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Book Soup

I saw this on another blog yesterday (sorry for not giving proper credit. I forget where I saw this). It’s a list of “must read” books from the National Endowment for the Arts. According to the NEA, the average American has read only 6 of the 100 books. I was that geeky kid who was happy to hang out at home on weekends and read, and I was an English major in college so I’ve probably read more than the average reader. However, I’m embarrassed to admit that there are some serious gaps in my list. A couple of years ago I realized I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. I bought a copy but it’s still in my stack of books to read.
How did you do? And are there books on here that you think shouldn’t be? Are there books missing?
The instructions for passing this list around are as follows:
1. Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2. Italicize those you intend to read.
3. Underline the books you love.

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (Yes, Lesley, I did love this book and probably wouldn’t have read it if you didn’t recommend it!!)
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  52. I don’t know what happened to #5152 Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (I have this in my stack of books to read. In fact, I’ve tried before but couldn’t get through it. I’d like to try again at some point.)
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (I liked this book, but I don’t get why it’s on the list.)
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

At some point last year, they did add a few more books:

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston’s vibrant novel presents Janie Mae Crawford’s growth from a voiceless teenage girl into a woman who takes charge of her own destiny. (I read this in college and it’s stuck with me since.)

The Joy Luck Club

In sixteen interwoven stories, Amy Tan’s characters—four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters—struggle to connect despite the ghosts and secrets of the past. (I loved this book!! The story is a a very relateable tale of mothers and daughters.)

The Call of the Wild

Abducted from his comfortable home and sold as a sled dog, Buck battles the elements to become leader of the pack. This story of a struggle for survival is an unforgettable adventure. (I think every kid should read this book.)


I hope the NEA plans to update this list regularly because the more I look this over, the more I’m surprised by some omissions. I probably would have added the following:

• The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

• White Noise, by Don DeLillo

• Anything by Michael Chabon (yes, Lesley, I know this may shock you!)

• Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (C’mon, if Bridget Jones can be on here, a book like this should definitely occupy a spot on the list.


10 Responses

  1. I don’t see any Danielle Steele on this list? I’M KIDDING.

  2. I know it. And no Michael Crichton. How odd!

  3. If I should find myself looking for recommendations on what to read, the NEA is apparently a good place not to look.

  4. OHMEEGAWWWD. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay! Does this mean you’re actually going to read this book I’ve been trying to get you to read for Umpteen Years?? Cause I will drive over to your house RIGHT NOW and bring you my copy. Right now, I tell you!

    Of the books on that list you haven’t read yet (and that I have), I would recommend the following the most:

    – Love in the Time of Cholera: Remember the hateful relationship I had with it last year? And then I got to the end. And suddenly found myself looking back in utter love on every single page. Phenomenal.

    – Anything by Jane Austen

    – Life of Pi

    As for the Curious Incident of the Dog…yadda yadda? DETESTED IT. To this day I do not understand all the hoopla surrounding this.

    (Stiletto Mom: That kills me. Hilarious.)

  5. Rebecca: WOOT!

  6. There are a lot of books on this list that have no business being on a list like this. Just because Oprah likes a book doesn’t mean it’s a great work of literature and a “must read”. Da Vinci Code???? Please. Life of Pi? Prayer for Owen Meany ? I love John Irving, but this was his worst book, I think), Bridget Jones? Harry Freakin’ Potter???( And why are the complete works of Shakespeare and Hamlet separate? And, um… The Bible??? Which version?And I could think of quite a few other books — classics, that should be on the list instead and aren’t. Where’s Faulkner, Hemingway. Maugham? Why Lolita? Nabokov wrote so much other, better stuff. There are a lot of really good books on the list though. I loved Rebecca, too and anything by Hardy or Dickens and I did read the Dog thing because my daughter loved it and made me read it. It was okay. Not list-worthy though.

  7. XUP: YOU should put together the definitive list of books to read. Or between me, you, Lesley and Debra we could put together the Blog Chicks Best Books Ever list!

  8. We’ll of course have to work on this in some tropical location away from all distractions save the occasional visit from the cabana boys with refreshments and food massages.

  9. XUP: Yes, please!!!!

  10. XUP: Well, if that’s what it takes, do what you must!

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