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Who's the Best-Read MeFite?
May 22, 2002 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Who's the Best-Read MeFite? The 100 best works of fiction (as chosen by Norwegian Book Clubs) (via Archipelapogo via rebeccablood). Sure, it's arbitrary, but there's a lot of great writing here. Bragging rights awarded (unless someone cares to sweeten the pot). How many have you read?
posted by Sean Meade (137 comments total)

 
You have to have read the whole thing, not selections or abridgements in school.
posted by Sean Meade at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2002


i'll start with my easily-beaten 10.
posted by Sean Meade at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2002


I am ashamed to say that I've only read four.

*hangs head*

But I've shelved all of them, dammit!

Truth be told, the list is a little skewed towards pre-20th century stuff. I have read read a lot of post-1900 and contemporary lit.
posted by jonmc at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2002


Only about 13, although it's hard to count in any consistent way. For example, I counted the entire Beckett trilogy as one work, and gave myself a point for the Proust, although I only read the first volume (a formidable work in itself).
posted by kickingtheground at 10:38 AM on May 22, 2002


I've read exactly half of them.

Half of each book, that is.
posted by dfowler at 10:41 AM on May 22, 2002


Intead of bragging, I'd like to whine about the absense of works from JP Donleavey and JD salinger from the list.

Also, I'd liek to point out that many of these got terrrible reviews when they were written, and are only now being recognized (like Gilgamesh and the Mahabarata).
posted by Samsonov14 at 10:41 AM on May 22, 2002


15.. woohoo, and i'm only 19... ::prepares to be showed up when more well-read folks come here::
posted by lotsofno at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2002


17.

plus, i don't know if i should really count stuff like mahabharata or 1001 nights, because I think i've mostly read condensed works.

but, for now, woo-hoo!
posted by fishfucker at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2002


I've read the first half of Swann's Way (Vol I of Proust's In Search of Lost Time / Rememberance of Things Past) three times now. One day I will get out of Combray and see this bloody irritating kid grow up. Not yet though. I'll save it for a rainy decade.
posted by vbfg at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2002


An embarassing eight.
posted by dagny at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2002


I'd like to suggest that only the most extreme wackos would wade through Beckett's entire fiction trilogy. The list is, like all of its kind, fun but completely arbitrary and weird. You have to have read all of Poe's Complete Tales? Thomas Mann's Buddenbrook? No thanks.

A couple others that killed me:

Astrid Lindgren, Sweden, (1907-2002), Pippi Longstocking

We must not upset the Swedes! Pick something! Anything!

The Book of Job, Israel. (600-400 BC).

My favorite writer is Israel.
posted by Skot at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2002


The Book of Job, Israel. (600-400 BC).

You know, I think Numbers was better.

Where is Salinger? Caesar? Marcus "Jiggity Funk-A" Aurelius? Machiavelli?! This is no list!

Shakespeare wrote plays, not books.
posted by geoff. at 10:44 AM on May 22, 2002


I've managed a middling 52 (classics and english major, so half were inflicted, rather than chosen).
posted by sunsolid at 10:44 AM on May 22, 2002


fifty-six in all... I am doing better than I thought....

now to go out to the library to find the rest...
posted by gloege at 10:44 AM on May 22, 2002


DAMN YOU SKOT! DAMN YOU TO HELL!
posted by geoff. at 10:44 AM on May 22, 2002


I only got 18. And I'm only posting that because it's more than the people who've already commented. I just want to make that clear. I am far superior to everyone below me, and suspect that they should be forced to work in the fields, farming my daily sustenance.

Now here's the part where I get all huffy about the list: I think Growth of the Soil is a far superior Hamsun novel to Hunger. I would have liked to see White Noise on there too.

Got to love that Gilgamesh.

I would also like to note that I would have scored much higher had I actually read a lot of the books I wrote papers about in college.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2002


The Marcel Proust Support Group.
posted by vbfg at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2002


14
posted by starvingartist at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2002


I'm at 33, but a good number of those I wouldn't consider to be particularly good books. Also, a lot was left out. Where's the script for Life as a House?
posted by j.edwards at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2002


And there's no way I'm farming for you, sunsolid, so don't get any ideas.

Fascist!
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2002


44. I was really happy to see Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo on the list, that is a great, great book and I had no idea it was internationally known/acclaimed.
posted by cell divide at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2002


Eleven, and I hang my head in shame. Why did they give me that degree in literature? It must have been honorary, because I certainly didn't earn it.
posted by luriete at 10:48 AM on May 22, 2002


Fiftysomething, but I find lists like these tiresome and a little pointless, other than sparking endless discussions about what's missing. Favorite book of the lot: Pippi Longstocking.
posted by muckster at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2002


16... and I have a BS in English Lit. *hangs head*
posted by jennyb at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2002


I've started twenty-six of these.

Oh, it only counts if you've read the whole thing?

Carry on.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2002


20.

Where the hell is The Great Gatsby or Grapes of Wrath?

