A few years ago the Telegraph published a list of 100 novels everyone should read. Of these 100, I’ve read 15, own 4 with the intent of reading them, am actively interested in finding a copy of about 4 others, and have no intention at all of reading 2. My question is, why should everyone read these novels? What makes this the definitive list? Why should everyone read certain books?
I think part of the answer to why we continue to make lists of books everyone should read is the idea(l?) of a common culture. If we have stories in common, we will know how to talk with one another. Previously, the Bible provided a common fund of stories and proverbs and phrases that most people knew and could refer to. In our 21st century culture are literary novels and the always-debated canon of western literature replacing the Bible? Perhaps required reading lists only add to the Bible. Now we have even more to know.
Do you pay attention to these lists? Why or why not?
If I were to make a list of 100 novels everyone should read, I’d probably include many of the 15 books I’ve read that are on the Telegraph’s list. I’m not quite decided about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I think my list might have more Canadians on it. I’d probably throw in Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Margaret Atwood is already on the list (Handmaid’s Tale), but Robertson Davies needs to make an appearance. I’m sure there are others. I think I’d add Harry Potter to the list. Potter has shifted the way people think about children’s literature, and whether you think that is good or bad, the fact is that Rowling’s books are a cultural phenomena. If we read for shared stories, everyone should read Potter.
What about you? What books would you include in your 100 novels everyone should read?