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The BBC Book List

 

Read or Not Read

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

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (July 2004)

    Also on the Norwegian and the Sybervision lists - A book on my must read list and definitely my favorite of the Austen works. The story follows the lives of several people of different social standings all wooing each other. This results in people of completely different attitudes and mannerisms actually finding love with each other. Humorous at times and the easiest of Austen's works to read.

 

 

 

 

3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (June - July 2006)

    The first book is also on the Observer list - This is a trilogy if books where the first book (under the UK title) is on the Observer list. 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.

 

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (March 2005)

    I thought this book was absolutely hilarious, although it might be because I like obscure British humor. The plot follows one man who gets transported off Earth just as it is about to be destroyed, then following him as he is shuffled around the galaxy. The following books also continue the plotline and are enjoyable to read as well although the last couple are a little bizarre and kind of destroy all the previous plotline. On my list of books to read, and if you have time, read the entire series.

 

 

 

5. Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling

 

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

    Also on the Observer and Sybervision 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.

 

7. Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne (July 2006)

     This is on the list mostly because of the movies I'm sure, but it is really good none-the-less. The way the book is set up, is each chapter contains a different adventure with Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. The unique language that AA Milne uses would be considered poor in most cases but he does it in such a comedic way that it works. The best stories in the book were the first few which were shorter than the rest. The longer the stories got the more the language didn't seem to work but overall I would recommend this book.

 

8. 1984 by George Orwell (February-March 2007)

    Also on the Observer and the Norwegian 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.

 

 

9. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis (May 2005)

    A very easy to read book and highly enjoyable. I read The Chronicles of Narnia in the order they were meant to be read, so this book was not the first one I read. I enjoyed it that way because it gave more of a background. Although it is a kid's book this is a good book, and will be enjoyed by kids of all ages. The chapters of the Narnia series written later became a lot more preachy then the first few, but it is not bad enough to drive people away. That would have to be my only pet peeve about the stories. The storyline follows a bunch of kids who find themselves in another world by going through a magical wardrobe and find themselves drawn into an all out war of good versus evil. Definitely on the must read list.

 

10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (December 2003)

    Also on the the Observer and Sybervision 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.

 

 

 

 

 

11. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    Also on the Observer list -

 

12. 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.

 

13. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

 

14. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

 

15. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1996ish?)

    Also on the Observer list - I never really understood why this book became a cult classic and was a favorite for killers and sociopaths. 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." Its a very well written book and really enjoyable to read, I just could never understand what made it a cult novel. A must reread book, to hopefully solve this mystery and so I can place it on my must read list.

 

 

 

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

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

17. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (2004)

    Also on the Norwegian and Sybervision lists - My favorite of the Dickens' novels and on my must read list. It follows the life of Pip, as he is saved by a convict and eventually grows up and finds love. At times the plot moves a little slowly and through a variety of ups and downs in the character's life. All in all the balance is well written and easy to follow.

 

 

 

 

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

    Also on the Observer and the Sybervision 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.

 

19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

 

20. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (August 2011 - February 2012)

    On the Norwegian, Zane, and the Sybervision lists - This is often mentioned as one of those books known for just being long, and long it is (~1600 pages) but not many people can say what the main storyline is about. This book follows Napoleon's invasion of Russia during the early 1800's but most importantly during 1812. My overall impression of this book is that it feels like a typical Russian novel. The characters are a little easier to figure out than a typical Russian novel because he doesn't use as many names for the same character as Dostoevsky often does. Even so, he does has a lot of reoccurring characters. Even now I'm not sure if all of their story lines were wrapped up by the end of the novel. You forget about some of them, then all of the sudden they return. The story is a historical fiction novel with the characters interacting with historical figures. It actually felt like a history novel the situations played out so well. I would recommend this book to any history buff interested in the Napoleonic Wars, although I still don't understand why Napoleon was driven from Russian even now. The book is divided into 4 books, with 2 epilogues, and an appendix. The first epilogue felt so much like the rest of the book that I'm not sure why it was made as an epilogue. It just continued the story on from the previous section. It even has chapters. But the second epilogue is what broke me. After reading this book for 7 months you give me this theoretical musing on the purpose of war and why Napoleon did what he did. It was definitely a drudge to get through and I am convinced he wrote that last section just so people would never finish this book. The second epilogue mimicked the style used for the first one or two chapters of each book but this was just orders of magnitude worse. During the actual story, he would give an overall synopsis of the war and what Napoleon was thinking then move right back into the story but the epilogue had no place in this book and you would miss nothing by skipping it. Overall, I felt the story was good but I never felt anything for the characters. When they died, I didn't really care. And that about sums up my feelings on this book. It is over and I don't really care.

