A whole new way with memes

Don’t like a meme you’ve been handed? Then substitute another! Pass it on, boys, pass it on…

Millennium Elephant tagged us with this song meme during our relocation interregnum, and while we do, in general, listen to songs, we haven’t actually bought or listened to anything new for some time. This is partly on account of my having come to cling to Classic FM for sanity during my house move, and partly because I am, to be honest, rapidly turning into an old fart who thinks music stopped with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Arcade Fire. I won’t even be retro for another twenty years.

So instead, I’ve decided to adopt this meme, which I came across on One Hour Ahead while building my gargantuan and soon-to-be-unveiled blogroll. It’s a Livejournal meme but I’m sure they won’t mind if I nick it, so long as I say publicly how utterly wonderful I consider Livejournal to be. Going through it made me realise what a girlie I actually am. Three quarters of my favourite books from this list are about bittersweet nearly-missed-it love in one form or another. Dear, dear. And quite possibly, crumbs. Can anyone save me by pointing me towards the six books I haven’t read on here which might also stand a chance of becoming favourites?

In a further departure from meme normality, I haven’t tagged anybody. This is the ultimate liberal meme. Pick it up only if you want to, and if it doesn’t infringe your personal freedoms.

“The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The 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
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 Meaney – 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 – Yann Martel
52 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
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
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 Bryson
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

And so there you have it. Slushy and badly read.


  1. Reprinted… I have an interesting reason for not having read most of them, actually.

    Evidently, at my sink school in Stoke, reading wasn’t really encouraged. I was a voracious reader but there was no structure or discipline, whatever. Then I met this girl who was all about English Literature, & was/am very heavily into her, so it really hurts to read things like (off your list) Wuthering Heights, Emma etc. Dickens is her favourite author. I’ve been known to wince whenever I see any of the fucker’s books in a shop.

    I find myself reading mainly fact, it’s easier for me to handle. Though I do love Huxley, Orwell, and Edward Rutherfurd (you heard of him?)

    As well as BNW and 1984, read the more obscure books, especially Island by Huxley and Coming Up For Air by Orwell. I read those during my time in sixth form… rather than doing any work, but then no one ever told me studying was important. It wasn’t something that was mentioned on the estate.

    You may also wish to look at Mark Watson, whom I discovered through his stand-up comedy, who has written some excellent books… and Paul Kingsnorth, who has been writing some quite fantastic green non-fiction.

    I must be a cunt because I’ve read Gulliver’s Travels 5 times and have still got no idea what it’s all about. Every time I see a reference to it in the press I go back over it and it makes no fucking sense to me. I actually find reading quite hard some of the time, not sure why because last time I looked I wasn’t stupid 🙂

  2. In my second paragraph, I was trying to state that these EngLit books have very negative personal meanings for me. Just like some people hate certain smells or noises because they remind them of things. But then, I don’t think I’ve really lost out.

    I also think the English Bible should be studied in schools as literature. Obviously it’s total bollocks, but so is the Koran for similar reasons, and people read that without believing in it. Just as the Koran is a pinnacle of Arabic literature, so the Bible is crucial, especially the 1611 version which has permeated so much of our language and without which a great deal of our culture is inexplicable.

    That is why I forced myself through it, and was actually quite interested by the whole business. Oddly enough it was Richard Dawkins who gave me the idea, and I realised that he was right.

  3. I do keep meaning to read the Bible, actually. Should have italicized it. I read a great book about this by Robin Lane Fox: “The Unauthorised Version” which was about what a strange compendium the Bible is – historical novels, historical chronicles, genealogies, mystical rants, erotic poems etc, all supposedly making up one solid canon. The way it came together was truly random. I’ve only ever studied it formally as a historical document. It can actually tell you quite a lot about diplomatic relations and warfare in the late bronze age Levant. *Twitch*

    Gah, am with you there, HATE Dickens. Despite the fact that one of my favourite books is Bleak House. I never said I made any sense.

    😀 I think you should submit that review of Gulliver’s Travels to the TLS because while I’ve never read it I can’t help suspecting you’re right.

  4. Yes, Dawkins has touched on that in several places. I have heard of Lane Fox & various other feckers, they are on my list, but I only get 2 books a week due to time constraints, so it will take eternity for me to actually read any of it.

    Also, The Golden Bough is an excellent anthropological book, which I’ve read about 3 times. I keep meaning to read it again but I don’t like re-reading things, it’s sort of wearying. 🙂

  5. Asquith, Lane Fox is well worth reading. His ‘The Classical World’ is my go-to for answering the ‘if I have to read one book on ancient history?’ question. I too have read the Bible cover-to-cover, and my top tip for anyone trying that is to skip Chronicles entirely. (Or is it Kings? They repeat each other, anyway.) Some of the history bits are boring enough as it is, without having to read the exact same text twice.

    Dickens – bleaugh.

    Hardy – Tess but not Jude or Madding Crowd? I was once forced to read ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ and hated it for chapters and chapters, until my brain clicked and decided to read it as a sadistic farce, League of Gentlemen-style. After that I thought it was hilarious. Probably they don’t teach this method in Eng Lit, however.

    Others not yet read in the People’s Republic – ‘Animal Farm’ is fun, and Iain Banks is depressing-but-satisfying. And Kerouac is part of why I’m leaving London for San Francisco, but I think he’s a love/hate candidate.

  6. I make it 19 of them that I’ve read, though not much recently as my recreational reading has collapsed since I took to cycling to work (I’m convinced that at least 75% of reading in London takes place on public transport)

    I’ve only read one Dickens so far, Hard Times. I wanted to try one and it seemed like the shortest. I enjoyed it, a little bit schmaltzy in places (something for which I have scant tolerance)but with some great archetypal characters (or possibly charicatures).

