Thursday, April 3, 2014

100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

“So many books, so little time. With this in mind, the Amazon Books editors set out to compile a list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. We had a few goals when we started out: We wanted the list to cover all stages of a life (which is why you'll find children's books in here), and we didn't want the list to feel like homework. Of course, no such list can be comprehensive – our lives, we hope, are long and varied – but we talked and argued and sifted and argued some more and came up with a list, our list, of favorites.”
This is not your father’s Oldsmobile--not your English teacher’s list. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as the Amazon staff debated their list, and I must admit I’ve only read 25 of their recommendations. I read quite a few in high school and as a college English major, because they were required reading.  I’m pretty sure The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and To Kill a Mockingbird were high school reading, while Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, 1984 and Slaughterhouse Five were assigned in college. The rest were picked up for pure pleasure along the way.
I read In Cold Blood and Portnoy’s Complaint because so many folks recommended them, though I can’t say they were a pleasure. The World According to Garp, on the other hand, is an all time favorite.  I have a vivid memory of vacationing in the Bahamas, standing in the galley of our sailboat with book in hand, reading.
Little House on the Prairie books were favorites from the library. Other than Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins and a few classics like Heidi, we didn’t purchase many books when I was little, but I still have those my Mom bought me prominently displayed on my bookshelf. Uh-oh, I’m headed down memory lane--The Five Little Peppers, Big Red, Black Beauty—and need to reel myself in.
At the other extreme in subject matter, Valley of the Dolls doesn’t strike me as a must read. It was one of those racy books I read in high school, which I’m sure I didn’t really understand back then. I’d have to agree that Donna Tartt’s Secret History was a great read, reminding me in many ways of A Separate Peace, which didn’t make the list.

I can think of plenty of books that coulda / shoulda been on the list. Amazon, in fact, invites readers to comment on the list and make suggestions via goodreads. A quick glance at that site reveals some worthy additions—Jane Eyre, Little Women, Animal Farm, Wuthering Heights.  I smiled when I saw Watership Down, which I’d completely forgotten.
Of the 25 I’ve read, I only strongly disagree with one--Gone Girl. It’s a book everyone said I had to read, but once I did, I didn’t care for it--at all.  I think it was the absence of likable characters. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll put a book down and stop reading it if it doesn’t grab me, something I never did when I was younger. Gone Girl I finished only because I wanted to see what happened to the characters, no matter how loathsome.
The good news is there are plenty of enjoyable books to choose from, and if my Amazon and library sale purchases are anything to judge by, I’m making every effort to get to them all.