I love these threads, though
posted by pardonyou? at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2002


I haven't read any of them.
posted by corpse at 10:51 AM on May 22, 2002


many of these got terrrible reviews when they were written, and are only now being recognized (like Gilgamesh and the Mahabarata)

Yeah, the London Review was scathing on Gilgamesh when it first came out. Woo-ee.
posted by transient at 10:51 AM on May 22, 2002


So if we finish those 100, can we stop reading? And was every book that's not on the list a waste of time?
posted by muckster at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2002


A mere 28 titles here, only because I've yet to read a page of Virginia Woolf, Don Quixote or Thomas Mann. The bastards! Why couldn't they have picked some of the nuttier 20th century authors like Barth, Barthelmie or Gaddis? I would have had some kind of a chance at around one third.
posted by ed at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2002


a paltry 14
posted by willnot at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2002


8, leaving out the compilations (poe, shakespeare), feeling quite illiterate now. As to these terrible reviews for the Mahabharta....the "author/s" got people thinking the characters are gods! That's a scathing review, wouldn't you say?
posted by bittennails at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2002


It was interesting to see how the Europeans see things differently from the common American Time/Random House/Newsweek-style lists. Cervantes topping things, and with some honest-to-goodness African lit. Achebe's Things Fall Apart is terrific, but avoid the sequel at all costs. Ngugi's Weep Not Child is an even greater masterpiece, IMO.

Oh, and a paltry 21. (Ask me again in a year. A bunch of these were on my list. Really. No, really. I promise.)

And was every book that's not on the list a waste of time?

Yes.
posted by Marquis at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2002


It's a pretty unfair "competition" since I guess there's very young (ie teenage) and also middle-aged MeFites, not a level playing field simply because of sheer life years available to read serious stuff.

I guess most of us have read the "important" books in high-school or college, for me some of this stuff was simply mandatory reading at school, I don't feel like bragging, maybe I wouldn't have read them otherwise, who knows

(personally, I've began working almost full-time when I was 19-20, in my teens I was a stronger reader, working changes so much your schedule and your life -- less time for yourself and so forth)

But getting older and busier, you just keep reading, at a slower pace, and I guess I'm older than the average MeFite (I'm thirty-two). Fifteen years ago I would have scored much worse than I did. And of course it's a totally arbitrary list, some of the stuff's quality is highly debatable (I mean, Things Fall Apart....)
posted by matteo at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2002


HA! This Sunday I turn 21 and wouldn't ya know it... I've read 21 of those bad boys! Time to get smashed!
posted by prototype_octavius at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2002


Transient,
It's a joke, knucklehead.
posted by Samsonov14 at 11:07 AM on May 22, 2002


50, but at least a third under educational duress, the demands of an old school European education (Homer, Virgil, and Ovid very reluctantly in the original languages).

sunsolid, I think we can let kafkaesque manage the estates for us while we munch on madeleines.
posted by liam at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2002


"I guess I'm older than the average MeFite (I'm thirty-two)."

Still wet behind the ears, youngster.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2002


I've read 4....and that's pretty good for me since I mainly read non-fiction books like "In Cold Blood" and Biographies.
posted by mkelley at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2002


Kafkaesque, I would not have you farm, but I would make you read Cato's De Re Rustica (aka. De Agri Cultura); that would be more than enough forced labour. I agree with you about DeLillo, though.
posted by sunsolid at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2002


I'm not even going to tell you my number. I read voraciously, but narrowly. (Like an Ugly American without a college education, and I can't imagine why.) The Modern Library Top 100 Novels list is much more my speed; I keep a printout of the list at home so I can cross 'em off as I go :)

However, I loved loved loved Blindness by Jose Saramago, and seeing it on the Norwegian list feels like seeing the revelation of a happy secret that I've known for years. Which is positively silly---the man's a literature Nobel laureate, we're not exactly talking underground fiction here---but it's just such a good book. Go read it. Yes, you.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2002


six, maybe? I found the list completely dry. It's not that I haven't heard of most of those books, it's that I decided at some point not to read them. I'm busy reading other stuff.
posted by jessamyn at 11:14 AM on May 22, 2002


woohoo - 38 (With the Italian ones in the original)

Who knew a double major in Comp. Lit and Italian could take one so far?
posted by birgitte at 11:17 AM on May 22, 2002


19. And I'm actually pretty surprised at the number of these that I simply don't recognize at all.

Glad, personally, that The Grapes of Wrath didn't make it, that goddamned thing just gives me flashbacks.
posted by hob at 11:17 AM on May 22, 2002


Why, there's not a single Harry Potter book on the list! How can this possibly be a list of the best works of fiction?!


I can only cop to about a dozen of these read in full, and probably another eight or nine in fragmentary or condensed form -- the preponderance of 19th century European authors means that most Americans won't have encountered these in their basic high school curricula or even in college unless they majored in/enjoyed lit courses.
posted by briank at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2002


Geez, I've got an English degree and I've read maybe twenty or so of the books on that list (but, in my defense, I tended to take writing courses or ones that were focused on more modern works.) Of the ones I did read, I only really liked Wuthering Heights, the Shakespeare, and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez works.

