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The Observer Book List


Read or Not Read

1.Don Quixote by Cervantes (January - June 2015)

    Also on the Norwegian and the Sybervision lists - Whenever I hear anyone reference Don Quixote, it is frequently in regards to his fighting windmills, or riding around on an old horse with a fat squire on a donkey. Well, that is pretty much the first 20-50 pages of a 1,000 page long story. Preconceptions of the story do not really encompass the true breadth and depth of it. The story is about a man who feels he has been tasked with restoring knight errantry back to Spain and dupes a simple minded farmer to accompany him (Sancho Panza). When I first started to read the story, I felt like this was the story for me. It was serialized television long before television even existed. There were even phrases like "when we last left our heroes...". It seemed perfect for me. The translation I was reading was awesome as well (the Everyman edition). He translated it into basically a very readable sort of Old English with all of the poetry and songs maintaining their rhymes. I assume the context and feel of the story was maintained even though the wording needed to be changed. And my version extended the feel of the novel to the translation itself. The novel is written as if it is a Spanish translation of an older text (Arabic I believe), where my English translator even had notes added on top of his translation by an editor. It definitely gives it a story handed down through time aura about it. 

The problems I have with the story started pretty early though. I felt the story started to drag on really early in the first part. Adventures seemed to take forever, there were many side stories that added little (if anything) to the overall narrative, and I just felt the pace of the story slowing down dramatically. I felt I needed to trudge through most of the middle part of the novel until hitting the second part. When I really started to enjoy the story was during the last third of the novel, when the story became self referential. The first half of the novel was apparently published earlier and characters within the second half of the story had often either read it or had heard of it. There is even parts where a real life sequel to the first book was published by a different author and the characters in the book go out of their way to prove that book to be a false sequel. It's actually pretty meta. As for the ending, it felt very very rush. The ending could have been placed at any point in the book and still have fit, there was no real build up to it during the narrative. It would have been better if certain story points (mainly Dulcinea del Toboso) were even addressed during the ending instead of just dropped as if she never even mattered. Overall, I would say the story was actually quite a bit of fun when it started to pick up during the later half but an abridged version of the story may be the way to go for many people (although I personally refuse to go abridged). 


2.The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (December 2016)

    Also on the Sybervision list - I will start off my review of Pilgrim's Progress with my general review. This is an overly heavy-handed biblical allegory written at an elementary level. First off, almost every single character in the book is a trait that defines the character, i.e. Mr Honest, Faithful, Mr Worldly Wiseman, etc. (where sometimes the traits don't even make sense based on the way the character acts. It is as if the author didn't know the definition of some of the words he used).  Second, the story is written very poorly. It feels like the writer has never actually written a book before. Phrases are repeated line after line and the setup of the book doesn't make sense. It is written as if it were a play, with the characters name spelled out where they should talk, but then it has a phase like "so and so says this." for instance: 

"Christian: 'Truly,' said Christian, 'I do not know.'"

Why would you call out the character that is going to speak, then write again that they are speaking? And the story is beyond hypocritical. Maybe it is because I am not a religious person, but the main character, Christian, complains about nobody listening and doing what he tells them they should do, but he doesn't do anything they tell him he should do. Do as I say not as I do? Every single character is one note, and the women characters in the second part of the story are next to useless. Why make the second part centered around Christian's wife (whom he left willingly) to just make her a useless character that needs everyone around her to do everything for her? In short this is a overly heavy-handed, misogynistic, racist, piece of garbage that I am thankful that I will never have to read again. 


3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (September-October 2008)

    Also on the Sybervision list - I got the feeling while I was reading this of Cast Away a lot. I know there were several people out there who thought that movie was boring. Well the book came across the same way. It just seemed to drag on for me. Every other page at the beginning I was expecting him to become ship wrecked, then when he finally was, nothing exciting happened. For a book that seemed to be billed as an action-adventure novel I got none of that through the narrative. It's not a totally bad book and I enjoyed the plot, I just felt it was really slow at times. I found it amusing how no matter what Robinson did he seemed to end up on the short end of things, although I found it irritating that all Native Americans/ Native Islanders were referred to as savages and cannibals. I can see how they might be thought of that way in the story until you meet them but Defoe continued to show them eating humans. Sorry but cannibalism was not that widespread.


4. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (2002)

    Also on the Norwegian and Sybervision lists - An enjoyable book that seems like fantasy but in reality was a political commentary on his time. Very enjoyable. Another book I read for my college class that I feel I should go back and read again now that I have a little more time and little less pressure to read it.




5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (May - July 2008)

    Also on the Sybervision list - Although it is a rather long book (my copy was over 850 pages) I did greatly enjoy reading it. The author is more of a narrator then an impartial observer. He readily makes comments throughout the book that makes you feel like you are sitting by a fire listening to him relay the story. It was definitely a different approach then most I have read and I greatly enjoyed it. The story was exquisite. It is about a bastard, Tom, who was abandoned by his mother to be raised by a very benevolent man. Although I did not readily agree with some of the lessons at the end of the book (how birth makes more of a difference on who the boy is, not just his character) I still enjoyed it and the ending did bring a tear to my cheek. I thought that how the author kept making Tom's situation worse and worse that there was no way to bring him back in a believable manner, but it worked out and rather well at that. I definitely enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone with a few months to read it.


6. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson


7. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


8. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos


9. Emma by Jane Austen (October - November 2006)

    Also on the BBC list - This book was actually better than I was expecting. Once I got passed Austen's round-about way of speaking the book actually intrigued me. The story is about a female in her early twenties among the upper class social scene of rural England. She has vowed to never marry in order to not stress her father, so then she tries to hook up her friend Harriet. The problem comes when Emma realizes that she is really bad at doing this and eventually causes more problems then if she had just left everything alone. The story wraps up very nicely in a happily-ever-after ending. Although I enjoyed it I do not recommend it mainly because of the language is difficult to follow at times. Also she could have used "by the bye" far less.


10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (2004)

    Also on the Sybervision list - The classic story of man trying to be God. A quick an easy book to read; I read it in 2 days. The story is presented in a unique way, as journal articles, not typically done although remarkably similar to Dracula. It makes the reader feel what is going through the doctor's mind. The book shows that the real monster, that one Dr. Frankenstein created, was in fact himself, and that the monster ended up having more humanity than the doctor was even capable of.




11. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock


12. The Black Sheep by Honore De Balzac


13. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal


14. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    Also on the BBC list -


15. Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli


16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (January - March 2013)

    Also on the Sybervision and the BBC lists - This was one of the longer books I have read in a while and I did greatly enjoy it. I found myself wondering what was coming around every turn of the story. Although, after reading the "review" that was found at the end of my version I did notice some rather odd things about the story. Mainly, the first part of the book felt very very different from the rest of the book. The first part was rather dark and things kept getting worse and worse for David. Once that portion was past though, the book seemed to level out and although there were some bad times, there was nothing quite like that first part. Another thing that has me confused is on the title itself. The story is named after the primary character, David, who for one doesn't go by "David" for the majority of the story. Also, the story focuses more on the supporting characters than on David himself. I felt I was watching the lives of the secondary characters pass through rather than seeing the story change by any actions of David himself. The story itself was very well written and I was surprised that characters that seemed to be one-note characters would constantly reappear later in the story. And although many of them got tiresome, they eventually did redeem themselves by the end. The story itself is easy to follow and well written and I must say this was the best Dicken's story I have read. And although some of the character arc conclusions left a little to be desired at the end I felt that overall the story was well done. In the end, I would have to recommend people to pick it up.


17. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (May 2006)

   One of the 2 on the 4 main lists - A very weird book, not at all what I thought it would be. I considered this to be what is termed "chic lit" (as seen on Jeopardy). I couldn't have been more off. This is one of the most depressing books I have read yet. It is more of how Satan himself can corrupt people in retched beings but in the end sometimes they pull through. Most of the story takes place as a flashback of one of the former housekeepers. It is a little confusing and un-enjoyable at first because of the erudite language she used, but after a few chapters I got used to it. After the flashback it shows an orphaned child, Heathcliff, brought back to the house who is shunned by all, who eventually takes over everything. Since most of this is known at the start of the story, it is interesting to see how everything comes about and to see how two separate families who differ in everything (intelligence, strength, and health intermingle). On my must read and it should be on yours.


18. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (December 2003)

    Also on the the Sybervision and BBC lists - Another on my must read list. It follows the life of the title character as she starts in an orphanage and eventually goes on to live with Mr. Rochester. A fun romantic novel with an air of mystery.






19.Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (August - October 2016)

    Also on the Sybervision list - Vanity Fair had sat on my shelf for many years because I was not in the mood for more of the 18th century "romance novels". The kind of novels that were exemplified by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen's works. They are all right to read once, but too much of that stuff wears me down. I feel there is no real "meat" in those books, just all fluff. Vanity Fair, though, is not one of those 18th century romances. In fact, it is the quintessential opposite in which Thackeray purposely makes fun of those novels in his presentation. Thackeray's main characters are often vain ("vanity" is in the title), selfish, petulant, and immoral. Everything you wouldn't expect from an 18th romance novel. This actually made it a pleasant reading experience. I even laughed out loud at several instances throughout the book. The book is set up as written by someone who is acquainted with the main characters and is narrating their story as a storyteller would. This goes so far as to even have the narrator frequently making reference to the fact that you are reading a book that he is retelling. In terms of story, the main character, Becky Sharp, is not a hero. She is not even likable through much of the story. The only time that she may actually be likable is when you aren't sure if she is being sincere, which I am not convinced ever happens. Although she is the main character, the plot of the story works its way through two main families (the Crawleys and the Osbornes) as well, taking it's leave of Becky when other story lines would take precedent. The plot and time moves steadily on throughout the story with characters coming and going as needed. My main problem with the book, though is that even though the writing is very well done, the story itself is rather dull at times. At over 700 pages long, it takes a long time to work through the narrative. The story could have been trimmed up pretty easily making the pace move a bit faster. I would often get bored of reading the book and need to put it down for a few days because there was nothing drawing me to read more. However, as I moved on towards the end I felt the urge to keep reading build up. Overall, I would say that the story was enjoyable, and funny at times, if not a little bit long winded, but a recommend nonetheless.


20. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (2001)

    Also on the Sybervision list - I read this book as part of a literature class I was in and I did not understand everything about it. The beginning was extremely slow and has a tendency to drive people away from the book but it does get better fairly quickly. The story is an example of morality in a Puritan society where the main character must wear a bright red "A" to symbolize her adultery. The storyline follows her trials and tribulations in her society of Biblical law.  




Moby Dick21. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (August-September 1998) [Book #9/306)

    Also on the Norwegian and Sybervision lists - Moby Dick is often cited as the analogy for relentlessly pursuing your dreams, often to the detriment of everyone around you. My introduction to this book was not all that great, having been forced to read it in my senior year of high school and never fully appreciating it at the time. Besides the plot of the book, one of the things it is most known for is perhaps being one of the most famous introductory lines in all of literature: "Call me Ishmael." In general, the story is about a man while trying to take control of his fears ends up being destroyed in the process. The book reads slowly and the chapter describing whales escaped my understanding as to why it was even in the book (at least for my high school self). This is a not recommend by me but maybe this could improve with a rereading (although I don't see that ever happening). 


22. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (April 2010)

     Also on the Sybervision, Zane, and Norwegian lists - The first thing I noticed while reading this book was how well is flowed. One idea flowed into another, most of it without a break or pause. Seemingly unconnected thoughts were put together seamlessly in a string of narrative that I could only hope to replicate. I loved reading this book, especially after Canterbury Tales, since the language was so much easier to follow and I'm not trying to decipher what the author is saying, I'm just enjoying the words. I did have some problems with the book though. The first being the very weak female characters, especially the main character. She seemed mostly to be reacting to events in her life and not being proactive in any of her choices. Nothing she did was really in response to what she wanted and more in response to what someone else wanted. And her child was the most useless of characters, almost inconsequential for 99% of the story. So, even though it did have some weak points, it was a marvelously written story and I would definitely recommend this as a must read.


23. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (July-August 2007)

    Also on the BBC list - The story is about a mysterious woman escaped from an Asylum who crosses the path of the main character (Walter Hartright) and who happened to be intimately intertwined with his events afterwards. The narrative follows several different people who were associated with her story through until the end of it. This is a mystery so I will not give away any of the more interesting points and ruin the story for those who wish to read it but I can say it is a love story and that at the end everything turns out well. I recommended this book to anyone since it is very easy to read, flows naturally and is enthralling from the get go. The climax seems to come a bit early but even though the narrative slows down a bit it never stops. Very entertaining.


24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (August 2010)

    Also on the BBC list - In one word, bizarre. This is the first time I have read the book, but I have seen both the Disney version and the Tim Burton version and both of them made more sense than this book. As my friend put it, that must have been some good opium he was on when he wrote this. The story jumps around randomly and it goes from one situation seemingly into an entirely different situation with no rhyme or reason to why. But when you think about it, it makes sense. This is a story about a dream. But it is also a story as described by a child. So you have a dream where things have a habit of just happening in the words of a child who often will jump around and make up things that don't really make any sense, all woven into this magical land where nothing makes sense and things just happen. Although I was greatly dumbstruck at first, the story began to grow on me. Nothing really happened in the story by the end but aren't most dreams are like that. At one point, you just wake up. The book is very well written. It just flowed as I read it, with each sentence and each section flowing into the next. Although you knew the situations didn't fit together the narrative was never jarring between different point. The sentences weren't choppy and it made for a rather enjoyable read to see what would happen next. So I will place this on my to read list, mostly due to the fun that reading the book could instill on a child or an adult who wonders what it is like to think like a child.


25. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (May - December 2011)

    Also on the Sybervision and the BBC lists - Typically when Little Women is mentioned, it is often regarded (at least in my mind) as a little girls-chick lit. I had tended to stay away from this book for that very reason and it might have worked out for the better. The way I read it was very slowly, about 10 pages or so a night, to my daughter, over most of the year. In this way I had a chance to grow with the characters as they were growing and watch my daughter grow as well. I become connected to them in a way that doesn't usually happen to me and when one of them died, I really felt the loss. This book was one of the better books I have read in a while and although it would probably still be considered a chick-lit book, I found the characters very engaging and the writing to be far superior to many books written for the same level. As the characters got older, the language in the book also seemed to be getting older, to the point that at the end I didn't know what several of the words even meant, or how to pronounce them. In the end, I would recommend this book, especially as a family read-time book. I had a great time reading it to my daughter and I could feel many families would enjoy a similar experience.


26. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope


27. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (December 2008 - January 2009)

    The only one on all 5 lists (Norwegian, Sybervision, BBC, and Zane) - Now to state first off I thought this was one of the most well written stories I have ever read. Tolstoy just flows with descriptions that make you feel you understand everything that is going on. The characters are extremely well developed and even though they are Russian (which has a tendency to jump around with names a bit) it is still easy to follow who is who. I enjoyed several of the references to early communist culture (the book takes place about 30 years before the communist revolution) and several of the characters' personality polarities and themes that are emphasized in the book (religious vs non-religious, upper vs lower class, etc.).
Onto my main gripe with the story; it seems like two separate stories going on at the same time. The "main" one should be the one with Anna but I got the feeling that for the most part it was the story line centered around Levin (who supposedly represented Tolstoy himself). The story about Anna I felt was enjoyable and well written. It focused around her leaving her husband for another man which that relationship slowly dissolves over the length of the book as well. While the story with Levin, although in parts were very good, I felt was very political and sometimes unimportant to anything. The whole last section (after the Anna story line was wrapped up) felt out of place and forced and left me wishing the book would just end. All in all I very much enjoyed the first half of the novel but the second half seemed to drag on a bit. I am not going to recommend this on my list and personally would not consider this the greatest book ever. But being that it is on so many book lists it probably should be one that you read.


28. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot


29. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor M Dostoyevsky (July - September 2006)

    On the Norwegian and the Sybervision lists - This book read a lot like Crime and Punishment, which is the reason why I liked it. I probably would put it on my must read list but Crime and Punishment is already on the list and I thought that Crime and Punishment was a much better book. Overall I though the book was extremely well written, but long (~800 pages) and I did not fully understand the point of the epilogue. The story is about 3 (maybe 4) brothers all from the same father but different mothers. All of them have widely varied personalities ranging from borderline psychotic to deeply religious to the non-religious academic. The story culminates in a murder that we as the reader know the brother did not commit but he is put on trial for. I like the way the story was written, with us knowing more than the people in the trial and the ending for the most part made sense; again except for the epilogue. So if you are in the mood for a long but relatively uncomplicated read, I recommend this one.


30. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (2005)

    Also on the Sybervision list - The story follows an American moving to Europe and having to adapt from the free thinking of America to the more rigid thinking of England at the time. A very well written and easy to follow novel. Kind of unmemorable in my mind though. I enjoyed reading it and it flows very well but I cannot remember the plot overly well, hence the reason it does not make it to my must read list.




The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn31. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1996ish) [Book #3/306]

    Also on the Norwegian, Zane, and the Sybervision lists - Huckleberry Finn is one of the many novels on this list which I had read as a result of a high school assignment. I actually had to read it a couple of times for school and I have since come to love the book. It is a rather contentious book because of the language used in the book, specifically the "N" word used so prolifically throughout, however I feel that is one of the reasons it should be read. The book forces people to look at where we were as a country, where we are now, and how far we still have to go. The main plot revolves around a childhood adventure story, where Huck runs away from home getting into all sorts of trouble along the way. He travels on his trip with escaped slave Jim, whom Huck goes from seeing just as a slave to eventually seeing him as a person and a friend. This book is a must read, if only because people try to ban it. 


32. Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (February 2016)

     As with many stories I have read, this one was an odd one. I assume most people are familiar with the premise of the story but if not, I wouldn't read this review as I will spoil it. That being said, the premise of the story is that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person, transformed through chemical concoctions of the doctor's creation. This is what I knew going in to the story. However, the story is set up as a mystery. Who is this Mr. Hyde? And what is his relation to our dear friend Dr. Jekyll? Reading the story, it felt like a second read through, where I already knew the ending and I was just reading it this time to catch up on the details I missed. A very weird feeling, considering I have never read the book before. Overall, the story was alright. It is written as an autobiographical account from a lawyer friend of Dr. Jekyll's who witnessed the whole thing. The prose is fairly straight forward, except for the last chapter, which was "written" by Dr. Jekyll and gets rather wordy for my liking. It is very short, taking me only a few hours to read, however nothing really ever grabbed my attention. I was rather interested in how the "big reveal" progressed through the story and seeing the groundwork laid down for it was fascination. But overall, I would say that if you wanted to read it, it wouldn't take very long and you may find it interesting, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it, as it feels that pop-culture has ruined any surprises that were built into the story.


33. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome


34. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (July 2009)

    Also on the Sybervision list - A rather enjoyable book about a man who (unintentionally) sells his soul so that he may remain the Adonis that he is. Dorian Gray starts out pretty naive until he is told by a painter that he is the most beautiful person he has ever seen. After the portrait that he paints is complete, Dorian sees it and realizes that the painter is correct. At the same time he meets another man, Lord Henry, who says that it is a pity that he will lose his beauty at such a young age, prompting Dorian to sell his soul to maintain his current appearance.. Since that time Lord Henry had steadily corrupted Dorian, acting as a Satan character, leading him down a dark path. Fantastic book. The ending is perfect and unexpected. I recommend it to anyone interested in reading a fairly short enjoyable read. Wilde does go off on some tangents at times and some of Lord Henry's speeches are difficult to follow but enjoyable none-the-less.


35. The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith


36. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy


37. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers


38. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (September 2005)

    Also on the Sybervision list - This book was fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone especially dog lovers. It is gripping and it is intense, so much so it makes you want to read more and to top it all off, its short. Only about 80 pages. I read it in about 2 days and did not try that hard. It is about a dog, Buck, who was kidnapped from California and taken to Alaska to be a sled dog. The book is entirely through the dogs perspective but it does not have any of the cheesy "dog voices". Not once do you hear what they are saying but you get how he is feeling, especially among his interactions with other dogs and humans. Again I highly recommend, you won't be disappointed.



39. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


40. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (October - November 2010)

    Also on the BBC list - This is not what I was expecting when I started it. At first I was expecting a kiddy story about a bunch of animals. Well, there was a bunch of animals but it definitely was not kiddy. The story was very well written, not shying away from the larger, more adult, words when appropriate. The storyline at times seemed to be about random misadventures of a group of animals but through the story you can grasp a common thread going through four of them. My main problem with the story is that I felt unfulfilled afterwards. A character like Mole I felt really grew in character from the beginning where he was a naive "person" to the end where he was able to stand up for himself and help lead a revolt. Although a counterpoint to that is the character of Toad, who did not grow at all and actually seemed to devolve through the progress of the story. All through the story I was waiting for him to get his just desserts in the end but it never came. Even his supposed humbling at the end seemed fake, like he didn't actually feel any remorse over what he had done. So in regards to the Toad story arc I can't really recommend this book because it was a real disappointment when I got to the end.


41. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

    Also on the Zane list -


42. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence


43. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford


44. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan


45. Ulysses by James Joyce (March-April 2007)

    Also on the Norwegian and BBC lists - This book is often listed as one of the best books of the 20th Century although I have some problems with it. The main problem with this book is it is written in an odd style, where no 2 chapters are similar in vocabulary, style or even concept. Some examples include one chapter written like a play, one with newspaper type headlines and one that illustrates the evolution of the English language over time. Overall the book is based off of the Odyssey set in modern day (early 19th century) Ireland. The author uses his language and format style to illustrate several different portions of the book. Had I read this book in a class where they could explain the information to me this would have been much better, but I didn't. I actually broke down and looked up the book online to help explain what was going on and after that the book became much better, but it is still a very difficult book to read to the point where some of the sections are completely unintelligible. Although the parts I did get I could tell where this book was groundbreaking at its time, I'm just not going to recommend this book to anyone anytime soon.


46.  Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


47. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster


The Great Gatsby48. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1996?) [Book #4/306]

    Also on the Sybervision, Zane, and BBC lists - Along with a host of other significant stories of the early 1900's, The Great Gatsby finds itself as another mandatory school read. And like many of those books, this is one I need to go back to some day to truly understand the details that I likely missed as a high school student. The book follows the life of a man in the 1920's, who created his fortune (a member of the nouveau riche) while living around people who inherited theirs. These separate worlds clash during the Roaring 20's when people accustomed to "the old ways" must learn to adapt to the new ways that are up and coming. However, Gatsby's excesses may be a bit more than even the most liberal of people could withstand (at the time). A novel about religion, poverty to wealthy, love, and a whole host of other themes interwoven into the fabric of the quintessential 1920's American story.


49. The Trial by Franz Kafka 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


50. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway


51. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


52. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner


53. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Also on the BBC list -


54. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh


55. USA by John Dos Passos


56. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler


57. The Pursuit Of Love by Nancy Mitford


58. The Plague by Albert Camus


59. 1984 by George Orwell (February-March 2007)

    Also on the Norwegian and the BBC lists - I can understand why this is one 3 out of the 4 lists. It is a very powerful novel dealing with a totalitarian society and how one might survive in that society. The problem I had with this book was the utter hopelessness of it. Through every page, every paragraph of the book you had a hope that this may end all right and that everything will be right in the world again. But after all is said and done, you knew that it wouldn't. A very depressing book but a definite must read, if only to show and warn people just might be possible. Because you never know.



60. Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett (July-August 2008)

    The entire Trilogy is also on the Norwegian list - Even though only Malone Dies is on this list (likely the best of the three) I am reviewing the entire trilogy. The Trilogy at first reminded me of Ulysses, which if anyone has noticed, I despised. But Beckett soon broke away from the incessant ramblings that plagued that novel and gave two really good stories, Molloy and Malone Dies. The novels are written with all emotion removed and in a rather cryptic way that keeps the reader guessing as you read on. The second half of Molloy seems like the second half of the story, but as you read you get the feeling it may be the prelude to the first half. Malone Dies at first seems to be completely disjointed from the first novel but reading on you get the feeling it may be Molloy and is just a continuation of the first novel. In the third novel The Unnamable, Beckett returns to the rambling speech that is full of run-on sentences saying nothing. If it was not for the last novel I might recommend this but the last novel killed it for me. Unfortunately you need to read all three to get the entire feel for the novels. So although I somewhat enjoyed parts of it, I can not recommend this as a novel to be read.


Catcher in the Rye61. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1996ish?) [Book #6/306]

    Also on the BBC list - The Catcher in the Rye seems to have been relegated to "cult" status stemming from the obsessive love of the book that Mark David Chapman had for the book. Chapman is well known as being the murderer of the beloved John Lennon. Whether the book deserves this cult status is up for debate but I personally don't understand it. The book is a rather depressing novel about a 16 year-old adolescent, just kicked out of prep school, and learning to deal with the adult world of "phonies." It's a very well written book and really enjoyable to read. However, it has been a long time since I have read the book, so I will place this on my must reread list to hopefully be able to solve this cult classic mystery for myself.


62. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor


63. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (August 2010)

    This story goes way back for me. I remember growing up and watching the cartoon but I don't believe I ever read the book outright. So, I read it this time with my daughter and I realized that I would prefer to stick with the cartoon. The sentence structure is often very difficult to read and, I don't know about other books but reading this outloud I noticed a ton of "said so and so" after someone said something. Which, can get rather tiring after a while and really destroys the flow of a good book. Also, this book reminded me of why I like the Dahl books, it was because of the language. Dahl has a habit of using large words in context, words that you wouldn't usually find in a children's book. In Charlotte's Web, White also uses some large words but it is immediately followed by "I don't know what that means, what does that mean?". That is great for teaching children new words, but I prefer the other method, if you use the word in context well enough, you don't have to explain the meaning. So all in all, it is a touching story, and I did tear up a little at the end, but I wouldn't really recommend this to other people to read.


64. The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (January - February 2005)

    Also on the BBC list - For a book that took ten years to write, you can tell. The story is so in depth and the languages that were created so complete that you can almost feel like this is an actual world. Word of advice, read The Hobbit first then expand into this book because The Hobbit flows into this book. Also watching the movies after reading these books gives you so much insight that upon first viewing I missed. The characterization in some of the best I have ever read. Unfortunately the movies did not portray my favorite character in the book which was Tom Bombodil and anyone who has read this would probably agree with me. Again the book is fantastic, you just need to read it to appreciate it. Definitely on my must read list.


65. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis


66. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    Also on the BBC list -


67. The Quiet American by Graham Greene


68. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    Also on the BBC list -


69. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (January - February 2011)

    Also on the Norwegian and the Zane lists - This was a rather odd book for me. At first I thought the book would never, ever, make it on to my Must Read List because of the semi-pornographic nature of the book. But it was worse than that, it made me feel awkward because it is all about a man who has sexual interest in pre-pubescent girls (around the age of 12-14). So all the while I am reading this I feel like I am going to get in trouble for child pornography. By once you get past the initial portion of the book things got really interesting. The second half of the book I found to be far the better half. It focused more on the mental anguish of the main character as he pursues his Lolita, both knowing that he has and will destroy her life, but also not being able to control himself. It is a perfect view into self-destructive behavior. The main plot point of the story is similar to another book I had read, An American Tragedy, which focused on a person in jail and you basically found out how he ended up there. But there is a difference in Lolita, where the story is a first person narrative of basically how he ended up in jail. And throughout the story you assume how he ended there but as you progress you realize you were wrong and it really is for something different. The story was actually rather riveting in this aspect and I did enjoy the second half of the story immensely. So, all in all, I can't recommend this story due to the awkward feeling first half (which is almost impossible to get through for several people) but I did enjoy it and would recommend it for those who could get past that point.


70. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

    Also on the Norwegian list -


71. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 

    Also on the Norwegian list -


72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark


73.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (October - November 2015)

    Also on the Sybervision and BBC lists - Typically, when I am reading one of the books on this list, I am usually thinking of what I am going to say as a review, at least during the last quarter of the book. However, for To Kill a Mockingbird, I had to wait a couple of days until after I finished the book. I had burned through it so quickly, and I'm still having a hard time putting together by thoughts. The book follows the life of a young girl, Scout Finch, living during the depression in a small town in Alabama. As is true with most children, she is inquisitive and playful and the book follows her through her games and exploration of the world around her. She has a mysterious neighbor, who the children are bent on tormenting, even though they have never seen him. An interesting story point that does come to fruition by the end of the story. The main point of the book however is regarded as background material throughout the first portion of the book. This story element, like many in the book, slowly reveals itself through the natural course of storytelling. Scout's father, Atticus, is a lawyer and is charged with defending an African American man accused of raping another man's daughter. How the story manifests itself through the eyes of Scout is truly remarkable. Several times throughout the book I felt myself well up at the sheer impact of the story. I'm not sure if it is because I am father of a young girl and I can place myself in Atticus's shoes at times, or not. But this is truly an emotional novel about race relations during the Great Depression, and how far we had to go at the time. The writing couldn't have been easier to follow, and the descriptions were truly outstanding. Harper Lee's descriptions would often flow through the story, not being placed at any particular point, but would appear as natural eddies in the narrative.This resulted in me flying through the novel, reading half of it in one day.  This novel has easily ascended to become one of my favorite books of all time, well within my Top 5 favorites.


74. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    Also on the BBC list -


75. Herzog by Saul Bellow


76. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

    Also on the Norwegian and BBC lists -


77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor


78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre


79. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (December 2007 - January 2008)

    I rather enjoyed this story but I am not sure if it should go on my must read list. It is rather vulgar through most of the story but it tells a very good tale. The story seems to be partly about a black man living in a intolerant society. I read comments elsewhere that this is a work about living as a black person during the early 20th century but I do not think so. That plays a part of it but it seems to be just background for the real story. The deeper story is about a man learning about his roots (his people) and learning that family is more important than anything else. The flow of the story carries it along at a great pace and you never know what might happen next, but it all works. Ok, I will put this on my list but with a warning that this has very harsh language but it is not used randomly and fits into the story very well.


80. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge


81. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer


82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino


83. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul


84. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee


85. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson


86. Lanark by Alasdair Gray


87. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster


88. The BFG by Roald Dahl (November 2008)

    Also on the BBC list - The BFG is children's book about a little girl who discovers a Big Friendly Giant (AKA BFG). There is also other giants along with the BFG who are not so friendly, because they eat people. So the little girl convinces the BFG to take the bad giants down. This actually is a rather gruesome story for a child but as I read online it is the perfect children's book, although the making up of words does get a bit tiresome after a while. The story has clear cut morality issues and includes a heroine who is just your everyday kid. It is a good story for kids that parents do not need to be too worried about. Enjoyable, just not my cup of tea.



89. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi


90. Money by Martin Amis


91. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro


92. Oscar And Lucinda by Peter Carey


93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera


94. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie


95. LA Confidential by James Ellroy


96. Wise Children by Angela Carter


97. Atonement by Ian McEwan


98. Northern Lights (AKA The Golden Compass - Book 1 in His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman (June - July 2006)

     The entire trilogy is also on BBC list - This the review for the entire trilogy where this is the first book (under the UK title). The entire trilogy is on the BBC list as His Dark Materials. The story is a cross between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, less in depth than Rings and less preachy than Narnia. The cross between the two stories that takes the best of both. Very quick and easy to read. The plot is about parallel universes and how a couple kids are destined to save us all. It is well written and a very fast read (about 1000 pages in about 2 weeks). In the end all the plot lines get wrapped up neatly, although I disagree with how it ended although there was no other way it could have gone. The story is very enthralling not letting me put it down the further I went into the story.


99. American Pastoral by Philip Roth


100. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald