Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Book lists

I love discovering new lists of recommended books, even if I never get to the end of them. Here's another one: 30 books to read before you're 30.

The extra-good thing about this list is that I don't feel under any compulsion to complete it, seeing as I've already passed the finishing point. The interesting thing about it is, as always, seeing which titles I can already tick off. The surprising thing I realised (when doing that exercise) is that I obviously read under some categories far more widely than others, and the ones I'm missing out on most are science (The Origin of Species) and the political side - The Rights of Man by Tom Paine, Rousseau's The Social Contract , The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Prince, Walden and Plato's Republic - all titles that I've heard of but never sat down and read in their entirety.

On the other hand I can tick off most of the novels, even the hefty classics like War and peace or Crime and punishment - but I did read Crime and punishment a long time ago, and reading it again now would probably be a totally different experience.

Who makes up thse lists? They multiply all over the Internet so it's hard to track down the intial list maker. Maybe it's all just a ploy to sell the two books on the Bonus list at the end (How To Cook Everything and Honeymoon with My Brother.) Still, I'm glad to see there is at least one children's book in there (The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham.)

I'm not sure if I'll follow up on any of these, although I do like the sound of Getting Things Done by David Allen. I heard about this list through my daughter who has decided to tick some of them off, so she's started with 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think she probably needs a list of 20 books to read before you're 20. Now there's an idea...


  1. Hello Pippa - Thank you for dropping by my blog to say hello and how interesting that we were both discussing the 'classics' or the 'must reads'. I started late in my quest to be 'well read' and so I went straight to Tolstoy, Joyce and Dostoevsky in my early twenties - I can confess though I still haven't read 'Ulysses' although I still own the battered copy purchased on my travels back then - one day, perhaps. I did discover Joyce late in life again at Victoria University in my 50's and loved 'Portrait of an Artist' and 'The Dubliners'. And then, I was part of a Classics Book Group which was great fun as we read books we thought ought to have, but hadn't read - which for me included 'Madame Bovary' and indeed 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

  2. There's an interesting link on Beattie's blog today to an article in The Guardian about 'The Canon' and a quote from Lionel Shriver saying this "When I have tried to, say, reread a Dostoevsky novel, I've discovered that I don't have the patience any longer – for the long philosophical digressions, for example. I bet I'm not alone in this reduced tolerance for the stylistic traditions of the past."

  3. Yes, that's certainly the case with children's books as well - I often think back to the authors I used to enjoy reading (like Rosemary Sutcliff) but does any child read them now? Those big blocks of text and detailed descriptions are so different from the layout of today's books for children. Is it that we don't have the patience, or we feel too busy to commit to those long reads?