Lists like this have some bearing when you're younger. You should read some classics because...well, you just should. To get a good grounding or something like that. But as I get older I find myself with less desire to spend hours slogging through a book that hasn't held my interest from page one since there's plenty of quality stuff out there that I'll actually have a chance of enjoying that I could be reading.
posted by Cyrano at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2002


Forty-eight, mostly from the Anglo-American group. In several additional instances (e.g., Saramago, Mahfouz, Kazantzakis), I was left saying "Um, I've read something else by that author, does it count?" :)

Some of the choices did strike me as a wee bit odd (Pippi Longstocking?! And yes, I did read it).
posted by thomas j wise at 11:19 AM on May 22, 2002


I'm 32 and I haven't read any of them. I read plenty, I just haven't read many of the so called 'classics.'

I bet I bring home more bacon than any well-read english major though. That's all that matters in the end, you know.
posted by bondcliff at 11:20 AM on May 22, 2002


HACKNEYED POST FOR THIS THREAD:

Wow, I've only read (insert number between 5 and 25)! And I (select one: have an English degree/am too young to have read any number close to 100/couldn't care less about the stodgy list).

All anyone really needs to say is: I coulda been a contender!
posted by ed at 11:29 AM on May 22, 2002


24 of them, I'm giving myself full credit for Don Quixote since I read 2/3 of it, but in Spanish, which is not my first language.

V
posted by vaca at 11:29 AM on May 22, 2002


twenty-seven. which I think is okay, for an astronomy major (not that I've got that degree yet). besides, I read all the time and I know what I like -- and none of those listed is anywhere near being my favorite book. for most of the authors I can even pick out something else they've written that I like much much better (dickens, for instance, was at his best with "a tale of two cities," in my opinion).

and I was confused about pippi longstocking's appearance as well. it's fun but... huh. (maybe my perception has been tainted by the truly awful movie adaptation.)
posted by rabi at 11:29 AM on May 22, 2002


38. I think you should get half a point if you've read OTHER works by the listed authors. Grr.

The Modern Library Top 100 Novels list is much more my speed; I keep a printout of the list at home so I can cross 'em off as I go :)

You too?!? At the rate I'm going (I can't help but read some other stuff as well), I figure I'm gonna finish it sometime next year.
posted by rushmc at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2002


5 and half (1001 nights is looong). It was nice to see Njaal's saga on the list though Egil's is a better read. I'd rather see an annotated list justifying why I should read these books.
posted by euphorb at 11:37 AM on May 22, 2002


I've read a significant number of them; my classical and Russian background alone knocks out a hefty chunk of the list. Glaring omissions: Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and Alexander Pushkin.

However, this is a better list than most. Most similar lists seem to take snobbery to an amusing level, citing some obscure work by a well-known writer instead of their acknowledged classics (this was once lampooned by William Goldman), saying, in effect: "Well, Melville's "Moby Dick" was okaaa-aay ... but you really should read his "Omoo".
posted by RavinDave at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2002


'Zorba The Greek' for Kazantzakis? someone wanna clue me into that pic over 'Last Temptation of Christ'? I think the list shoulda had at least two choices for each author. i read 37... mostly; but only 24 through and through. (enjoyment) Another thing; Mr. Meade, good call about college snipits like 'Decameron' passages from Western Civ. but i saw a few "Collected poems-stories" on that list. Someone elses list or collections dont always 'make' or portray the author, some times the relevant author does not make the list.

lists busy with lists.
cool post.
posted by clavdivs at 11:44 AM on May 22, 2002


I'll chime in with my meager 16.

Anybody got a copy of the Gilgamesh tablets I can borrow?
posted by mikhail at 11:49 AM on May 22, 2002


former english grad student, so my 53 is probably pretty weak compared to my former peers. most embarrasing miss: Moby Dick!

best read if you can't stomach a lot of this old crap but want to seem well-versed in the literary canon (because that must be important for some reason, right???): gargantua and pantagruel. it's about giants and sex and poop, what could be bad about that?

I bet I bring home more bacon than any well-read english major though. That's all that matters in the end, you know.
well, we have Steven Spielberg, but y'all have everybody else. :)
posted by fsck the police at 11:49 AM on May 22, 2002


A huge whopping 13, but then I avoided lit classes like the plague. I'm a little perturbed that three of those were Shakespeare, who didn't exactly write books.
posted by sauril at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2002


19. Don Quixote being my favorite (thus far). But what authors would you combine to form a better/funnier/good tale? Maybe Chaucer, Camus, and Austen? For a little The Strangers' Pride and Prejudice Tales?
posted by brent at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2002


"The Last Temptation of Christ" is a poor, poor book. That's why it isn't on the list.

And frankly, I don't know why "Decameron" is on there either. It's just long. Same thing with "Don Quixote." If that's the kind of statement they want to make about the best literature, why didn't they put "Clarissa" on the list?

