Books to Stock Your Library With if You Don’t Read But Want to Appear Smarter Than You Are

I love me a good book list. As I was telling my friend Jodi Cleghorn, I have a complicated relationship with book lists. On the one hand, book lists are good reminders of the great books I’ve read and all the many books I’ve yet to discover. On the other hand, I’m always disappointed to realize how few of the listed books I’ve actually read or remember reading. The following list comes to me via the aforementioned Jodi Cleghorn. It is apparently a list of 106 books that people have bought but have never gotten around to reading. In other words, books that people buy to make themselves look smart. I myself can’t quite afford to do that so obviously don’t own them all so am hoping that my intelligence is increasing with each book that I do read. I’ve indicated which of these books I own in italics those that I’ve already read are in bold, and those that are underlined are the ones I would like to read sooner than later but do not currently own.

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke (I happen to be reading it right now. Can’t put it down even though it’s 800+ pages and weighs a tonne)
  2. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. I read it a couple of times (1st time being at age 12)
  3. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  4. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Read it 20 years ago and will read it again this year)
  6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  7. The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. Life of Pi : a novel, Yann Martel (own it, read it, have every intention of reading it again)
  9. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  10. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
  11. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  12. Ulysses, James Joyce
  13. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  14. The Odyssey, Homer
  15. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  16. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  17. The Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  18. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  19. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
  20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  21. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  22. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
  23. The Iliad, Homer
  24. Emma, Jane Austen
  25. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (recently finished reading it for 2nd time)
  26. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (this one’s been on my wish list for a little while)
  27. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  28. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  29. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
  31. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
  32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books, Azar Nafisi
  33. Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  34. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  35. Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson
  36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
  37. The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
  38. The Historian : a novel, Elizabeth Kostova
  39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (want to read it again this year)
  41. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (looking forward to a 2nd reading)
  42. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
  43. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
  44. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  45. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  47. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  48. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (started reading it and got scared by the end of page 1. Might give it a try again someday)
  49. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
  50. The Once and Future King, T.H. White
  51. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel, Barbara Kingsolver
  53. 1984, George Orwell
  54. Angels & Demons, Dan Brown
  55. The Inferno, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  56. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
  57. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
  59. Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
  60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (I’ve seen the movie countless times, does that count?)
  61. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  63. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
  64. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  65. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
  66. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (started reading and couldn’t get into it)
  67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
  69. Dune, Frank Herbert
  70. The Prince, Machiaveli
  71. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir , Frank McCourt
  73. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (I’ll be reading this one soon)
  74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present, Howard Zinn
  75. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
  76. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
  77. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  78. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
  79. Dubliners, James Joyce
  80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  81. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  82. Slaughterhouse-five, Kurt Vonnegut
  83. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss
  85. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (I also have Lady of Avalon and Priestess of Avalon waiting on my bookshelf)
  86. Oryx and Crake : a novel, Margaret Atwood (I usually enjoy her books, but I couldn’t connect with this one so didn’t finish)
  87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed, Jared Diamond
  88. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
  89. The Confusion, Neal Stephenson
  90. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  91. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  92. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
  93. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  94. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
  96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything, Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
  98. The Aeneid, Virgil
  99. Watership Down, Richard Adams (saw the movie as a kid and it made an indelible impression.)
  100. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
  101. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (read it as a child)
  102. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  103. White Teeth, Zadie Smith (read On Beauty but not this one)
  104. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  105. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  106. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

Which ones did you read? Which will you steer clear of?

List updated on 20/02/09

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