 

21. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

 

22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

 

23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by JK Rowling

 

24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by JK Rowling

 

25. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (January 2005)

    Fantastic book but definitely not as good as The Lord of the Rings, although it does set up the novel very well and has a good plot itself. The storyline follows a hobbit names Bilbo Baggins while he goes off on some adventures with the wizard Gandolf. It is a fun story, especially when you know The Lord of the Rings plot, because you find out where he got the ring and you can see a map of the world which is eventually expanded into the global Lord of the Rings map. It would have been a must read but the other book already beat it on the list.

 

 

26. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy (October 2014)

    Also on the Sybervision list - I am very conflicted with this book. First off, it is very well written and easy to read. This is a definite plus in my book. But rereading the summaries of the other Hardy books I had read so far (Far from the Madding Crowd and Return of the Native) I seemed to have similar feelings about them. All of the stories are well written but it is the story itself that I have problems with. First off, this is the best of the three Hardy books so far. But the problem is that Hardy likes to beat down the women in the book until the main character is almost not a character at all but just a plot device to drive the story forward. The story starts off with a peasant family by the name of Durbeyfield finding out they are actually descendants of the "great" house of D'Urberville. This gets them really nothing, however it propels the family forward into trying to get something from it and this is where the trouble starts. Tess is sent to another D'Urberville family thinking they are related, but in actuality they just took the name for prestige and she ends up getting pregnant out of wedlock. Her life is essentially ruined because of this but throughout the book there is a very interesting dynamic as many of the main characters are forced to face the harsh realities of Christian dogma and stigmas of the times. I found the way that the characters reacted to be rather truthful and interesting. Another problem I had with the pacing of the story would be that the plot of the story would be traveling along and then take a right turn when something would suddenly happen. It was often jarring throughout the story where the big events often felt rather forced. But part of these jarring instances was that the author would repeatedly bring back characters and ideas hinted at earlier in the book to play more pivotal parts later on. I did rather like that approach though. Overall, I would say that the story isn't "great" but it is a pretty good read and made me think a lot, which is not always a bad thing.

 

27. Middlemarch by George Eliot (January - March 2008)

    Also on the Norwegian, Zane, and the Sybervision lists - I rather enjoyed this book, it started off slow but as the book went on it picked up its pace rather well. Although the book was the longest I have yet read, about 900 pages, the plot was simple enough that it was easy to follow through the whole book. Middlemarch is a town in England where the book follows the lives of the families there, mainly two different families and their daughters. The book also shows a lot of conflicts including doctors versus faith, modern medicine versus traditional medicine, and similar subjects. There was an initial period that took me to get used to the language but afterwards I easily understood and followed the story. I can easily recommend this book as a great story with good lessons, if you are willing to take the time to read it.

 

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving

 

29.The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (August 2015)

    Also on the Sybervision list - Often when I start out reading a book I set goals for myself, such as 10 pages a day, or a chapter a day. The purpose for this is to keep me on pace and finish in a reasonable amount of time. I had done that with The Grapes of Wrath as well, setting my pace at 20 pages per day. One of the first things I noticed about the book, though was how easy it was to read. Twenty pages would fly by and I would keep on going, partially due to the ease of reading the story but also because I had become enraptured with the characters and the story. My page goal almost became a moot point, with the story drawing me along. The story is about a family from Oklahoma during the 1930's dust bowl, who believe they will find better fortune in California after being run off their land due to unpayable debts. And that is it. The family moves around during the Great Depression trying to find work and dealing with the situations that are happening all around them. This story became a cultural and political wake up call to the US government about how bad conditions had become in the country. I don't believe Steinbeck set out to write a social commentary, mostly because the worst things that happened to many of the migrants happened to only to the auxiliary characters, or were isolated to portions of the text not following the main plot. In many instances the main characters thrived in situations where a normal person would have been dealt a bad blow. They managed to get into camps that just happened to have an opening, or find ideal jobs when others are getting half the pay they get. I feel Steinbeck played it safe with his primary characters in instances that today an author wouldn't. It was the ending that really got to me though. Reading through this whole novel, I started to wonder where it was going. I felt that the characters could go on in this fashion for a long time, but clearly the novel is drawing to a close. It is when I hit the final two pages that I realized where Steinbeck was going. The ending provides the quintessential essence that the new generation must support the old, because they have become unable to do it themselves. The layout of the story was interesting, with every other chapter focusing on the main characters and the other chapters giving a parallel story not focused on the main characters, but written as a commentary on the social problems at the time. Overall, I felt the writing was fantastic, which produced a smooth read through of a fantastically well written story. A high recommend. 