I've only read 18, but I feel no great guilt over that, in spite of my English degree. I take a greater interest in plot-driven pulp.

Though "Old Man and the Sea" was beautiful.
posted by rocketman at 12:18 PM on May 22, 2002


So many words, so little time. Over half. I'd have read more if I hadn't read so many two or three times, or in their original languages. For my personal taste, it's a pretty good list.

Who do you think is missing? Eco? Hesse? Davies? Burgess?
posted by Geo at 12:19 PM on May 22, 2002


21. Fairly pathetic considering I have two English degrees (of course, I've read some fairly obscure stuff that wouldn't make the list). On the up side Tristram Shandy, once I finally got around to reading it, was a really great book. I had been scared of that one my whole life. It's actually very contemporary in feel (a oft' noted precurser to literary postmodernism). Most of these "best of" lists just bother me, though there were quite a few really good works on this one.

I bet I bring home more bacon than any well-read english major though. That's all that matters in the end, you know.

What great values you have: I make money; therefore, I am a good and interesting human being. Whatever.
posted by wheat at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2002


dickens, for instance, was at his best with "a tale of two cities," in my opinion

I love Our Mutual Friend, Dickens at his darkest. My score was 36, not bad for a physics major who also owns a copy of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler (see dimensions).

Notable omissions: Defoe, Lewis Carroll, Lautreamont, Fitzgerald (no GG!)

Also, isn't Garcia Lorca's Gypsy ballads a book of poetry. If we are going to allow poets, I have a much wider list of omissions.
posted by vacapinta at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2002


The title of the piece suggests that this is to be a list o books. It is not. It is a list of authors, a book or 3 by the author, and the country he or she is from.
But the list mixes, myth (bible--sorry, but call it holy writ if you like),drama (Ibsen, Shekespeare), poetry, epic Poetry in the original: Homer), short stories.
Thus, very misleading. But you don't have to read all those authors or books. All you need do is to read ________and that covers everything.
posted by Postroad at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2002


i think it's a list of 100 books (i didn't count them), listed by author, ie there aren't 100 authors.

of course the other critiques you level, Postroad, are correct. such lists are very arbitrary. many people probably chafe at that. it's up to each of us how much we value them.
posted by Sean Meade at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2002


Every time one of these lists comes out we spend more time discussing the books that really should have been included than we do about the books that were included. I wonder whether that isn't, in fact, the entire point of putting out such a list. In any case it reinforces the idea that good literature is worth reading; I suspect this would be a healthier idea if it weren't so often based on guilt over insufficient acculturation but if it gets people reading it is probably a net good.

Anyway, I've read 25 of these books, thanks in good part to my father and his interest in ancient literature and languages.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:42 PM on May 22, 2002


I think it's a fairly good list, and after all, it's based on popularity: I don't know if I would have included García Marquez instead of Julio Cortázar... When we say there's a book missing, it's probably because we're talking about our cultural perspective.

31. but I still have about 2/3rds of my life ahead.
posted by papalotl at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2002


"poor, poor book. That's why it isn't on the list."

fare enough but saying its poor doesnt make its impact any less significant. i agree the craftsmenship was a bit weak...But the mail person brings me word that youngest daughter scored a 97/99 in Reading on that TerraNova test thingie...And i felt like bragging that.... and anger Mars by suggesting a comparison of the two books as movies...:I
posted by clavdivs at 12:55 PM on May 22, 2002


A miserable 6. I blame my Canadian schooling. Instead of reading classic books, we mostly read short stories about snowstorms and deer hunting. (I wish I were joking). Since then I’ve spent most my time reading CompSci textbooks.
posted by Gary at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2002


Odd, I turn 30 today, and I've read exactly 30 of these. Hope I live to 100.
posted by rex at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2002


of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler
Vacapinta, is it any good?
posted by matteo at 1:08 PM on May 22, 2002


The reader's list at that Modern Library site is really rather disturbing.

1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard

Looks like a list compiled by John Travolta, Alan Greenspan, and 9th grade English teachers.

Near as I can guess, I got about 20 on this list, which isn't bad for a computer geek who prefers to read things like John McPhee and Joseph Mitchell, with the occasional Neal Stephenson and Richard Powers. Usually I'm just slogging through some 900 page technical treatise.

Last year I read The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, followed immediately by Infinite Jest by David Wallace. I wasn't fit for human company for two weeks after that combo.
posted by dglynn at 1:12 PM on May 22, 2002


Vacapinta, is it any good?