    Of the list I guess the one I’m least likely to read is Lord of the Rings. I’ve tried, God knows I have. Studying physics it was considered obligatory. I got to page 100 by deliberate effort, contemplated the poorly written nothingness I’d just read, viewed the expanse of book left to go and thought “fuck it”. I think my mistake was in not attempting it as an adolescent.

    Where did this list come from by the way? Was it voted for by people or something?

  7. Edis: good point! The list seems to have changed e.g. Bill Bryson is not on the BBC’s 2003 list.

    I think I am on 17 on the BBC’s list (not sure if I finished 3 or 4 of them; maybe I remember seeing them on film/TV).

  8. I have resolved to take “Bleak House” from the library & consider it, thanks to our host. Ned, I’m on that case, it seems like something definitely worth considering.

    I’d like to request more blogging about Maslovian types, as I’ve been thinking and fretting about it. I think the whole project may suffer from “World’s Smallest Political Quiz Syndrome”: it seems to be quite plainly directed to get people to regard themselves as pioneers, by “pioneers” for “pioneers”.

    I think of myself as a pioneer, but I also recognise in myself a strong and not diminishing settler streak, of which I am not ashamed. When I read through again and again I felt a wary respect for the settlers and nothing but scorn for prospectors, who just seem like stupid cunts. I can actually imagine how I’d behave as a roots settler, ie not much differently from now, which is maybe a bit disconcerting.

    And this whole post, if you think about it, reflects a search for self-esteem, which you might consider a prospector trait, though I hope not. But then again, who but a pioneer would wonder about these things anyway?

    What’s it all about? 🙂

  9. Me again, am bored at work/being eaten alive by my obsessive worrying. I did the test:


    I got pioneer, but only just, & do indeed apparently have many conservative views. “Transitional” is the technical term.

    This is the entry-level Pioneer (Inner Directed) state.

    They are the most rational and pragmatic of the Pioneer groups, being the most likely to trust tried and tested methods when faced with unfamiliar situations. They are open to new feelings and situations, but are the most closed down of the Pioneers in their desire for close emotional relationships.

    They are looking to explore mental, emotional and physical boundaries, but safely. In a nutshell life has become exciting, but they are not seen as exciting people.

  10. Hi Alix,

    You inspired me to do this too, here’s mine!


    I don’t understand what the problem with Margaret Atwood is..Jo Anglezarke’s crossed her out as well! was is a set text at some point? (I must be showing my age!!) I think the Handmaid’s Tale is brill! But try Oryx & Crake instead, you might like that.

    Birdsong is good, you’re right to italicise that and a Town Like Alice is v good as well.

    You’re right to want to read Midnight’s children. it’s much better tha Satanic Verses and have a go at his new one: ‘The Enchantress of Florence’. I just read it in double quick time, it was that good!

    Then Lolita and A Suitable Boy should be next on your list!!

  11. Y’know, Jo, I think I’ll ask other Jo about the Handmaid’s Tale, because I wonder if her reason for crossing it out was exactly the same as mine – tried it at least three times on account of it being The Feminist Book To Read In The Sixth Form, found it unbearably turgid and gave up. It wasn’t on any syllabus I studied, but it was ubiquitous as I recall. So probably says more about pressure on us to enjoy it than the actual quality of the book. I’ll give O&C a go as you suggest.

  12. I’ll admit I’ve read some off this list, but I’ve always thought conversation becomes irritatingly sterile when everyone has the same reference points.

    Anyway on the Bible point – it stands out for its own canonical indexing of style and content of the ancient world, and was to all intents and purposes a portable library. This list is a similar in its’ ‘establishment’ view of modern literature, which supposedly defines ‘quality’ in a very narrow academic sense, so it automatically bores me to even consider any of the entrants.

    I’d have to recommend post-war pulp fiction for pure unadulterated and unexpected joys – best discovered at the bottom of the box in a school fete book stall, or in a junk shop for 20p: Suedehead is a punk classic if you can find it, and there is a huge array of genre work which is emminently worth exploring – crime fiction and war stories are particularly enjoyable for their contemporary insight – the more lurid the cover artwork the better!

    I’m sure plenty of people might have something to say about the lack of graphic novels, foreign work and poetry as well as non-fiction biographies (Gordon Brown’s Maxton, anyone?) or travel books, but that’s probably best left for another meme.

  13. “Really? A searing pain when I pass water is generally the clue for me.”

    No, that just reminds me to let go *chuckle, titter, guffaw, sob*.

    I’d advise you to avoid Jane Eyre, Alix, as the time you’d spend reading it would doubled by helpless bouts of yawning.

    Ulysses, Germinal and Lolita would be a fine (if unholy) triumvarate.

  14. Aargh. You’ve got me at it now over at my mutterings. Quite pleasantly impressed with how many ‘ve read though.

    Oh, and a warm welcome back from another semi-detached blogger.

  15. Here’s something that I think has gone unmentioned so far, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

    I regard it as an excellent book, brilliantly written, full of moral purpose and joy. It takes a great craftsman to write a book that is so simple and direct without being trite or patronising. I also have a great admiration for the puritans, as I believe liberal blood flowed theough their veins, and they did some great deeds. I wouldn’t go out drinking with them, but so what?

    I call it a worthy addition to every home, and although I don’t deal in imaginary golden ages I can’t help thinking the days when working-class families like my grandparents kept books like this and the Bible were happier than the times where people are happy to have no standards, “reading” celeb magazines and watching Big Brother, unaware of the total scorn the elite feels for them… not that I’ve ever, ever, ever read a line of Ferdinand Mount or anything like that… oh no.

    Think about it.

    Oh, and Dominic Sandbrook is a great author too.

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