This post is ninth in a series analyzing my own connection with the “top 100 books the UK can’t live without” (pdf). In previous posts (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, and Part Eight), I discussed books 21-100. In this post, I will examine books 11-20.
20. Middlemarch by George Eliot.
I haven’t read this one.
19. The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
I haven’t read this one, but it sure has received a lot of attention.
18. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
I read this one in high school (on my own, not as part of a class), and I hated Holden Caulfield. I read it again for the second time two years ago when I prepared to teach it to my freshmen, and I had a great experience with the book. My students loved it. They do every year, it seems. It’s a great book to teach to teenagers. I find that Salinger’s writing style to be fresh and different, especially given when the novel was written. Is it one of my desert-island books? Probably not, but I think many of my students would say it is theirs.
17. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
Never heard of it.
16. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I first tried to read this, I think, in the sixth grade. I never got past Gandalf and Bilbo blowing smoke rings. I think it was just too advanced for me. I have done this book with 9th grade honors students and found that they have had trouble with it. My dad says his fifth grade teacher read it to his class, and I think having someone read it to me would have made a difference. I didn’t try again until I was in college, when I read all of the LotR books and loved them. I read that Tolkien was always sorry later that The Hobbit was written in such an avuncular tone, and that he had to restrain himself from editing it a great deal when he published the LotR books in order to make the riddling scene with Gollum match with the account given in LotR. I personally like that style. I’m not sure it would have worked with the heavier material in LotR, but I like The Hobbit a great deal. Sarah and I read it together, and she loved it, too.
15. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.
I can’t remember if I have seen this movie. I feel like I have, but I’m not sure. I haven’t read the book, and I should. It’s on the to-read list.
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare.
I’m not sure if this is a well-known edition of Shakespeare’s plays or simply, as it says, just all of them. Of course, this is high on my list, but I fail to understand why Hamlet was singled out far down the top-100 list while the other plays were not. My favorites are King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth. I am less familiar with some of the others (despite reading them in a Shakespeare course in college), and I suspect I would love all of them if I were more familiar with them.
13. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
On my to-read list. Almost did it last year, but there were no extra copies around at school, and then other books came along and got in the way.
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
I read a memorable English Journal article about an English teacher’s experience teaching this, her favorite book, to a class of unappreciative students. I have taken to sharing the article with my students when we read The Great Gatsby so they will know that if they grumble about it, they’re breaking my heart. I haven’t actually read this book, though. A former colleague says this is his favorite book. His dog is even named for Tess. But he hates Thoreau, so how much stock can one put in his opinion?
11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
I never could bring myself to read this one.
Stay tuned for the Top Ten as chosen by British voters at the World Book Day website.
[tags]World Book Day, literature, reading[/tags]