Sorry, it was a bit of an in-joke. MTW is great, a classic every physics geek owns. But, nobody reads it.
posted by vacapinta at 1:18 PM on May 22, 2002


About 20, although all more than a decade ago. I don't read fiction anymore except for when Ed McBain or Elmore Leonard come out with something new.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2002


22 . .a lot of them were by assignment in high school and college. . .and I'm 51 so I've had more time to get these read. . .but there are also a lot of these books that I SHOULD have read but haven't and probably never will.
posted by Danf at 1:31 PM on May 22, 2002


40, but i have an english degree.
list reminds me i need to read more dostoyevsky.
poetry is sorely underrepresented and nuts to the listing the entire divine comedy: only cool part is inferno.
posted by juv3nal at 1:38 PM on May 22, 2002


Notable omissions: Defoe, Lewis Carroll, Lautreamont, Fitzgerald (no GG!)

I would add Henry Miller, Italo Calvino, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and I have to wonder why Nabokov is represented by Lolita (not his best) and Beckett by his plodding and depressing trilogy (when his plodding and depressing plays are so much better). BTW, has anyone read Ulysses? What's it about?

Glad to see Borges and Celine included, though.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 1:40 PM on May 22, 2002


Must be getting old - not sure whether I read some of them or not. I'd say about 5 confirmed, 5 more possible. I mean, I KNOW I saw the Mr. Magoo version of Don Quixote, maybe I read the book too???

Scored quite a few hits on the modern list provided by sapphireblue. Pynchon, Salinger, Burroughs, Kerouac, Kafka, Heller, Marquez et al are more to my taste (or lack thereof).

I read what I like. I could really give a rat's ass whether or not its on the approved list of some musty collection of effete port-swilling squareheads.
posted by groundhog at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2002


24. i went on a classics binge a couple of years ago, and also a lot of them have been mandatory reading for classes.
posted by sugarfish at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2002


You've read all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read,
its well known

- Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
posted by will at 1:51 PM on May 22, 2002


56-though I did not enjoy nearly that many! My most embarrassing miss: Tolstoy, any Tolstoy. I was glad to see Chaucer making the cut though (does anyone read the Cantebury Tales without being forced to?).
posted by trox at 1:58 PM on May 22, 2002


44, and that with two music degrees. Surprised myself.

does anyone read the Cantebury Tales without being forced to?

I did, but then again I was a rather weird child.
posted by Tholian at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2002


I think I should be able to claim compensation from my University's English depatment for forcing me to read The Magic Mountain, Middlemarch, The Aeneid and Moby Dick. Abuse pure and simple.
posted by Summer at 2:17 PM on May 22, 2002


I'm pretty well read but I haven't touched most of the things here. Mostly the drama and here is the nub of the matter. The Drama>. So I've seen 'A Doll's House', 'King Lear' whatever performed many times, but I've never actually sat down and read them. Shakespeare didn't sit down to write a book -- he wrote a play which then happened to be published. To include dramatists in the list is very misleading ... and seems to have the effect of propping up some of the weaknesses ...
posted by feelinglistless at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2002


0. And I read constantly, but prefer to plough a random furrow rather than go through the 'classics' which may have been classics of their time but... frankly don't wet my bucket. Sorry for liking Chuck Palahniuk and J T Leroy and Will Self.
posted by boneybaloney at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2002


::: notes that the 100 best works of fiction != the 100 best books, for those who missed it :::
posted by rushmc at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2002


27 - majored in Chemical engineering and math, now working as an actuary - most of what I have read has been for my own enjoyment.

In my universe, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov would be on there in bold with stars next to it. But speaking of Russian lit, why so much Tolstoy and Doestoevski? Where are Pushkin, Turgenev, and Solzenitzin? But really, Cancer Ward, Fathers and Sons, and Evgeny Onegin are each a thousand times better than War and Peace. (Yes, I've actually read all of War and Peace - Anna Karenina is better.)

For that matter - I love Joseph Conrad, but why Nostromo? Victory or Heart of Darkness would be my choice.
posted by antimony at 2:37 PM on May 22, 2002


Top 100 books my bottom.. Back to scoring, I've started 39 of them, finished 19, which is also my age, freaky.. Especially in view of prototype_octavius's 21 - some correlation between age and books read??

So what's everyone's top 10 books then?

Lets all have a whip around and collate them at the end in a funky table, go on.. Books you enjoyed, not that you were impressed by. Heh.. Top five if you can't be bothered with top ten :)
posted by Mossy at 2:56 PM on May 22, 2002


BTW, has anyone read Ulysses? What's it about?

If you have a minute, you can see for yourself, here.
posted by vacapinta at 2:56 PM on May 22, 2002


does anyone read the Cantebury Tales without being forced to?

Not me - but I did devour the Illiad and Odyssey over my summer vacation in 9th grade. The version written in poetic form no less. Pathetic...

...and I still only managed a measly 22! Of course, I'm positive I've got a good deal more than 88 books none of the compilers have read!
posted by RevGreg at 3:01 PM on May 22, 2002


Hmm. 22. I'm pretty sure all of those were imposed upon me at some point in my life. Oh, except for =The Stranger= -- I have no clue why I thought reading that would be a good idea. Still, I do have to wonder about some of the selections on that list - it's a nice eclectic mix, and I wouldn't mind taking it as a reading list.
posted by meep at 3:04 PM on May 22, 2002


"I still only managed a measly 22! Of course, I'm positive I've got a good deal more than 88 books none of the compilers have read"

Not a math major then, eh?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:07 PM on May 22, 2002


which may have been classics of their time

Really? Morrison, Orwell, Garcia Marquez and Shakespeare are now irrelevant? Who knew?

but prefer to plough a random furrow

Some of us can do both. Palahniuk is good - I'm reading Survivor right now. JT Leroy is a tad over-rated.

