Friday, November 18, 2016

100 Books to Read Before You Die - The Official List

by Shirley Hailstock

It started with a movie, The Equalizer. I like action movies and I like Denzel Washington. In this movie, his wife has died and she was a lover of books. She was reading the top 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before You Die.  He truly loved her and as homage, he's reading the top 100 books.  He's currently on number 91.



I looked for the list since I wanted to know how many of them I had read.  What I discovered is there are countless lists of top 100 books by different groups, organizations or individuals.  I had to choose one, so when I found a list that said it was The Official List, I went with that one.  Click this link (The Official List) if you want to see all 100 titles. I am glad to say that the majority of the books appear on many of the lists. You'd expect to see The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice on any reading list that claims to be the Top 100.




When I counted the titles I'd read, my number was 37. There were some collections like the Harry Potter series and the complete works of Shakespeare.  While I've read all the Harry Potter books, I only get to add one to my total. I didn't count Shakespeare at all since I've only read a few of his books/plays.  I've seen more of his works produced as a play or movie than actually reading the text. However, Hamlet was listed singularly and I included that one. In high school, I had to memorize parts of that play.

Some titles I tried to read and couldn't. The Hobbit is one of them. Even after The Lord of the Rings walked away with multiple Academy Awards, I tried to read The Hobbit and couldn't. Then I got it on CD and tried to listen to it.  Still I couldn't get into it.  There are some books, we're just not ready to spend the time trying to read.

There were also titles on the list I couldn't remember if I'd read the book or only seen a movie of the story. Little Women, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, and Anna Karenina have been movies, all with several remakes to their credit, and I can't remember if I ever read the book.



Of course, every list is going to come with surprises.  This one had a few books that I wouldn't choose for people to read before dying. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams are two.  This is my opinion. There are probably thousands of people who will disagree with me, but they will have their own list that differs from mine.



Another surprise came when I saw titles and didn't know a book existed. I thought these stories were made into movies from original screenplays. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy,  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane are a few.


The list was limited to 100 titles, so it stands to reason that some expected titles will be missing.  For example, Middlemarch by George Eliot is listed, but Silas Marner is not.  Neither The Scarlet Letter nor any other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne are included in the list. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is present, but not Lord Jim.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel and The Invisible Man by National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison, and Native Son by Richard Wright were not listed. There were no books by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison or Ernest Hemingway.






So, of the books on this list that I've read, what is my favorite – The Great Gatsby.  A few years ago I read this book for the first time. I wanted to see if it stood the test of time. Would the book be just as interesting and relevant today as it was when it was written? My answer is yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I'd seen Robert Redford and Mia Farrow play Gatsby and Daisy countless times. And I even visited the house in Newport, Rhode Island where they filmed the movie, I was still in the can't put-it-down-mode.



Reading 37 titles is good, but not great. It's only a little over a third of the 100.  Just in case you want to know the 37 titles I have read, they're listed below.

So, like Ricky would say to Lucy, I got some readin' to do.


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