Monday, September 8, 2008

List-o-phile Monday

I’m a little bit OCD. Ok – sometimes a lot OCD, but it’s genetic...I can't help it. I realized the other day that I am always mentioning these book lists that I have, but never giving details. In order to correct this, I have designated Mondays as “List-o-phile” day here – every Monday I’ll post another of my lists, indicating which books I’ve read (in red/italics). If they are "scheduled" I will indicate that as well.

Let me explain to you about my book lists: I have reading lists, buying lists, library lists, inter-library loan lists, amazon lists, lists compiling other lists, etc. What I will be focusing on is “official” lists here: lists from publishing companies, magazines, lists from books, etc., thus avoiding my own personal lists. You guys don’t need to see my three-columned, size 7 font reading “pool” list, which I update probably every 3 months. Even of the official lists, I have compilation lists, “to be read first” lists, etc. It’s sometimes a problem. Stop me on the street on any given day, and if I couldn’t literally hand you my reading list folder (because they do have their own folder), I probably have some type of book list hidden on my person somewhere. I am rarely without one. Sometimes the lists take on characteristics of their own. The list I am looking at now: where it has been folded and re-folded and stuffed in purses and pockets and bags, it has started to rip. Once it got wet when I had to run to my car in a downpoor, and so some of the ink has run. Then, last week, some soda spilled on it at the top. The lists become artifacts of my reading as much as the books do. In case you’re wondering – yes, sometimes this is a problem, perhaps akin to what drives people to AA. Is there book-a-holics anonymous? Also, in case you are wondering, though I value other types of lists: movie lists, to-do lists, grocery lists, etc., it is only books that I go to this length about.

Jeanette Winterson, in one of her articles posted on her website, said that in the midst of all these Best Of lists, we often lose the pleasure of reading. Books become something to check off a list, and not ends-in-themselves. You know…the lists are the utilitarian version of book reading, v. the Kantian way. I both agree and disagree. Some books do become ones to check off the list, mostly because they shouldn’t have been on any Best Of list in the first place. But I always come at a book on these lists with genuine pleasure (except H. James and Joyce), hoping to enjoy them, to discover a new favorite book or author, as opposed to just being able to look smart and be able to say that you read all the books off a list. I have discovered a fair number of books and authors that I might not have otherwise, simply because of these lists. Maugham, Rushdie, Waugh, Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Koestler all come to mind, just to name a few.

I am currently working through the Modern Library’s Top 100 of the 20th Century, which is posted on the sidebar on the right of this page. I will complete this list in 2010. And to prove my seriousness of enjoying the books, before I consider this list “completed” I intend to go back over the list and re-read some of the ones that I didn’t like the first time…usually because I was too young when I read them to appreciate them, or simply didn’t give them enough dedication the first time around. Heart of Darkness, Catcher in the Rye are definite re-read candidates.

Today’s list is the next list I intend to work through purposefully: Time Magazine’s Top 100 [English language] Novels since 1923 - the year TIME began publishing. These are in alphabetical order (which is how TIME organized their list).

  1. Adventures of Augie March - Bellow (2009)
  2. All the King's Men - Warren
  3. American Pastoral - Roth
  4. An American Tragedy - Dreiser (2009)
  5. Animal Farm - Orwell
  6. Appointment at Samara - O'Hara
  7. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume
  8. The Assistant - Malamud
  9. At Swim, Two Birds - O'Brien
  10. Atonement - McEwan (I want to read this ASAP...)
  11. Beloved - Morrison
  12. Berlin Stories - Isherwood
  13. The Big Sleep - Chandler (ASAP...probably next year)
  14. The Blind Assassin - Atwood
  15. Blood Meridian - McCarthy
  16. Brideshead Revisited - Waugh (2009 or earlier)
  17. The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Wilder
  18. Call it Sleep - H. Roth (ASAP)
  19. Catch 22 - Heller
  20. Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
  21. A Clockwork Orange - Burgess
  22. Convessions of Nat Turner - Styron
  23. The Corrections - Franzen
  24. Crying of Lot 49 - Pynchon
  25. A Dance to the Music of Time - Powell (currently reading)
  26. Day of the Locust - West
  27. Death Comes for the Archbishop - Cather
  28. Death in the Family - Agee
  29. Death of the Heart - Bowen (2009)
  30. Deliverance - Dickey
  31. Dog Soldiers - Stone
  32. The Falconer - Cheever
  33. The Frech Lieutenant's Woman - Fowles
  34. The Golden Notebook - Lessing
  35. Go Tell It On the Mountain - Baldwin
  36. Gone with the Wind - Mitchell
  37. The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
  38. Gravity's Rainbow - Pynchon
  39. The Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald
  40. Handful of Dust - Waugh (2010)
  41. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - McCullers
  42. The Heart of the Matter - Greene
  43. Herzog - Bellow (ASAP)
  44. Housekeeping - Robinson
  45. A House for Miss Biswas - Naipaul (2010)
  46. I, Claudius - Graves (2009)
  47. Infinite Jest - Wallace
  48. Invisible Man - Ellison (Nov '08)
  49. Light in August - Faulkner
  50. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Lewis
  51. Lolita - Nabokov
  52. Lord of the Flies - Golding
  53. Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
  54. Loving - Green
  55. Lucky Jim - Amis
  56. The Man Who Loved Children - Stead
  57. Midnight's Children - Rushdie
  58. Money - Amis
  59. The Moviegoer - Percy
  60. Mrs. Dalloway - Woolf
  61. Naked Lunch - Burroughs
  62. Native Son - Wright
  63. The Neuromancer - Gibson
  64. Never Let Me Go - Ishiguro
  65. 1984 - Orwell
  66. On the Road - Kerouac
  67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Kesey
  68. The Painted Bird - Kosinski
  69. Pale Fire - Nabokov (2009)
  70. Passage to India - Forster
  71. Play It As It Lays - Didion
  72. Portnoy's Complaint - P. Roth
  73. Possession - Byatt (ASAP)
  74. The Power and the Glory - Greene
  75. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Spark
  76. Rabbit, Run - Updike
  77. Ragtime - Doctorow
  78. Recognitions - Gaddis
  79. Red Harvest - Hammett
  80. Revolutionary Road - Yates
  81. Sheltering Sky - Bowles
  82. Slaughterhouse Five - Vonnegut
  83. Snow Crash - Stephenson
  84. Sot Weed Factor - Barth
  85. The Sound and the Fury - Faulkner
  86. The Sportswriter - Ford
  87. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - Le Carre
  88. The Sun Also Rises - Hemingway
  89. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Hurston
  90. Things Fall Apart - Achebe
  91. To Kill a Mockingbird - Lee
  92. To the Lighthouse - Woolf
  93. Tropic of Cancer - Miller
  94. Ubik - Dick
  95. Under the Net - Murdoch (2009)
  96. Under the Volcano - Lowry
  97. The Watchmen - Moore and Gibbons
  98. White Noise - Delillo
  99. White Teeth - Smith
  100. Wide Sargasso Sea - Rhys

I've read 41/100. By the time I get to the end of the Modern Library list, I will have read 52. Not a bad start.

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