I’ll tell you a story…
A couple of years ago back in the spring of 2011 I was going through the library shelves, and those tall metal spiny things (that house books on a carousel), and I just couldn’t find a decent book to read.
Nothing grabbed my eye, no covers, no authors and certainly no back cover synopsis (synopsisi?) I figured after all these years of reading as much as I do it couldn’t be this hard to pick something. I was beginning to think what to do? I’d come out of the library empty handed (apart from the non-fiction books), and get frustrated by my lack of ability to read fiction regularly.
Problem was there was just too much choice (even when you took out of the equation Catherine Cookson and Danielle Steele), and I didn’t know what perhaps I should be reading so I did what I always do in these types of pickles…I went home and did some internet research.
I figured you only read certain novels and certain authors for three reasons
- You hear about a recommendation that sounds good
- You picked up on them by accident
- The novel/author is forced upon you by school, college etc
I thought I’d pretty much exhausted the second option, and my reading choices in some ways had been born from the third option but I hadn’t really explored the first option before.
Fortunately for me the list had already been created, in 2009 by a National Newspaper, of the best novels you just have to read. The list had been created by readers, writers, and that all important ‘treasured set of novels you just can’t not read because lets be honest books are pretty much as old as man – novels usually just get better with time. Some novels just have to be there because nothing since has ever beaten it or come close to the prose, story line or characters (especially in Victorian novels).
The list is divided up into 7 sections, like crime, love, humour etc etc and comes to 1,000 titles.
Now obviously it’s a compiled list, it’s never ever going to be a definitive list. I realised that when going through the list I could only tick off about 25 of them already being read. Everyone has very different tastes when it comes to reading but I do like a list!
So back in May 2011 I started on my list…
It’s nearly Dec 2013 and I’ve now read a total of 90 books, yes just 90 novels. Out of 1,000.
Clearly this challenge is gargantuan. In fact at my current rate of reading which is pretty fast for me (at least I thought it was fast) I’ll not get the list finished until I’m at least 60. That’s assuming of course I can get the books to read. My stipulation in this challenge was to either find the books in second hand shops or borrow them from the library.
At first I thought it was me not being able to spot the novels at the big town library (tell me I’m not the only one that has to go though the alphabet in your head?), then I made the searches online before heading to the library and that’s when it became apparent that this list, while major in some circles of literature authority, clearly isn’t at the library. Novels like The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, or Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser are just not there. In fact the list of novels I’ve not been able to find so far stretches to 211!
However I am enjoying the books I have managed to get hold of from the list, very much. The list has kept my reading really focused.
I’m covering so many genres and more importantly I’m catching up on much literature I should have been reading years ago. Jane Austin, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Barry Hines….need I go on? It’s been a real eye opener. Still as they say, better late than never.
In fact it’s fair to say I’m reading now more than ever thanks to this list.
Just one final thought. As the way in which we read for pleasure changes and the choice and variety of authors and novels literally (and positively) explodes with the new ways of publishing, it’s nice to get a view from both worlds – the world of the nib and the online world. Authors that only got published after death and those that get published with the click of a button.
I’m still not giving my physical books up though ;-)