Books of the Century

True to her word, Jodi has posted the 100 Books of the Century, and it is interesting to see where this list is similar to, and where it departs from, the list of 106 books most often bought but never read. I’ve only just got round to posting this though due to one or two IT issues this week. I’ll say this – pen and paper never stop working due to viruses… As with the past book post, books I have read are bold, books I own but have not read/started but didn’t finish are in italics, and books I want to read are in underline. If I have a comment, I’ll make one…

TOAST OF THE CENTURY – Waterstone Bookstores
1900
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum
And here comes the first confession… I was the Tin Man in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. My first and only brush with the stage, for very good reasons. From what I have seen, Baum’s books are far more disturbing than the MGM musical (although it is disturbing in itself).

1901
Kim – Rudyard Kipling

1902
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
The very first Sherlock Holmes story I read, I suspect it is how most modern readers are introduced to Holmes. It is by no means the best of the Holmes mysteries, but it was hugely popular, coming as it did after Holmes’ “death” at the Reichenbach Falls, and written by Conan Doyle to appease the demand for Holmes, without having to bring him back (though he eventually did).

1903
The Riddle of the Sands – Erskine Childers

1904
The Golden Bowl – Henry James

1905
Kipps – HG Wells

1906
The Railway Children – Edith Nesbit

1907
The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad

1908
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
A book from my childhood (from many childhoods). I much prefer Winnie-the-Pooh to be honest.

1909
Tono-Bungay – HG Wells

1910
Howards End – EM Forster

1911
In a German Prison – Katherine Mansfield

1912
‘Twixt Land and Sea – Joseph Conrad

1913
Sons and Lovers – DH Lawrence

1914
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – Robert Tressel

1915
The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford

1916
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
Joyce. Always the Joyce. Joyce is the only author I feel any obligation to read in order to prove that I can read “the greats”. And because the impulse comes about purely because of an intellectual vanity, I can resist it.

1917
Uneasy Money – PG Wodehouse

1918
Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West

1919
The Moon and Sixpence – William Somerset Maugham

1920
The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

1921
Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley

1922
Ulysses – James Joyce
!!!! !!!! !!!!

1923
Riceyman Steps – Arnold Bennett

1924
A Passage to India – EM Forster

1925
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
It’s on the bookshelf, so I ought to get round to it sometime in the next 50 years…

1926
Winne-The-Pooh – AA Milne
Ah, there you are my childhood friend. I still read these, even though I am almost 29 (in just over a week, *cough*hint*cough). The Pooh stories are more than just stories for children. They are charming and witty, and clever. They may not have A Very Big Brain, but they do have A Very Big Heart.

1927
The Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

1928
Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh

1929
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemmingway

1930
Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers

1931
The Waves – Virginia Woolf

1932
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

1933
Love on the Dole – Walter Greenwood

1934
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
I love watching the TV adaptations of Poirot starring David Suchet. So why haven’t I read any of the stories yet? Not so keen on Miss Marple as a character, but Poirot I think I really should read at some point. On to the list…

1935
Mr Norris Changes Trains – Christopher Isherwood

1936
Absalom!Absalom! – William Faulkner

1937
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
I’ve only seen it in adaptation, but the story inspires and kills me in equal measure.

1938
Brighton Rock – Graham Green

1939
At Swim-two-Birds – Flann O’Brien

1940
Farewell My Lovely – Raymond Chandler

1941
Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton

1942
The Robber Bridegroom – Eudora Welty

1943
The Last Summer – Kate O’Brien

1944
Fair Stood the Wind for France – H E Bates

1945
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

1946
The Member of the Wedding – Carson McCullers

1947
Whisky Galore – Compton MacKenzie

1948
The Naked and the Dear – Norman Mailer

1949
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
I own it, it’s just finding the time, honest! I have all this Dostoevsky and Dumas before I get to Orwell… (excuses, excuses)

1950
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
And yet none of the other Narnia books. It would be interesting to read these in conjunction with Lord of the Rings, to see how proponents of two different fantasy worlds, with two different theological viewpoints, stack up against each other.

