What books to read

There have been lots of lists compiled over the years declaring the Best 100 books you should read before you know what…

When I check my completed reading list against these, I find that I have read over 50 on some lists, only about 30 on others and so on it goes.

Some of the lists are compiled purely by numbers of books sold, some by their literary value, but the truth is they are all some one else’s opinion.

Look for a moment at this list of the best 100 novels compiled by the BBC. It can be intimidating to compare your reading efforts! I, for example have read 48 of the books on this list.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Yes
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee Yes
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne Yes
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell Yes
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis Yes
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë Yes
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller Yes
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë Yes
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier Yes
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame Yes
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens Yes
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott Yes
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres Yes
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy Yes
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell Yes
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien Yes
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy Yes
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot Yes
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck Yes
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll Yes
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl Yes
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson Yes
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute Yes
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen Yes
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen Yes
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery Yes
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald Yes
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell Yes
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens Yes
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy Yes
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett Yes
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck Yes
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy Yes
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl Yes
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell Yes
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky Yes
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens Yes
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough Yes
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton Yes
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding Yes
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl Yes
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens Yes
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl Yes
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy Yes
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel Yes
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho Yes
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer Yes
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez Yes
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

But here’s the thing: towards the end of this list, there are 5 books by Terry Pratchett.

Who exactly is Terry Pratchett? I’ve never heard of him.

Wiki reveals: Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE (born 28 April 1948) is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre.

Oh, that makes sense. The fantasy genre is not one I enjoy. You’ll notice that I haven’t ticked off The Lord of the Rings, or the Harry Potter series (although I did enjoy the movies). My almost 12 year old loves this genre, but not me.

I struggled to read The Hobbit while at school but have never even been tempted to pick up The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

What about all those other fabulous books that are not on the list:

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Great World by David Malouf

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

The Tree of Man by Patrick White

…and the list goes on.

Reading is about the individual, you and me, because we all bring different knowledge and experiences to the process.

But here’s the absolutely BEST thing about Book Groups, we are encouraged to read books we may not have chosen on our own. This can help broaden our own appreciation and actually contribute in a meaningful way to our overall reading pleasure.

So what is the ultimate Best Book List? It is an amorphous entity.

You need to find the ultimate Best Book List for YOU.

It’s going to be fun to construct my list and I’d love to hear about the books on yours.

There are still so many aspects of reading books to discover.

What makes a book good?

Why do I like one book over another?

Should I read all books by an author I like?

The journey continues.

P.s. By the way, I think it’s perfectly fine for you to have another ‘engagement’ on the meeting night if your Book Group is reading a book that is just not you.

Book groups

Over the last decade or so, I’ve been a member of two book groups.

The first, where I was the youngest participant of a collection of wise souls with a pointy end of members well past their 8th decade of gathering life knowledge and experiences.

It was a privilege to sit with all these ladies, especially Betty and Lyn (both RIP) and share their insights. It was an added delight to learn of authors such as Patrick White and his love of ravani cake, but more about this another time.

My second book group, which currently satisfies my desire to read and ruminate is a much different combination. This is another fabulous bunch of women collected around our children’s school experience.

I have only recently learned though, that there is a loose adoption of a title for our group, B.A.B.E.S. My initial look of horror was fleeting as the acronym was expanded: Books And Bubbles Every Session.

Well, I can cope with that!

B.A.B.E.S. is a ‘revolving-door’ style of group where there is a rounded-out number of 12-14 lovely ladies. Given our busy calendars and sometimes complicated attachments to other life factors, our monthly meeting will consist of 8-10 eclectic views shared around that month’s book.

So, here’s how our evenings seem to take shape.

Arrival can occur anytime within about a 30-40 minute window. Now, to be fair to all, we wouldn’t even contemplate starting our much anticipated discussion until everyone has arrived. So, we open the bubbles and debrief about the happenings of the week or previous month, in some instances.

We solve the issues surrounding our children and school, sport or any other associated activity that crosses over this group. Naturally we move on to the greater local community and then of course, we put in our best efforts at solving the global condition and the seemingly unattainable attributes of world peace and putting a stop to world hunger.

Eventually, we turn our attention to the book in question. Some have read it, some have not – but all contribute to our feisty, often funny and sometimes sad discourse.

Departure from the evening’s gathering means an enlightenment for all, whether that comes from sharing the company of good friends or whether a salient point about the book or author has been uncovered.

Our book group – we love it!

Feel free to copy this successful formula for the structure of your book group. Alternatively, give me some hints on how yours works and together we could create the formula for a ‘Super Book Group’. Imagine the franchise opportunities!

What to read though.

Another question entirely.

Join me tomorrow as we try to discover the ultimate reading list.