Being “Well-Read”

BookRiot offers a list of the 100 books (via Fourth Street Review) one ought to have read to be considered well-read these days.

So here’s the list, in alphabetical order:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay  by Michael Chabon
  6. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  11. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  12. Beowulf
  13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (dnf)
  14. Brave New World by Alduos Huxley
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  16. The Call of the Wild  by Jack London
  17. Candide by Voltaire
  18. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  19. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  22. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  23. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  24. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  25. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
  26. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  28. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  29. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  30. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  32. Dream of Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
  33. Dune by Frank Herbert
  34. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  35. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  36. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  37. Faust by Goethe
  38. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  39. Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  40. The Golden Bowl by Henry James
  41. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  42. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  43. The Gospels
  44. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  45. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  46. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  49. Harry Potter & The Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  50. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  51. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  52. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  53. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  54. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  55. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  56. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  57. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
  58. The Iliad by Homer
  59. The Inferno by Dante
  60. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  61. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  62. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  63. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  64. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  65. The Little Prince by Antoine  de Saint-Exepury
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  67. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (dnf)
  68. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  69. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (dnf)
  70. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  71. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  72. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  73. The Odyssey by Homer
  74. Oedipus, King by Sophocles
  75. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  76. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  77. The Pentateuch
  78. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  79. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  80. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  81. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  84. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  85. The Stand by Stephen King
  86. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  87. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  90. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  91. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  92. Ulysses by James Joyce
  93. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  94. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  95. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  96. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  98. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  99. 1984 by George Orwell (dnf)
  100. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

My total: 36 out of 100, plus 4 did-not-finish.  A few of those 36 – like “Heart of Darkness,” “Waiting for the Barbarians,” and “On The Road” – I did not enjoy and would have preferred to not read.  Some I’ve read parts of, like a handful of Flannery O’Connor stories and some Sherlock Holmes.  Some, like “The Stand,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “Lolita,” I intend to read eventually but haven’t yet. And a few are just works by authors I’ve read, just not that specific book (Stephen King, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison).

But many – “50 Shades,” “Ulysses,” “Crime and Punishment,” “Moby Dick,” and more – I have never planned to read and don’t really care to.  And really, what’s up with “50 Shades” and “Da Vinci Code” being on this list in the first place?  Is this just a more modern definition of “well-read,” reflecting both pop culture entries and tried-and-true quality classics?  Or is “well-read” simply becoming more broad, allowing for more books beyond the stuff dead-white-men style works that have populated these lists for so long?

And do I really need to read more Faulkner?


5 thoughts on “Being “Well-Read”

  1. Why do you question DaVinci code and not The Hunger Games? I mean, not to like, say that THG isn’t written better than TDVC, but it’s certainly not classical or the best written literature. In fact, I wouldn’t even put it on a shelf entitled “literature”, rather, “action-adventure”, “dystopian”, “awesome” or “pulp”, but certainly not “literature”.

    I think that in this day and age, if you read more than 3 books a year, you are “well read”. Chances are, if you read 3 books, it is on that list. Those of us who read a lot more than that evaluate what we read differently than those who don’t.

    • Oh I would totally question Hunger Games if I had registered that it was on the list! I guess I just skipped over it. It has had pretty significant cultural impact, but I definitely wouldn’t call it “literature.” It’s hard to wrap my brain around this list containing both pop culture books like THG and what would be considered “literature.”

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  3. It’s definitely an interesting list, but I don’t agree it’s the defining list. I am more likely to read 50 Shades (Mr. Dude is apparently all screwed up “because he’s adopted,” which, unless the review I read was wrong, is some seriously lazy and bad character writing) because of the adoption plot line than I am The DaVinci Code.

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