1951
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

1952
The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

1953
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
My second favourite Bradbury novel (Something Wicked This Way Comes steals that crown), this is definitely one for all bibliophiles. A world where books and reading are banned seems far fetched, and yet we often hear the cry that “children don’t read enough”, and that technology and the internet is killing off reading. Perhaps not banned, but might we one day see a world with no interest in reading, apart from a small band of outcasts? Plus it has poison injecting robot dog chases – what’s not to love? This is one of those books that is begging to be made into a half-way decent movie to bring a new generation to it.

1954
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
The fact I haven’t read this yet surprises me as much as it surprises you. This is up there with 1984 and Brave New World on the list of books you might expect me to have read.

1955
Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov

1956
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith

1957
On the Road – Jack Kerouac

1958
The Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – Alan Sillitoe

1959
The Naked Lunch – William Burroughs

1960
Rabbit Run – John Updike

1961
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
You can add Catch-22 to the list along with Lord of the Flies…

1962
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

1963
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Ian Fleming

1964
The Wapshot Chronicle – John Cleever

1965
An American Dream – Norman Mailer

1966
The Magus – John Fowles

1967
The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

1968
A Fan’s Notes – Fredrick Exley

1969
Portnoy’s Complaint – Phillip Roth

1970
The Vivisector – Patrick White

1971
Something Happened – Joseph Heller

1972
Bird of Night – Susan Hill

1973
Fear of Flying – Erica Jong

1974
The War Between the Tates – Alison Lurie

1975
Changing Places – David Lodge

1976
Saville – David Storey

1977
Staying On – Paul Scott

1978
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

1979
Treasures of Time – Penelope Lively

1980
Earthy Powers – Anthony Burgess

1981
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

1982
Lanark – Alasdair Gray

1983
Waterland – Graham Swift

1984
Money – Martin Amis

1985
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

1986
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

1987
Bonfires of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe

1988
Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

1989
The Remains Of The Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

1990
The Buddha of Suburbia – Hanif Kureishi

1991
The Famished Road – Ben Okri

1992
The Secret History – Donna Tartt

1993
The Shipping News – E Annie Proulx

1994
The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields

1995
Behind the Scenes at The Museum – Kate Atkinson

1996
Everyman for Himself – Beryl Bainbridge

1997
Enduring Love – Ian McEwan

1998
Underworld – Don DeLillo

So, out of this list of the centuries most popular books by year, how many have I actually read? Five. And about as many again that I want to/intend to read.

I suspect that these are the books that were most popular in their year of publication, but which are not necessarily still as popular as other books published in the same year. There are absences. Animal Farm is easily as popular, and more accessible, than 1984. Yet in 1946 the most popular book was The Member of the Wedding, which I have never even heard of. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is easily more popular than any book on this list, and certainly more popular than it’s publication year sibling, Enduring Love. Yet in that year it wasn’t a huge seller, in fact it took the subsequent books creating a following to reignite interest in the first book, propelling it to the dizzy heights it has reached now.

The good is not always popular, nor the popular good. You can apply that to this list however you wish.

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3 thoughts on “Books of the Century”

  1. I haven’t read ‘Lord of the Flies’ nor ‘The Great Gatsby’ … more to add to the ever growing list of books to read. And guess what’s next on the list – your fav … James Joyce. I promised Dave that I would read at least one.

    Like you I’m interested in the fact that there are some notabl absences from the list. 1960’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is the first to spring to mind.

    There is another list (groan I know) of the 100 most popular books and I know that The Lord of the Rings is #1 .. not sure where Harry Potter rates there … might have to dash over and have a look.

    And I must say thank you for posting the original list … its sparked lots of really interesting conversation and debate in this household … reminded Dave and I that we have other things in common other than a rather demanding four year old son.

  2. Yes, To Kill A Mockingbird is very notable by its absence!

    And thinking about my comment about Ray Bradbury, his Martian Chronicles are absent. There is nothing by Arthur C Clarke or Isaac Asimov (to continue the SF theme).

    I think we both know I’m now going to have to tackle that list of 100 most popular books, yeah?

  3. Yeah … just when I thought that the lists of books was over!!! Once we’ve done the most popular that will be it … until the next list is found :o)

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