I guess I've just never understood this "I'm too cool for the classics" attitude. Its just as repellent to me as post-modern literary snobs. Leroy reminds me of Thompson and of Burroughs. They in turn have strands of Lautreamont. Lautreamont goes back to Rabelais. But, of course, you're too cool to know that.
posted by vacapinta at 3:14 PM on May 22, 2002


I just think it's funny that we're called "MeFites". Sort of a fitting term, if you say it out loud. And use poor grammar.
posted by jragon at 3:17 PM on May 22, 2002


24. No excuses. Just 24, and if Terry Pratchett had any titles on that list, or any other science fiction writer, for that matter,
(like Asimov, Clarke, hello?) I would have done a lot better!
posted by Lynsey at 3:54 PM on May 22, 2002


The version written in poetic form no less. Pathetic...

Must we propagate the "Reading for its own sake is stupid" meme?


::: holding his breath to see how close to 100 Miguel scores :::
posted by rushmc at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2002


10 for me, with partial scores on a few others. But I'd do better on certain subsets -- say, top 100 novels of the 20th century. And I have read the complete works of Shakespeare, which used to be sort of standard but seems rare nowadays. And I would agree that there are some startling omissions, which I have read, so I can happily blame their poor list-making abilities instead of my poor list-checking-off abilities.
posted by dhartung at 4:24 PM on May 22, 2002


vacapinta: My score was 36, not bad for a physics major who also owns a copy of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler (see dimensions).

That's no book, that's a space station...

This brings up the question: can a person be considered literate who has read lots of literature (sic) but no science? No economics? No art criticism? No history or political science? Etc.

My list of the top 100 books of all time, and those most essential to being an educated modern mind, might include Darwin (Origin of Species), Marx (Das Kapital), Hobbes (Leviathan), Euclid (Elements), Sun Tzu (Art of War), maybe Solzhenitsyn (Gulag Archipelago), Ruskin (Modern Painters), Gibbon (Decline and Fall), Galileo (Dialogue), ... What else?
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2002


Read?

Hell, I wrote most of those!

What? Hey! Get out of my cheese laboratory, Mr Nixon!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2002


does anyone read the Canterbury Tales without being forced to?

Yes, but it may require a parent enthusiastic about same. The Tales are terrific. Incidentally, the Huntington Library has the Holy Grail of Canterbury Tales manuscripts, the Ellesmere Chaucer, which is quite lovely.

Now, reading Spenser's The Faerie Queene without the threat of impending doom may be another matter. Even Renaissance specialists of my acquaintance have admitted to loathing that poem...
posted by thomas j wise at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2002


Uh, I mean 49.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:37 PM on May 22, 2002


if Terry Pratchett had any titles on that list, or any other science fiction writer, for that matter,
(like Asimov, Clarke, hello?)


I've read more books from just these three authors alone than I have from the list! That would be more than 22 books for those of you who didn't write it down...

Cripes! If I I got around to reading the rest of just Pratchett's Discworld series I'd have 22 there alone. Not exactly highbrow stuff, but when you can glean transcendant thoughts like "if you set a fire for a man you keep him warm for an evening but if you set a man on fire you keep him warm for the rest of his life" from them - they's good readin'!
posted by RevGreg at 5:07 PM on May 22, 2002


abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
If you've read this far, you've read everything.
(Some assembly required, Anglocentric edition)
posted by Opus Dark at 5:21 PM on May 22, 2002


Only 31 an amazing thread 100 books more than 100 posts
posted by onegoodmove at 5:26 PM on May 22, 2002


does anyone read the Canterbury Tales without being forced to?

Yes, but it may require a parent enthusiastic about same. The Tales are terrific.


No argument there, but I preferred the Decameron.
posted by rushmc at 5:26 PM on May 22, 2002


Who do you think is missing? Eco? Hesse? Davies? Burgess?
it's missing wise blood by flannery o'connor and the gormenghasttrilogy by mervyn peake (at least as good as tolkein).
posted by pxe2000 at 5:30 PM on May 22, 2002


Thirty-two. The last being the new translation of Zeno's Conscience, which is stopping me from stopping smoking right now. (And no, I don't read Italian. Though I can claim Flaubert en français...)
posted by riviera at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2002


has anyone actually read all of das kapital?

i would include fear and trembling by kierkegaard. it doesn't have a story or a plot, but the narrator is still a fictional character.
posted by boltman at 6:24 PM on May 22, 2002


I'm sure nobody will notice this, but for those of you who may not know about this fine resource, you can probably find most of these online at Project Gutenburg.
posted by Jeremy Bowers at 6:30 PM on May 22, 2002


This brings up the question: can a person be considered literate who has read lots of literature (sic) but no science? No economics? No art criticism? No history or political science? Etc.

