The Book Editors at Amazon have compiled a list (which they admit is not comprehensive or exhaustive) of the one hundred books to read in a lifetime.
The Book Editors at Amazon have compiled a list (which they admit is not comprehensive or exhaustive) of the one hundred books to read in a lifetime. The list includes a range of genres, from children’s books, to classics, to nonfiction. The question is, have they missed any must-reads out or are the choices spot on?
Of course, more importantly it forces you to question just how well read you are (in comparison to how well read you thought you were) and the big question is: how many have you read?
The list appropriately begins with children’s books, and the inclusion of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson are perfectly fitting.
At this early stage I was already hailing the Book Editors at Amazon—these books are the very definition of my childhood. Who could ever forget the tiger who drank all the water from the tap, or Tracy Beaker’s interactions with Justine (wasn’t she awful?) and Elaine the Pain (lucky her name rhymed with pain).
Coincidentally, I had a very in-depth conversation about Jacqueline Wilson books with my flatmates recently and it’s evident that her numerous books were, and still are, loved by many children. There’s no doubt that these books absolutely deserve to be on the list, however, in my mind the absence of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and the brilliant character of Kitty in Bel Mooney’s books means that the section feels incomplete.
Not an easy list to create
However, there is no doubt that the Editors have hit the nail on the head with the section for “Books for Older Children and Young Adults.” Harry Potter comes to mind immediately and is thankfully on the list, as is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses also appears.
The books are perfect for this category because they explore the theme of growing up and courage and the bridge between childhood and adulthood. The Diary of a Young Girl in particular looks at that bridge as an almost elusive concept as it throws up questions about how children are sometimes forced to become adults much more quickly than is fair and the loss of childhood.
Following this, there is a selection of books that are named “Approachable Classics.” It is at this point that my support for the list drops because they have, unfortunately, included The Great Gatsby, for which I have no kindness. It has been praised by almost everyone I know and I always find myself asking whether we are talking about the same book.
Having no problem with classics (I adore To Kill a Mockingbird, which is also on the list as well as The Picture of Dorian Gray) I fail to understand the appeal of the novel. I do not particularly enjoy the writing style and don’t feel the story deserves the attention it has received.
I could have perhaps overlooked the flaw, but then realising that A Christmas Carol does not appear at all, not in this section or in “Nineteenth Century and earlier”has caused me to lose faith in humanity (worsened after seeing Crime and Punishment is on the list-the horror).
Skipping ahead a few sections to get over the horror, the competitive “Contemporary Fiction” category includes novels that are more than deserving of a place in this section. To name a few: The Kite Runner, Atonement, Never Let Me Go and The Book Thief are amongst my favourites and the diverse range listed is remarkable.
There can be no better recommendations under this heading, except for one novel which I have would say is my favourite book (although only under extreme pressure, since it seems like choosing a favourite book is like choosing between chocolate and ice cream: cruel and impossible). The gap is in the form of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help which won numerous awards and was recently adapted into a film. It is a touching tale of African American maids in Mississippi in the 1960s and is a blend of sadness and hope, it is both moving and hilarious.
For me, this is a gaping hole in an otherwise almost perfect section.
Overall, creating a list of one hundred books to read in a lifetime is no easy feat and I can imagine it took a while to narrow down all the options. Whilst I disagree on some points (The Great Gatsby…really?!), there can be no doubt that a taste in books is very much a personal thing and so a universal list of must reads is near impossible to create.
So whilst the addition of a few books here and there is necessary in my mind, Amazon’s list is most definitely the place to start when wondering what to read next and especially if you want to carry on procrastinating.
The full list can be found here.
What do you think? Do you agree with this list? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: romana klee / Flickr