth

(4) An American Tragedy—Dreiser

(4) The Day of the Locust—West

(4) Tropic of Cancer—Miller

(6) The Maltese Falcon—Hammett

(1/2) His Dark Materials—Pullman

(1) Death Comes for the Archbishop—Cather

(1) The Interpretation of Dreams—Freud

(4) The Education of Henry Adams—Adams

(6) Quotations from Chairman Mao—Mao

(4) The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature—James

(2/4) Brideshead Revisited—Waugh

(6) Silent Spring—Carson

(6) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money—Keynes

(4) Lord Jim—Conrad

(6) Goodbye to All That—Graves

(4) The Affluent Society—Galbraith

(1) The Wind in the Willows—Grahame

(1/2) The Autobiography of Malcolm X—Haley/Malcolm X

(6) Eminent Victorians—Strachey

(1/2) The Color Purple—Walker

(4) The Second World War (6-volume set)—Churchill

Total read: 24


Additional questions:


What would you cut from the list?

HATED “The Great Gatsby.”


What would you add?

  • Little Women—hello? :-)
  • Where’s the Dickens?
  • Though it was a terribly grim read, I’d also suggest Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” It was POWERFUL, and written with an economy of words exactly suited to its barren landscape.
  • East of Eden—Steinbeck. Gorgeous.

When you look back at the list as a whole, do you draw any conclusions about yourself as a reader?

  • My liberal arts education hasn’t demanded enough of me, from a literary perspective… though I’ve read a number of books that didn’t make the list, that were written by these same authors. (That's me...I chose "Chicago Hope" over "ER" when they came out; Betamax over VHS...)
  • I have still read some great, mind-changing books; my book club has stretched me in several directions.
  • I strongly prefer fiction to non-fiction; gimme a metaphor over a directive any day.
  • At this point in my life, I read mostly for pleasure, with a “this is a work I should know” book every few months—a different kind of pleasure, I guess.
  • I'm happiest if there's a sympathetic character or two, but that's not necessarily prohibitive; for example, I love Wally Lamb, and most of his characters are...unappealing to me.
  • The fact that I've written this post at all suggests that I should think about a Lit course sometime, just for fun!

3 comments:

Catrina said...

So do you hate ALL works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or just The Great Gatsby? ;)

Personal advice: you need to change Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse to 3s, along with Things Fall Apart (which is best read in conjunction with Heart of Darkness. . .along with Achebe's essay critiquing Heart of Darkness. . .I'm just saying. . .). And D.H. Lawrence is a tedious snoozefest, so I'd change that to a 6.

Then again, I LIKE Gatsby, so maybe you shouldn't be taking your reading advice from me. :)

Jan said...

I tried this.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This was interesting . . . but too much work to do myself.

And by the way, may I adopt this statement as a motto: "gimme a metaphor over a directive any day"?