Books I Can’t Live Without, Part One


My friend Roger recently wrote about World Book Day in the UK. In America, we celebrate “Read Across America,” which seems to be much like World Book Day in that it is aimed toward children. It is celebrated on March 2, which was beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss’s birthday. My daughter Maggie was encouraged to bring a Dr. Seuss book to school and to wear a Cat in the Hat hat if she had one. It turns out she didn’t need one, as the students made one in school. A few of the students at my own school dressed up as Dr. Seuss characters for our Purim festivities yesterday.

Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see a list of Books Americans Can’t Live Without, and perhaps I shudder to think what sort of dreck might be on such a list, so I am co-opting the list produced by the British public. It is my intention to discuss each of the top 100 books on the list — if I have read them — in a series of posts. At any rate, it should give me something to write about for a time. I will begin with the bottom 10, 91-100, and work my way to the top ten.

100. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

I have never read this book. I might read it some time, but I confess it isn’t high on my pile of books I feel like I should get to. Perhaps I will try it through

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

I read this book as a child, and I remember really enjoying it. I must have, as it was the first of Roald Dahl’s books that I read and I subsequently read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and James and the Giant Peach. I distinctly remember feeling the book had been shortchanged in the creepy 1971 movie based upon it.

98. Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

You know this is a British list, that’s for sure. I’m not sure Americans would think to put such works of literature on their lists. I love this play. Of course, it is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and includes perhaps the most famous soliloquy in all of literature (“To be or not to be…”). This one should be higher on the list.

97. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

I have read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I haven’t read this one yet. It’s on my list. Dumas had a gift for a great adventure story.

96. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.

I have heard of it, but never read it.

95. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

I first heard of this book when I was in college. It came up for discussion many times in my Dialectology class — a class I took to meet a language class requirement for my major. It was an interesting class. I took three years off from college between my junior and senior years. I got married, had my oldest daughter Sarah, and was a stay-at-home-mom. I got a library card and checked out A Confederacy of Dunces largely based upon how much everyone in the Dialectology class talked about it. I loved it. It was a hilarious book, but sad, too. Toole committed suicide some eleven years before the book was published, and his mother worked tirelessly to bring it into print. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

94. Watership Down by Richard Adams.

This is another one I’ve never read, though I have a copy on my bookshelf at school. I have heard a lot of people say they loved it, but for some reason the premise behind it never appealed to me.

93. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.

I confess I’ve never heard of this one.

92. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.

I have never read this one all the way through, but I tried to read it in French in high school. Alas, my three years of high school French didn’t prepare me for reading a whole children’s book in French, so I abandoned the cause and never took it up again. One of my colleagues cherishes this book a great deal, and I have thought several times over the last year or so that I ought to pick up the English version and just read it.

91. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

I wrote about this book last year when I read it for the second time, this time with a more open, mature, prepared mind. I didn’t care for it at all when I read it in college, but I really enjoyed it last year.

[tags]World Book Day, literature, reading[/tags]