 

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

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson (June 2012)

     Following the trend of reading the children's books on the list with Annabelle we have the first of the Jacqueline Wilson books on the list (of which there are 4). This book is about a girl who lives in an orphanage waiting for a family to foster her. It is told in the first person as a journal that Tracy (the main character) is writing. Actually, I found this book to be very very good in the context of a children's book. It shows that children in orphanages are not all broken and that it hardens children to the reality in which they live. They are often rude, aggressive, and troubled not because they are bad children but because the situations make them that way and even with those problems they are still good kids. This book is an alternative take on what you would expect from the given situation and not one you would expect. Her mother abandoned her after the mother's boyfriend beat Tracy, hence the reason she is in the orphanage. She was fostered by 2 homes, beaten by one and the other had their own baby, so she had to leave. Based on this premise you would expect something different than what is presented in the story, but you don't. You get a heartfelt story about a girl who misses her mom and understands that sometimes life sucks. But you take what you can out of it. A definite recommend for the children's books.

 

32. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

    Also on the Observer and Norwegian lists -

 

33. The Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follett

 

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

    Also on the Observer and the Sybervision 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.

 

35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (June 2010)

    So far my favorite of Dahl's works. Unlike his other works which seemed rather jumpy and more like many mini stories with a common theme, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a cohesive story with great characterization and a fun read. It was also interesting to compare the two movie versions on the book with the book since both of them had their parts where they followed the story very closely then they both diverged from the story rather a lot, but usually in different places. A definite must read on my list.

 

 

 

36. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (November 2003)

    Also on the Sybervision list - Actually a very quick read and its really fun. It was written as chapters to his kids bedtime story so each part moves the story along fairly quickly. I also read this after seeing Treasure Planet so that was all I could envision in my head. All in all, I recommend for a quick, fun book.

 

 

 

37. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

 

38. Persuasion by Jane Austen (August 2004)

    Not the best Austen work I read because the plotline was a little hard to follow and slow reading at first, but about halfway through I had no troubles at all. The storyline is similar to other Austen novels in that it is primarily a love story. It follows a young girl who was persuaded to let her one true love get away (hence the title). The book then starts seven years later while she is still alone, when her true love comes back. Although it is different from her other book in that the main character is not looking for marriage but trying to avoid it, because she feels herself too old. If you like Austen then I suggest you read the novel, but it just was not to my liking.

 

 

39. Dune by Frank Herbert (December 2006)

     This is advertised as the first book of the bestselling science fiction series of all time, and I feel that is a deserved title. Although written back in the 60's this novel has themes that still ring true today. The story takes place during the distant future (at least 12,000 years) and the only concrete evidence that it even takes place in our universe is a quick mention of Earth in the appendix. It is about a 15 year old boy who turns out to be the prophet that a culture of desert dwellers has been anticipating. He then must not only to learn to live in the harsh environment but to use his gifts properly. I recommend this book because not only is it the precursor to all modern day sci-fi stories but it is riveting and extremely well written. The only problem is now I have to read the rest of the series.

 

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

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

41. Anne Of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (December 2011 - March 2012)

    This was one of the books that Annabelle and I have been reading together. I have had this book for a little while and have been hesitant to read it because of it's length but we had just finished Little Women so I figured this wouldn't have been so bad. Well, I didn't really like this book. I hated the main character, Anne, for most of the book, and the secondary characters didn't really do it for me either. I felt that even when one of them died, I didn't feel too much for them. The problems were in the way this book was written. It was written about a little red-headed girl who couldn't shut up. And that is how it felt, you just wanted her to shut up for most of the book. As she progressed and got older through the book it got a bit better but I feel that the morals of the story were wrong in many instances (you shouldn't cry for people that go away or die because that is against your religion and other similar morals). It was an OK book in my opinion but nowhere near any of the greats that I have read on this list.

 

42. Watership Down by Richard Adams (April - September, 2014)

     I had read Watership Down over a six month period to my daughter, reading about 4-8 pages a few nights a week. It is a long book to read like that but overall the story was straightforward enough that I was able to do this. There were not a lot of twists and turns that would require extensive knowledge of previous parts of the book to make sense of the ending. In general, the story follows a group of rabbits that leave their home due to the psychic feelings of one of the rabbits. They eventually make their way to a new home but realize that they don't have any female rabbits and need to recruit some of them as well. Although, this is a simple story it is by no means bad. I really loved the way it is written. The descriptions given throughout the story are fantastic and you really get to feel for these rabbits with their struggles. The story is gripping and you really do not know who is going to live and who is going to die. How might they get out of a certain situation? And even though many things that happened would be out of the ordinary in a rabbit's world, the author set it up so well that it made sense in the story. I enjoyed how the author treated the different species as well. Mostly, if an animal was a different species the language would appear broken to the rabbits since that was not their native tongue. It really isolated them from the rest of the animal kingdom but also set up some opportunities for these rabbits that other rabbit groups would not have thought of. Overall, this story is often referred to as a children's book, probably because it is written at a junior high level and also, it is about rabbits. I would not pigeon hole it, though. This is probably one of the best books I have read in the last few years, and if I was not reading it with my daughter, I probably would have finished it within a few days. A definite recommend.

 

43. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1996?)

    Also on the Observer, Zane, and Sybervision lists - Like almost every kid, I had to read this, but it was so long ago I do not really remember the gist of it. The book follows the life of a man in the 1920's who created his fortune while living around people who inherited their fortunes. Two separate worlds clashing over what is proper. Reading reviews on this book leads me to believe that this is either a book about religion, poverty to wealth, love or something else entirely. A must reread in my mind, now that I am older.

 

 

 

44. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    Also on the Observer list -

 

45. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

 

46. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1996ish, February 2007)

   Pretty much my original comments stand on this novel. I find it fantastic and insightful, especially knowing what I know now about communist Russia and society as a whole. The book is very fast paced (I read it in about 2 hours) and its fun to read. It is like read a children's book which has undergone a harsh and realistic viewpoint. In essence the story is about a group of farm animals that find their Master has gone over the line one to many times and they take over the farm. They run the farm well as equals at first but then dissension starts to appear when the two "leaders" start to fight and one ousts the other out of the farm. Orwell's portrayal of communistic society is chilling and he makes it understandable both to the point of how this can happen and why people let it happen. The concept of the book can be illustrated in these famous lines near the end: All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others. Definitely on the must read list.

 

47. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (December 2004)

    Everyone knows the story, I felt I should read it myself though. Most versions of the book actually follow it fairly well, each one leaving out one thing or another for the sake of flowiness and brevity. But overall this is an enjoyable book where the movies and TV shows do not vary all that much from the novel.

 

 

 

 

48. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (September-November 2012)

    Also on the Sybervision list - I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand the ending was exactly as I had hoped for during the duration of the book and I felt excited that it was actually happening. I was also pleased that I wasn't sure exactly what direction the book was going for the majority of it. It kept me guessing. On the other hand I kind of get tired with books that take a strong female lead and beat her into submission for the majority of the book. The main female character, Bathsheba, was this strong, independent woman who could not stand to think of a relationship for the first half of the book. But then that one man comes into her life that spells trouble. The story revolves around the mistakes she has made in her 'love' life and how she must own up to them. The book is well written and easy to follow, so there were no problems there. At the end of the book I felt that it was a must recommend (based on that satisfactory conclusion) but for the majority of it I couldn't see this as being a good book in the modern context (I don't typically appreciate the degradation of a strong female character). So I will say that you should read it if you are aware of what you are in for and can accept that.