No.

My additions to the list would include Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, J. S. Mill's On Liberty, and Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:47 PM on May 22, 2002


I'm at 42, re-reading 2 of those (Wuthering Heights and Middlemarch) and working on 43 (Love in the Time of Cholera) and flabbergasted at how many of these I've digested on my own steam, many before college. Blessings on my homeschooling background! I'm surprised at the inclusion of Conrad's Nostromo as opposed to some of his other works.

My additions to the list would include some scientific history, A History of Western Science by Anthony Alioto or Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery, and a number of historical texts too long to list here.
posted by Dreama at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2002


flabbergasted at how many of these I've digested on my own steam

Why would that be? I (probably foolishly) would have assumed that everyone piping up in this thread had read these and hundreds if not thousands of other essential books of their own accord...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:55 PM on May 22, 2002


I've read 45, and own 32 of them. I went through a "I'm only going to read the classics" stage a while back, and picked up boatloads of great books for 10 cents each at a church bazaar.
posted by iconomy at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2002


I haven't read any of these, unless they're including the pop-up version of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which I got six pages through.
Page seven has a pull tab that rapidly decays Father Zossima, and after decaying and re-animating him a couple dozen times, I usually get asked to leave the library.
posted by dong_resin at 8:34 PM on May 22, 2002 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if counting translations is exactly fair, but assuming it is, I've read 61. Most of the rest I've never heard of. And I proudly proclaim that I have read all of À la recherche du temps perdu, twice. But in Scott Moncrieff's translation, alas. I make up for it by learning German just to struggle through Goethe's Faust.

Where is Nathaniel Hawthorne? The Scarlet Letter is a seminal American novel.
posted by evanizer at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2002


All of these books, in ASCII representation, can be found in the digits of pi. That's a neat thought. You just have to know where to start reading.

But now I wonder how many lines of Mathematica code would be needed to represent them as an algorithm a la Stephen Wolfram. If the entire universe only needs 4 lines ...
posted by Geo at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2002


I've read almost all of them, have most of them on shelves in my library. Y'all are welcome to drop by, have some tea and discuss the Decameron. :) I haven't read the Rushdie books...couldn't get through them. I've missed some of the Japanese and South American writers as well, but now I'm intrigued enough that I'll go check them out from the local public library to see if I like them enough to read more than once. :) (The qualifications for getting shelf space in my library.) I love Don Quixote and Canterbury Tales...I reread bits of them fairly frequently. Same holds true for most Camus, Elliot and Shakespeare. But then, I'd rather read than do most anything. :)

Although, to be honest, lately I've just devoured my way through all 25 Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett...which, while not "high literature", is the most fun I've had with someone else's words in a really long time.
posted by dejah420 at 9:22 PM on May 22, 2002


Thank god the Horatio Hornblower and Chip Hilton books were on the list, or I'd've been skunked.
posted by diddlegnome at 9:23 PM on May 22, 2002


It appears I've read three books on that list. If you must know. I've read a lot more of the authors but that wasn't the question
posted by StOne at 9:35 PM on May 22, 2002


Hmmm. Must check out this Terry Pratchett. Maybe next time we should discuss this!
posted by vacapinta at 10:04 PM on May 22, 2002


36, but where is Sartre?
posted by semmi at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2002


Hemmed in by all this heap of books,
Their gnawing worms, amid their dust,
While to the arches, in all the nooks,
Are smoke-stained papers midst them thrust,
Boxes and glasses round me crammed,
And instruments in cases hurled,
Ancestral stuff around me jammed --
That is your world! That's called a world!
And still you question why your heart
Is cramped and anxious in your breast?
Why each impulse to live has been repressed
In you by some vague, unexplained smart?
Instead of Nature's living sphere
In which God made mankind, you have alone,
In smoke and mould around you here,
Beasts' skeletons and dead men's bone.
Up! Flee! Out into broad and open land!
--Faust
posted by Opus Dark at 10:52 PM on May 22, 2002


I think your literary journey should, as with music and as with life, be one of a high degree of sponteneity, in order to keep things fresh and interesting. This may involve not going down obvious and historically well worn paths. This is not snobbishness, this just 'is'. I don't feel compelled to read many of the authors in the list. I enjoy randomly stumbling across stuff, things being recommended word of mouth from friends. This was my point as regards my apathy towards the 'classics'. And 'Choke' by Palahniuk is sooo his best.
posted by boneybaloney at 11:31 PM on May 22, 2002


um... 3. And I'm 22 soon. Scary.

