This post is tenth 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, Part Eight, and Part Nine), I discussed books 11-100. In this post, I will examine the top ten books UK voters said they could not live without.
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
I haven’t read this one yet, but I want to. I found that many student who have read it were particularly interested in Miss Havisham.
9. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
This series by Philip Pullman actually tied for 8th place. I found this selection interesting. I started to read the first book in this series. I will admit it didn’t grab me right off, but so many people have loved it that I have decided to come back to it this summer, maybe (after the Harry Potter furor has died down, that is).
8. 1984 by George Orwell.
I love dystopian novels, but surprisingly, I’ve never read this. I have a copy on my bookshelf, and I am thinking I might read it after I’m done with Virginia Woolf. As I noted, this book tied for 8th place with Pullman’s series.
7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
I was assigned this book in my senior year of high school. I can still picture the pink cover. I liked it, but I couldn’t keep up with the reading assignments. I am and always have been a slow reader. I fell behind, and I wound up never finishing it. I think I’m going to try it on DailyLit some time down the road. I may have to read Jane Eyre that way, too.
6. The Bible.
I have probably read almost all of this, some parts of it many times. I can’t claim to quote chapter and verse off the top of my head. Obviously religious books are among the most influential books. I personally feel that no matter your religious persuasion, it is a good idea to have a working knowledge of the Bible. I think this is especially important for students of English in order that they may understand biblical allusions. When I have taught the film Moby Dick at my school, I have asked my students to read the story of Achav (Ahab) in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) in order to be familiar with Melville’s allusions. I think if this poll were done in America, the Bible might be higher than number 5. I’ll let you know — I am currently gathering data on this subject myself.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
I have the feeling this book would be number one on an American list. I really think this is one book that genuinely changed my life. It’s the only book I “read ahead” in when required to read it for high school. I recognize the characters in this book — they are so real to me that I feel I know them. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s in my top five list of books I can’t live without.
4. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
I have to say that if someone came and told me that I could only pick one book from this list, or from any list, to take with me to a desert island, and it was the only book I could take, it would be this series. I realize it’s cheating to pick a series, but is this not really just one long story? I have read it so many times that I’ve lost count, but each time, I enjoy it. I don’t think I could tire of Harry Potter.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
I tried to read this one recently, but I think it’s another one for my DailyLit files. I will read it some day.
2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I really loved these books, too. I will bet these are my dad’s desert island books. I think he re-reads them like I re-read Harry Potter, but he is also a big Harry Potter fan. My favorite character is Gandalf, but I really like Frodo and Sam, too. Actually, I like Bilbo a lot, too. What great characters.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Now here is how you can tell this is a British list. I would be surprised if this book were in America’s top ten at all. I happen to love it. I think it’s a great book — very funny in some places, and I could read it again and again, I think. I don’t believe a lot of Americans have an appreciation for it. I would like to do what I can to move it into our British literature curriculum, where I think it belongs, rather than summer reading for 9th grade Honors students, where it currently is. I just don’t think the students are ready for it, even if they are Honors students. I think it will take some time to phase it out of one grade and into a different one.
There you have it! The top 100 Books the UK Can’t Live Without with my own navel-gazing about the list. Now get out there and read.
[tags]World Book Day, literature, reading[/tags]