**Please don’t assume that you have to, nor would I ever expect you to, read any or all of these books. You don’t.**
Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read. Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.
I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.
It’s in no particular order.
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Don’t ask me why but I found this an interesting slice of life in England in the 1700s
- Vanity Fair by William Thackeray. I met a direct descendant of him in England on a research visit which fuelled an interest in the book. Another large tome recently brought to life by the mini-series on television.
- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Arguably the first detective novel, it was fuel for the imagination of any budding detective novel author. He also wrote The Woman in White.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot, a remarkable novel, and famous for the fact it was written by a woman who thought it was best to use a male name in order to get recognition.
- Any of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
- New Grub Street by George Gissing, very, very gritty
- The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, another of those incredibly well-written spy stories
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, a novel that brings up the subject of the British Empire
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald, a story from the jazz age and the mysterious Jay Gatsby whom no one could figure out
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, one of the few books that opened up the world of the Private Detective, and fostered a brilliant movie with Humprey Bogart as Sam Spade.
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, the author who introduced us to Philip Marlowe, with two definitive characterizations by Humprey Bogart and Robert Mitchum
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, the classic about a family in the Great Depression, and my first introduction to Henry Fonda in the movie version of the book
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I had to read this when I was at school and probably a time when I didn’t understand it’s importance. Seeing the film with Gregory Peck much later helped.
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. A friend recommended this and after I read it, I wondered what the hell it was about. Only now do I understand it’s anti-war undertones
- Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy was the novel that introduced me to Hardy
- Rural Rides by William Cobbett is a slice of life in the southern English countryside in the 1800s
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the first book of hers I read and found it fascinating. Of course, when Mr. Darcy was brought to life in the television series, it found a whole new generation of readers
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the remarkable story of Pip, Miss Havisham, and the mysterious benefactor
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, apparently the temperature that paper burns, but this is more about Guy Montag and the saving of books rather than burning them
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, probably the most depressing novel I’ve ever read, about a woman married to a mediocre doctor and seeks to escape to a fantasy world that leads to disappointment and devastating consequences
The list continues …