I also skipped some dry stuff in 1984 (hands up who read all of the book within the book; talk about boring).
posted by ODiV at 2:23 AM on May 23, 2002


> hands up who read all of the book

I enjoyed all of it and at least 35 others on this list. Some of them, I have read more than once. But I didn't finish Midnight's Children or To the Lighthouse. I have read that finest of classic literature, Pippi Longstocking, in English and, partially, in Polish, but I prefer the insane dubbing in the old filmed version. Be sure to listen to the sound file here.
posted by pracowity at 2:55 AM on May 23, 2002


Once I was the world's greatest reader, then I discovered the internet.

Now I can barely understand the TV Guide.
posted by emf at 2:55 AM on May 23, 2002


HA! This Sunday I turn 21 and wouldn't ya know it... I've read 21 of those bad boys!

weirdly, i turn 41 in a few weeks and i've read 41 of the books listed... but i have no english degree to blame for this number, i'm just an actor.

A miserable 6. I blame my Canadian schooling. Instead of reading classic books, we mostly read short stories about snowstorms and deer hunting.

good grief where did you grow up...? i attended schools in montreal, toronto, winterpeg, and vancouver and can't recall reading a single book about deer hunting or snowstorms... however 14 books on that list were part of my high school edu.
posted by t r a c y at 2:58 AM on May 23, 2002


good grief where did you grow up...? ... 14 books on that list were part of my high school edu.

tracy's comment wasn't directed at me but i went to school in england and exactly one book on that list (great expectations) was part of my education. ( i never even read any shakespeare at school.)

i've read another six on the list but the most part i'm with jessamyn on deciding not to read these and being busy reading other stuff.
posted by kirsty at 4:26 AM on May 23, 2002


I've read 20, mostly in English Lit class. I enjoyed about five of them. I don't plan on getting through the rest in a hurry. Now I read for pleasure.
posted by dydecker at 6:23 AM on May 23, 2002


What about The Brothers Karamazov? The Art of War? The Odyssey? The Illiad?

Nothing against the old stuff, but there are some modern works that stand out well enough to gain at least an honorable mention:

Frank Herbert's Dune. Dune is an absolutley fantastic novel, and no television/film event will even come close to representing how great a work it is.

Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. Welsh uses a fantatic shift of narrative through several characters. Some are essential to the story and some are not, but regardless of the story, the narrative alone is worth a look.

Nick Hornby's About A Boy. I haven't seen the new Hugh Grant film, but this book speaks to people of this era. Even if it does not stand the test of time, it's a good read in this time.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Yes, it makes no sense, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

I've only read eight books on the list, but any one of these is better than Faulkner's Absolom! Absolom!
posted by devo at 6:52 AM on May 23, 2002


What about The Brothers Karamazov? The Art of War? The Odyssey? The Illiad?

Apart from The Art of War, they're on the list--if I understand your question, devo.

Also, no JK Huysman's Against Nature (A Rebours)? No Gustav Meyrink's The Golem? No Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon? *sniff*

OK, here's my bonus question for you all: and of thse books you read, of how many can you recall any plot details? I, for instance, read Hunger by Knut Hamsum about 30 years ago, and I can't tell you a goddamn thing about it except...wait--he was poor and wasn't eating enough... Yeah, that's the ticket.

So, readers, how many of those books--Proust and Murasaki excepted--on your lists could you retell around a campfire, hmm?
posted by y2karl at 8:24 AM on May 23, 2002


8, all in school, and I merely tolerated most of them.

Where the hell is Beowulf? :P

I have read a bit more eclectically than that list. Forget Pippi Longstockings, how about the Kalevala?

How long will it be before the likes of Watership Down, Lord of the Rings, Catch-22, the Illuminatus Trilogy, and such go on lists like that? Fnord. :)
posted by Foosnark at 10:38 AM on May 23, 2002


Oh, I see them now. How I missed them is beyond me.
posted by devo at 10:40 AM on May 23, 2002


Hell - I even got bored reading these comments ;-)

Have a read of quite a few books on your PC here
or here.

I have read some good stuff from them.
posted by bregdan at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2002


The real advantage to studying poetry is that even if you've only read 11 books from The List, you can still call yourself "well-read." And it's almost convincing.
posted by DaShiv at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2002


Now, reading Spenser's The Faerie Queene without the threat of impending doom may be another matter. Even Renaissance specialists of my acquaintance have admitted to loathing that poem...

Now that's one I've read about a dozen times, even if I did intentionally misspell one of the character's names as my user name here. I've read 32 on the list. I'm another with an english undergraduate degree. There are many other books that could have easily made this list, and I probably could have read more of them, but I'm "busy reading other stuff" too.
posted by bragadocchio at 10:07 PM on May 23, 2002


good grief where did you grow up...? i attended schools in montreal, toronto, winterpeg, and vancouver and can't recall reading a single book about deer hunting or snowstorms... however 14 books on that list were part of my high school edu.

It was near Vancouver... We seemed to have a big push for Native and/or Canadian authors. Once a year we would read Shakespeare, but nothing drains the life out of a play than monotone readings by bored high school students.
posted by Gary at 12:59 AM on May 28, 2002


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