(Random Number) Books to Read Before ___
One of my friends made a list of 40 books to read before they turned 40. I asked where they got the list because there are an endless number of lists like this on the net. Everyone and their dog has a list like this up. I know because I went in search of such lists to see what I have and have not read in books that are considered “must read”.
It is an assumption on my part that each of these books has somehow made it into the literature canon and are considered classics. I still have not gotten an answer as to why a book makes it into the canon. If anyone knows, enlighten me. Please.
50 Books to Read Before You Die by Barnes and Noble
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien– Unpopular opinion: I don’t have Tolkien but I defiantly think he’s overrated. 1984 by George Orwell– Can we please make Orwell fiction again? PLEASE!?!
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin – I haven’t read any Jane Austin and I call myself an English major. Someone take my degree away from me. I did pick up a book that contains all of Jane Austin’s books that I plan on reading before grad school starts in August.
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I tried to read this once, many years ago, and found it boring and never finished. I’ll have to give it another go. Maybe I have the life experience now to appreciate it more.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – On my TBR list. I want to read this after I found out it was part of the Disability in Literature class that I could never fit into my schedule.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I’ve never wanted to read this even though I love Wuthering Heights. There is some unwritten rule that if you love the works of one of the Bronte sisters, you have to read them all. I’ve not done that.
Wuthering Heightsby Emily Bronte – Didn’t I just mention this book?
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster – I always forget this book even exists.
Lord of the Fliesby William Golding – I have turned the phrase ‘lord of the flies’ into a verb, as in “Don’t make me go all lord of the flies on your ass.” Needless to say, I get weird looks when using a book title as a threat.
- Hamlet by Shakespeare – I’ve tried to read this one and I struggle to get through it. I’ve not given up yet as I do enjoy Shakespeare.
- A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul. – Never heard of it.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott. Fitzgerald – I’ve thought about reading it. Does that count?
- The Catcher in the Rye by D. J. Salinger – I’ve read it but don’t remember anything about it so I don’t feel like I can cross it off the list.
The Bell Jarby Sylvia Plath – Depressing. Awesome. Made me a Plath fan. Brave New Worldby Aldous Huxley – Fun fact. Adrenochrome, that stuff that QAnon keeps going on about that Hollywood types drink to stay young was mentioned in this book as well as A Clockwork Orange. Diary of a Young Girlby Anne Frank – Also depressing. Don Quixoteby Miguel de Cervantes – Had a hard time getting through this. Not a fan. The Bible– I’ve not read it front to back like one should a book but I spent three years with it as a major resource for Religious Studies classes. The Bible is what we call an urtext and everyone should be familiar with it for that reason alone. There are also some people who need to sit down and read this book and really listen to what it is saying. I promise, it doesn’t say what you think it says. The Canterbury Talesby Chaucer – I had to read this in academic English in high school. I hated it. I keep making mental notes to go back and revisit it to see if I appreciate it more as an adult. One day.
- Ulysses by James Joyce – Apparently it’s a modern-ish retelling of the Ulysses myth. I’ll put it on the list.
- The Quiet American by Graham Green – Never heard of this book or the author.
- Birdsong by Johnathan Faulks – Know who Faulks is, but not heard of this book.
- Money by Martha Amis – Again, I got nothing.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stoneby J. K. Rowling – I loved the Harry Potter books. Why does J. K. Rowling have to be such a problematic piece of shit? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretsby J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanby J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixby J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princeby J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowsby J. K. Rowling Moby Dickby Herman Melville – This is my cure for insomnia. The Wind in the Willowsby Kevin Grahame – I loved this book as a kid. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman – on my TBR because polar bears Anna Karinaby Leo Tolstoy – I want those two days of my life back. Seriously. I read this because I thought I ‘should’ because someone somewhere decided this was great literature. Obviously that person was into long drawn out books about rich bored Russian housewives who have affairs. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll – Still one of my favourite books. This would have been a much different story if Laudanum hadn’t be available to everyone at the time.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – Never heard of it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Timeby Mark Haddon – I read this when it came out. When did it get added to the literary canon? Weird. On the Roadby Jack Kerouac – I read this as part of my research on the hippies. Apparently this book was considered a bible to the hippies as it influenced so many of them to travel across the country in Kerouac’s steps. This is totally a book written by a dude for dudes. I feel like I am the wrong gender to have appreciated this as it should be. Heart of Darknessby Joseph Conrad – I read this in middle school, I think. I remember I liked how he wrote, just not the story.
- The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope – Another one I have not heard of.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus – TBR. I’ve heard good things about this one
The Colour Purpleby Alice Walker – #1 book from the ‘Oprah Can’t Read Book Club’. There are reasons I don’t trust books Oprah recommends. Her movie adaptation missed the mark on the book by a long shot.
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I’ve picked this one up and looked at a it a few times. Still don’t know if I want to read it.
Frankensteinby Mary Shelly – I feel like I should have owned a copy of this before now. Why I didn’t, I have no idea. War of the Worldsby H.G. Wells – First book I had to write on for university.
- Stories of Earnest Hemmingway by Earnest Hemmingway – I would be worried if someone else had written them. Not a fan of Hemmingway. He was one of those authors that made me hate American literature for the longest time.
Gulliver’s Travelsby Johnathan Swift – I hated this book. Every time I reread it, I hated it more. I wish I knew why I reread it four or five times. Each time it evoked rage in me and I have no idea why. A Christmas Carolby Charles Dickens – My favourite version is still done by the Muppets. However, there is a cool reading of it by Neil Gaiman out there. Robinson Crusoeby Daniel Defoe – Growing up my best friend loved this book. I hated it.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – Never been interested in it
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Another one I have not had any interested in reading. I feel like ‘dead white guy’ is a literary genre at this point.
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – TBR
- The Devine Comedy by Daphne de Maurier- Never heard of it
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – TBR
Why are there 54 books on this list when it says 50? Like I kept telling my linguistics professor when he would ask math questions, “We’re English majors.” Honestly, I got nothing. I just copied the list as it was and obviously someone can’t count.
Thoughts on books that someone somewhere (probably a dead white guy) decided are literary canon that everyone “should” read for whatever reason?