The other day, as I often do to decompress after work, I was aimlessly perusing Facebook (and other Internet brain vortexes such as this website and this one), when I noticed that a friend had tagged me in a note. It was a list of books, 100 of them, of which the BBC apparently believes that the masses will have only read six.
Six? Only six? Being completely above a silly Facebook meme, obviously, I still had the urge to show the world what a well-rounded, enlightened, high-brow, and talented reader I am. So, I copied, pasted, and began bolding all of the books I’d read.
I didn’t do too badly – 27 was my total; I was at least satisfied to have kicked the masses – uh – butts in the reading realm. As I checked over the list to make sure I’d gotten them all (because….27? Huh…okay, but maybe there’s one or two I missed in my excitement…), I became a little skeptical.
First of all, why were “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” and “Hamlet” listed as separate items? Are the Works of Shakespeare somehow complete without Hamlet? Or is Hamlet that much more of a masterpiece than the rest of Ol’ Bill’s plays that it deserves to be listed on its own? Same with C.S. Lewis’ “Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” – I realize that this one is probably the best known of the Narnia series, but if you’ve marked down that you’ve read the series, then theoretially….?
So really, this was only a list of 98 books. But wait – as I read through my list again – where were numbers 23 or 26? So 27 out of 96; at least my percentage was going up, even if the integrity of the list was going down.
I also began questioning the reasons for which these books had been chosen for this list – was there any? I mean, we’ve got Dante’s Inferno alongside The Davinci Code and Charlotte’s Web – all decent books in their own right, but related how? And what qualified some these books to be on the list over things like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” or Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, books that are generally considered classic and fantastically written? I began to suspect the officialness of this so-called BBC Booklist, and a quick Google search did not turn up any official BBC results.
Well, I figure that if I’m going to measure my book-knowledge against a flawed and subjective ruler, it might as well be my own. Furthermore, I shall qualify for you why each book is on the list, so there will be no mystery about it! As such, I present to you:
Jenae’s Completely Subjective List of Books She Thinks You Should Read
1. The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling (no list about awesome books would be complete without it! And it’s first on my list because it’s sitting eye-level on the bookshelf next to me)
2. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller (one of the best and few non-cheesy books on Christianity I have read)
3. Ishmael – Daniel Quinn (if you have ever questioned the fallibility of Western culture; if saving the world and talking gorillas are your thing, this book is for you)
4. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (i think I read this book about seven times throughout jr. high and high school)
5. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (I recommend the annotated version, because it makes the book’s analogies and logic stand out, and it becomes so much less opium-trip)
6. A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews (a somewhat grey book about growing up in a tight-knit Mennonite community)
7. Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett (great characters, great story)
(this is kind of hard to do off the top of my head)
8. Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell (okay, so maybe I havent actually read this one since grade 3 or something, but I really liked it! It’s all about a young girl surviving on her own, finding food, fending off wolves…)
9. The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (wittily hilarious)
10. The Bible (cliche, perhaps, but I gained a newfound appreciation for the Bible, specifically Old Testament, in college. Those writers weren’t just blandly recording events, they were story telling. So much of the brilliance is lost in translation; for example, Jacob makes Esau a “red” stew, and that word “red” in the original text could also be used to mean something like “betrayal”.)
Well, that might be where I leave it for now. Perhaps I shall make amendments at a later time; I know there are lots I am missing.
But what about you? What books would you include on your subjective must-read list?