Friday, March 14, 2014


The BBC believes that people have only read six of the one hundred books on a list it has compiled, and challenged readers to tick off those they have read. I couldn’t resist the challenge and set off on a tick-fest.  I notched up 59 – which left 41 books I haven’t read. 

There was a Harry Potter one (can’t remember which) but I haven’t read any of them. I’m not too bothered about that, but some of the other gaps make me feel a mite ashamed. Books that I’ve meant to read but haven’t got around to, like Life of Pi and Sebastian Faulkes’ Birdsong.  Books that no one gave me as a child (although they gave me heaps of others) so that I grew up passing them by without knowing what I was missing: Narnia and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Anne of Green Gables.  

More grown-up of the not-yet-read is The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, published in 1860) which is considered to be the trail-blazer for the modern detective story. That is definitely on my list, if I can find a copy*.  And Moby Dick too – that’s already in my Kindle but it’s a daunting prospect. Everyone knows that it’s about a great white whale, endlessly pursued by Captain Ahab, but it is apparently a “turbulent ocean of ideas” with “meditations on the shape and status of America – on democracy, leadership, power, industrialism, labour, expansion, and nature”. All that in one book?  Perhaps later.

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children should be required reading for anyone in today’s world – of course it should. However I can’t cope at the moment with “huge and sprawling” but I’ve promised myself that the day will come. Come the long winter evenings with nothing on the telly, and Rushdie will surely beckon. Frank Herbert’s Dune?  It’s sci-fi so that could go to the bottom of the pile.

Four books that I’m ashamed not to have read: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Emile Zola’s Germinal, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. They are all described as outstanding examples of their genres; all are books that most of us know about, even if we haven’t read them; all are on my list of will-read-one-day titles.

Four BIG TOMES. The Bible, Shakespeare’s Complete Works, War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment. It’s not fair that the first two were on the BBC list – hardly anyone will have read either all the way through. I have two or three copies of both, and DVDs of most of the plays of Shakespeare, but I didn’t count them towards my score of 59 books read.  The Tolstoy and the Dostoevsky?  I’ve seen the film of War and Peace so that will have to do for now, but life might be too short for Crime and Punishment.

However, on my shelves is an alarmingly thick copy of “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (New Burlington Books, 2006). Cheating, but better than nothing.

* Got it!


  1. Please follow this fascinating post with another one about the books you have read...and re-read ...and re-read, that are so much part of your delight in life that you can't imagine a happy one without them. I admire you for facing up to the omissions you regret, but it's the books you have read that define the you that we know. They must have been good books and I'd like to hear about them.

  2. I've written about books for a long time now - but not much here on Words and Pictures. Perhaps I should, now that I'm not reviewing them so often. Thank you for your generous remarks, I really appreciate them.