December 15, 2018

BBC Book List

A friend of mine once shared an interesting note on her Facebook page: a list of 100 books the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) deems so "important" that the question on the note was, "How many of these have you read?" My bookworm mother-in-law reported reading or seeing movie versions of 71 and another friend - a brilliant young lady who's been home-educated from the beginning and may very well become a journalist and writer in her adult life - had already read the tender age of 17!

I don't know how the BBC came up with the list or why it thinks of itself as an arbiter of good taste in literature (maybe just because it's British?!), but it's interesting nonetheless. I actually don't recommend forcing kids to read particular titles - instead, I promote a child-directed Readers' Workshop approach - and I would not have included at least a few of the titles - specifically, the Harry Potter series, The DaVinci Code, and Bridget Jones's Diary - because, for one thing, there's no way to really know if these modern popular works will stand the test of time in terms of classic or even noteworthy literature. And I would definitely have included others instead - Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray comes to mind as one example - but I think the list might be instructive (though not proscriptive) for my fellow home-educating moms as we consider what we may want to suggest - not mandate - that our children read before high school graduation. In addition, we may want to think about adding some of these titles to our own reading lists; after all, all of life is learning, and we want to model that behavior for our children!

Just for fun, I've underlined the titles I've already read and have put an asterisk in front of those I'm adding to my reading list. And, of course, I could not resist some editorial comments!

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I tried to get into this...but I really just wanted to ring the protagonists' necks and scream, "Get a backbone!"

2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
I feel I should want to read this, but I don't like the fantasy genre so, in all honesty, I may never get around to it. However, I did watch (and enjoy) the movie series and, because Tolkien was a Christian, I've encouraged my girls to consider it.

* 3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brönte
I am afraid this may remind me of Austen and, thus, cause me to want to run screaming from my room. But I should give it a fair shot anyway - just to say I have. And perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

4. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
I have too many concerns about these books to get into here. Suffice it to say, I'm not interested. To the extent my girls like the genre, I encourage Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among others, instead.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Wow! I didn't read this until a few years ago, but I now consider it one of my all-time favorites! The sequel Ms. Lee actually wrote prior to Mockingbird and did not want to publish is not nearly as good, though. 

* 6. The Bible
In my mind, of course, this should be #1 because it is my guide for life and faith. Unfortunately, I haven't always been as committed to reading it (daily) as I should have been, but reading it through - even annually - is always a goal. It's God's Word and is, thus, living and active - so it speaks anew with each fresh reading. I believe it's essential reading for people of other-than-Christian faiths, too, since so many other books contain biblical allusions.

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brönte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
I read this in high school. Given our current political climate, I should probably read it again.

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott
I read this several times in middle and high school. Each time I did so, I checked it out over Christmas vacation and spent the week buried in it.

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
This book is monumentally tragic but is worth the read anyway.

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

* 14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
Okay, I haven't read them all. Has anyone, really? All the plays and all the sonnets? Other than Ph.D.s in English literature, I highly doubt it. But I am always game for more Shakespeare. I was afraid of him until I returned to college in my mid-twenties; now I love him!

15. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
See # 2, above.

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
This is one of my all-time favorite books - all 800+ pages of it!

* 21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
I've seen the movie, but not read the book. I wonder if the two are substantially different.

22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
I did not like this, but I think that's because I disliked the characters more than Gatsby's actual story or writing style. It's hard to like a book whose characters you want to shake!

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
I love several of Tolstoy's short stories and really wanted to say I'd read War and Peace! But, as is the complaint of so many, I could not keep up with the multiple names and nicknames assigned to each of the multiple characters. I may try again some day, but I'm not especially motivated to do so any time soon.

25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

* 27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky is on my very short list of "bucket list" must-read authors!

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
This is another of my favorites, both because I love the book itself and because it holds special memories for me. I performed a high school forensics declamation that took me all the way to the state competition using an excerpt from this. I wonder if I could still nail the accents?

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
See #24, above.

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
My husband read the entire series to our daughters.

34. Emma – Jane Austen
See #1, above.

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
Why does the BBC love Austen so much?!

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
I don't know why this is listed separately from #33. However, though I haven't read the whole series, I have read this one. As I said, I'm not a fan of the fantasy genre, but I enjoy the Christian allegory here so that makes it manageable, especially in reading it to my children.

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
My mother-in-law tells my husband and me that we should read this. 

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Berniere

39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
I have, of course, read some of this, but I'm not sure I've ever read the whole thing.

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
See #8, above.

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
Why is this on the list? Harry Potter I can maybe understand, but this? It will be completely forgotten in short order.

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
I read another of his book's, The World According to Garp, years ago. That was more than enough Irving for me.

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

* 46. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
My girls, my mother-in-law, and I recently watched the PBS series from the 1980s, and were so delighted that I bought the entire series to read, too.

47. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
This book tragically illustrates the goals of institutional schooling.

50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52. Dune – Frank Herbert
One of my best friends in high school was mesmerized by this book. At times, I wanted to be just like her, but the style just doesn't interest me.

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
Can we please be done with Ms. Austen?!

55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

* 57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

* 58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Let's just say I was not impressed.

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
I think Grapes of Wrath is better, but I also think any Steinbeck is worth reading.

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Really? This is supposed to be important literature?

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
If Middlemarch is the blessing of 800-page literature, this is the curse. Ugh!

71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
My daughters have read this with my husband, and it's a favorite.

74. Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce
I'm not sure, but I think this might belong on the shelf next to Moby Dick...

76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
This was another read-aloud my husband did with our girls. They all rave about it.

78. Germinal – Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
I read this in college. Middlemarch was much better, but this was okay.

80. Possession – A.S. Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
I know now that I don't agree with Ms. Walker about much, politically or culturally. But she is a gifted author, that's for sure.

84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
I actually never read this as a child - just for the first time with my daughters. I'm glad to see it on a list like this.

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
I remember thinking I wasn't sure at the time if I liked it or not. It's a hard read, emotionally.

92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
I had to read this in high school, as it was one of my English teacher's favorite books. She was my favorite teacher and a mentor so I wanted to adore it, too...but I could not stand it! I wonder if I would appreciate it more now?

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down – Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
I don't know why this is listed separately from #14. My favorite Shakespeare plays are King LearMacbeth, and The Merchant of Venice, but this one comes in a close fourth.

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
I've seen the movie, but not read the book.

* 100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
My girls performed selections from the musical version of this book for their homeschool choir, and we were able to see a professional production and . watch a couple of movie versions during the same year. Now I'm committed to reading the book as well.

What do you think? Is the list representative of truly great books? Which have you read? Which would you like to read? Where do you agree and disagree with my opinions?

Photo Credit: Jeniee 

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