ten books to read before you.....

here's the AOL list of ten books to read before you die:
10) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
9) Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
8) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
7) Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
6) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
4) The Stand by Stephen King
3) Harry Potter (the series) by JK Rowling
2) Lord of the Rings (the series) by JRR Tolkien
1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Dan Brown? ...and twice???? Why, why, WHY these books?

I don't like their list, but I can't seem to compose my own. For one thing, the"before you die" gets me, like a kid that recites the "if I should die before I wake" prayer and gets stuck on that bit instead of the message of "god bless me."

But really, if I'm dying, I think I'd reach for a certain type of book. When other people in my life commence dying, I go for escapism and romance. I can't imagine that when I get my sentence I'm going to go look for deep thick books about the essential meaning of life or death or Eternity. I'm going for PG Wodehouse as usual. God, please, if I on my way out I'll take that little black capsule before trying to read through the pages and pages of "dialog" that is Ayn Rand preaching at us.

So, okay, so skip the dying. What kind of list do they really mean? Ten books that mean something? Ten books that influenced Western culture? Ten books that actually made people talk a lot back when they were published? Ten books that changed me and therefore I bet will change you? Ten books that hit the bestseller list and so other people talk about them and you'll feel like a jackass if you go to cocktail parties (do people still have cocktail parties) without having read them? Ten books you have to recognize in order to pass as a high school graduate in the early 21st century?

How about ten books that I picked out randomly from past and present bestseller lists because I have a deadline to meet and I can't be arsed to really think and reach through centuries of literature? Because that's the one that seems to fit best.

Although come to think of it...did Douglas Adams hit bestseller lists?

And if I were making a list, I suppose I'd put that book or Pratchett on a list--and I'd cheat the way those AOL people did: Discworld (the series)

The only one I'd include with confidence is To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe not Catcher, although when I was in high school, I read Franny and Zooey and would have included that one. Now I'm scared to reread it because I don't think it or I aged right.

The rest, no. In fact, Urgh. Harry Potter is fun but the most significant, interesting thing about those books is the cultish response as each book came out and that magic is gone. Sigh. Tolkein? Good stuff, but not on my list.

In fact, for all my pshawing at the AOLers, I can't seem to make a list. What titles are on your list? And what would you call the list? I can't manage that either.


  1. I apologize in advance for the long comment, but I can't resist posts like this, Miss Kate. ;)

    10) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    I read this one after Douglas Adams died. Quite charming.

    9) Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

    I wish I hadn't read this one; it's pissed me off ever since.

    8) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    7) Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

    Neither one ever tempted me.

    6) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Oh, yes. You aren't allowed to be a Southerner unless you read this one.

    5) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
    4) The Stand by Stephen King

    Read both; admired The Code, but liked the Stand better.

    3) Harry Potter (the series) by JK Rowling

    Read the first one so I could discuss it with my kid. Got a lot of Roald Dahl flashbacks.

    2) Lord of the Rings (the series) by JRR Tolkien

    Saw the movies instead, which was probably the smartest thing I ever did.

    1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    I will probably get kicked out of the south for this, but I've never read the book or watched the movie. I'm hoping to keep it that way until I die.

    My list:

    1) La Nuit des Temps (the English translation is titled The Ice People) by Rene Barjavel -- this remains the best book I have ever read, period.
    2)Day of the Drones by A.M. Lightner
    3) The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    4) Mistress Devon by Virginia Coffman
    5) Homestead by Rosina Lippi
    6) Chase the Moon by Catherine Nicolson
    7) Talyn by Holly Lisle
    8) Salt by Mark Kurlansky
    9) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    10) The Holy Bible

  2. One more thing -- my list would be titled "Books you shouldn't miss during your lifetime" versus the death thing.

  3. I have different lists for different purposes. But okay, ten essential books:

    1. The Way Things Work by David McAuley. The history and principles of technology demonstrated by the Woolly Mammoth.

    2. Of Men and Numbers, Jean Muir. Overview of the development of mathematics and the impact that's had.

    3. Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling. I'm pretty sure he's right about all of them.

    4. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Elliot. The musical CATS is no substitute.

    5. Snow Crash, Neil Stephenson. Language as a virus for the human brain.

    6. The Blue Castle, LM Montgomery. I know she's famous for Ann, but I love this book. How to live, even if you aren't dying.

    7. Swimmer in the Secret Sea, William Kotzwinkle. Not the hysterical laugh-fest The Midnight Examiner is, but this book so perfectly captures life and love, however fleeting it may be.

    8. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle. A poor student beats a giant brain and gets the cute guy, plus space travel and lots of other amazing stuff.

    9. David and the Phoenix, Edmond Ormondroyd. I have wanted my own Phoenix ever since.

    10. Siddhartha, Herman Hesse. When publishing gets on your nerves, go sit by the river.

  4. To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher, I can understand. The rest, no. Actually, if I'm going to die, I'm not going to read, I'll be eating ice cream and cake. I loved this one book "The Restraint of Beasts" by Magnus Mills but alas, everyone I recommend it to thinks I need a shrink. A Moveable Feast.

  5. To Kill a Mockingbird was stunning. The rest I don't think I'd put on my 'must read' list, oh, maybe the HG2tG - love Douglas Adam's humor. Hate Dan Brown's writing.
    I agree with the Pratchetts Kate, - I'd have Night Watch up there.

    To kill a mockingbird


    Lord of the Flies

    Animal Farm

    The Once and Future King

    A Canticle for Leibowitz

    Welcome to the Monkey House (or Slaughterhouse Five)

    The Iliad

    Something Wicked this way Comes
    (or any other Bradbury)

    The God of Small Things

    Time for Alexander (oh wait, that's my book!) lol

    And my daughter had to read the Barjaval book this year for her French class and she thought it was excellent. However, she's mad about Zola now and on her list (besides all the Saddle club books) would feature "Therese Raquin" - her favorite book.


  6. Oh yeah..Lord of the Flies

  7. Anonymous8:26 AM

    Green eggs and ham.

    Just has to be in there somewhere.

    I would like it in the list.
    For if it wasn't I'd be pissed.
    I read, I liked, Green Eggs and Ham;
    I think it rocked, dear Sam I Am.

  8. From my bookshelf . . . books I've read, reread, loved so much I'll never trade or sell:

    1. Heart of Darkness. Lord Jim would be a close second, but I've only read it twice :)

    2. Great Expectations

    3. The Long Goodbye -- Raymond Chandler. If you have to pick only one of his Marlowe novels to read, this one's great.

    4. Night Watch -- how do you pick just one Terry Pratchett? But I think Night Watch is Pratchett at his best.

    5. Wolves Eat Dogs -- Martin Cruz Smith -- the man writes like a dream.

    6. Mother Night, my favorite Vonnegut. The movie was terrific, too. Very faithful to the book.

    7. I, Claudius.

    8. The Witches. As with Pratchett, how do you pick just one Dahl? But I thought the ending of The Witches was like a punch in the gut. MUCH different than the movie, far darker.

    9. Lord of the Flies.

    10. Animal Farm, although 1984 is a close second.

  9. you all did a better job than AOL. Seriously.

  10. taking notes - great list of books - great post, Kate!

  11. Hell yes for Mockingbird, i don't know about Salinger...
    LOTR takes some fortitude to get through, but hey.
    I actually agree with a lot of those books. Because I am an angry Nihilist, would put Blood Meridian on there. I wrote a paper on it, so I'm biased.
    What about Gastby?


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