Thursday, 24 September 2015

100 best books in English

In the Guardian last month was an article that brought together the 100 best books in the English language (according to Robert McCrum associate editor of the Observer). The list is full of what you would expect, the classics, the canon. You can't really go wrong with them so essentially they could have retitled it as, "Here are 100 classics" and no one would be that surprised. But that doesn't make for good click bait.

Out of 100 I have read 15 of these greatest books which is quite a disappointing number for a literature student. But there are plenty on the list that I do one day intend to read but I can only comment on what I know. I thought I would give some mini- reviews of each book that I have managed to read.

Clarissa Samuel Richardson
I'll be honest I have not read every word of this mammoth book. But I have studied the story which I think counts? I do still want to revisit the kilo weight monster on my shelf just to say that I've done it. Maybe without the time pressure and without my student brain switched on I will be able to enjoy it a little more. Fingers crossed, review to follow... Maybe.

Frankenstien Mary Shelly
One of my favourites. A few years ago I started a tradition for the month of October of reading gothic/horror/thriller novels as Halloween approached and if possible would be finishing the book on Halloween night. I light candles and read by candle light, with one in the window to let the dead know that someone is alive in here, which is an old tradition I heard about and really liked as it feels protective while I read my scary story. ANYWAY. I loved the book, I never knew the full original story before I did and I urge everyone to read it, the ending may surprise you.

Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
I, like many of us, studied this at University. I think I also read it before Uni and had seen an old adaptation of it, which I found very scary. When I read the book it was perfect timing to read it as a nearly adult person and was more able to handle the scary images from the film. Suddenly everything clicked into place and I found the story to be very easy to read. It's not one of my favourites on the list, but it's certainly worth a read.

Alices Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Caroll
A child hood favourite in terms of story and a teenage favourite in terms of writing and then an adult/student favourite for the context and background of the story. This year it celebrates 150 years and its influence reaches across so many spheres. For example I recently visited the Cutty Sark, which mentioned the increasing popularity of tea drinking being an influence on stories like Wonderland with scenes from the Tea Party. Who knew I'd see the familiar illustration of Alice in the hold of the Cutty Sark.

The Moon Stone Wilkie Collins
Another dissertation book for me, the use of opium as a plot device and Collins' own opium use was very intriguing for me. I loved the story it was reviewed as the longest and first detective novel ever. It absorbed me completely and did not take me as long to get through as I expected because the story was so engrossing. For a number of reasons I'd consider it to be an important book in my life and it is so much more interesting than its marketing would give it credit for.

Three Men in a Boat
My step dad read out a passage or two from this book which made me giggle, so I picked up the book for some light-hearted entertainment. unfortunately I think it would be better as a set of amusing quotes rather than the whole story which I found to be completely tedious. I might try again in a few years, but I wasn't particularly entertained by a smattering of clever paragraphs in a story which had no interesting points at all.

The Picture of Dorian Grey Oscar Wilde
Another university love. I studied the opium in this section of the book and the way that it had become the demon element of the story and part of the degeneration of society. I am still fascinated by the subject and would definitely like to read not only this but all of my dissertation bibliography again.

Jude The Obscure Thomas Hardy
One of the most depressing books in the english language. I much prefer the mayor of casterbridge or tess of the durvervilles but I have actually read this one all the way through. With one awful event after another, you've got to have quite a strong constitution to keep going with it.

Dracula Bram Stoker
Another of my Halloween projects and easily my favourite by far. I was completely fixated with this story which was so frightening that I couldn't put the book down. I loved the structure of the story through letters and diaries which is often seen to be quite archaic if it is not done well. It's even good enough for me to read again.

The Call of the Wild Jack London
This is one of my dad's favorite books and quickly became mine. I love the interaction between man and dogs for survival in the snow. It's an incredible story and short so well worth an afternoon's attention. I love dogs so much and its a very well written story, in fact all of his books are.

The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerrald
Usually I would beg people to read the book before the movie but I did that backwards. I thought the book was brilliant, a quick easy read. Because I didn't study the story at school I'm sure there are elements of the writing which were lost on me, the colours etc.

Nineteen Eighty Four George Orwell
Certainly one of the most important books. I love the big brother society and I love the distopia. Actually I've rather forgotten what happens! The imagination behind it is very interesting and its such a well thought out story that I really respect the book just in terms of crafted story line.

Lord of The Flies William Golding
I read this at school and would certainly like to think its something I'd pick up again. I often think that the subtleties of what I was told about the story went over my head at school and it is only now that I realise the significance of a story like this one and what it says about humanity. Definitely one for a revisit.

To Kill A Mocking Bird Harper Lee
Fantastic book. Another school favourite I've studied this book backwards and my original copy is completely unreadable because of all the notes. But I have recently re-read it and loved it again. I'm intrigued by Go Set A Watchman, one for the Christmas list?

A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
Another very disturbing but socially questioning book. I absolutely love the story, though it is extremely harrowing. You'll excuse my nadsat, droogies if I say the book is horrorshow bezoomy, get your glazzies on it.

See the full list on the guardian website below.

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