 

49. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

 

50. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

 

51. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (September - October 2010)

     For a children's book this was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of the same from what I have read in my daughter's other books including some of the ones on this list but this book was actually very good. The lessons that the story espouses we remarkably poignant. Demonstrating that children are not a product of their birth but more a product of their upbringing. And that children who seem completely lost to the point that nobody could care for them, somebody still might and bring that child back from the brink to live a normal, happy, and fulfilling childhood. I would have to recommend this to any parent and child as a lesson in how to view life. Although the parts about the "Magic" did seem a bit too preachy for my taste, it did not get that bad and/or cheesy.

 

52. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1994?)

    Also on the Sybervision list - Another of the school books everyone reads. I enjoyed it at the time and must reread it to enjoy with a more mature mind. The story is about two men, one intellectually stunted, Lennie, and the other that takes care of him and keeps him out of trouble, George. The plot follows the hard times of the great depression with the lone farm workers and how a relationship between two, especially those two, is a rare thing. On the reread list.

 

 

 

53. The Stand by Stephen King

 

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

    The only one on all 5 lists (Norwegian, Observer, Sybervision, 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.

 

55. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

 

56. The BFG by Roald Dahl (November 2008)

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

 

57. Swallows And Amazons by Arthur Ransome (March-May 2013)

     Swallows and Amazons was the next book I chose to read with my daughter and as such it was actually quite interesting. The book follows a family of four children who are staying on a lake during the summer. There is an island in the lake, which they go to camp on for several days (weeks?) and they meet up with some other children who do the same thing. The interesting thing about the book is that it introduces a lot of nautical terminology. I am not a big boat person so several of the phrases confused me but overall the author did a good job introducing them in such a manner so they were self explanatory. The author also took the time to explain very intricate details of living on this island, perhaps going into tedium. He would explain what the boats looked like and how the food was prepared. Even though this was a well written book and rather interesting at times, I wouldn't rate this as one of the Greatest Books. Enjoyable for a child, I'm sure it would be, but I have no desire to continue reading the stories that follow this one.

 

58. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (March 2011)

     I rather enjoyed this book. I thought it had an interesting perspective, which was looking at a horse's life through the eyes of the horse. It didn't have the ridiculous "animals talking" thing that a lot of books have, but I felt it was rather natural. The way a horse would act if you could get inside it's head. You saw his (Black Beauty's) life from the time of being a young colt through to his "retirement home" and all the things that went right and went wrong along the way. The author also showed other horses and people and how their lives changed and how that impacted Black Beauty's life. I also really liked how information was only gained by the reader through the horse, so the only way you knew how a conversation or event went was when they were in proximity of the horse so he could relay it to the reader. Very well done, but I feel it is a bit simplistic and better off as a children's book. Not really belonging on the 100 Greatest Books list, so I will leave it off of my Must Read List.

 

59. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (November 2015-January 2016)

     This is another book that falls into the "Young Reader" or even perhaps the "Teen Lit" category. You can tell because it is only ~250 pages long and is in the typical larger paperback format. The story is about a highly intelligent 12 year old, who sets out to rebuild his family's fortune which was lost by his father. Even though he is highly intelligent, he does have problems like the fact that his father went missing (likely covered in a future book) followed by his mother having a breakdown and becoming mentally ill and bedridden. In order for Artemis to do regain his family fortune (mostly gained through illegal means in the first place), he hatches a scheme to obtain gold as ransom for a kidnapped fairy, who are generally thought of to be fairy tales in this world. In general, I thought the story was actually rather good. I enjoyed reading it and I could not for the life of me figure out the ending. When it came, it was rather anti-climactic, but it worked for the story. What really surprised me about the story though was that even though the title is Artemis Fowl and the first few chapters focus around Artemis, the bulk of the story centers around "The People" as the fairies, goblins, trolls, and other magical creatures are referred to. You see the world of the humans, and how this kidnapping and rescue proceeds, mostly from their perspective. This was something I wasn't expecting going into the book. The book is written as a world building story, with obvious plans (that since have been written) to expand upon the characters and story lines. Overall, I would say that the story was fun to read with a surprising twist at the end that definitely made it a feel good story. I'm not surprised of the success of the book, as I thought it was pretty good, but I would hardly rate it as one of the best books of all time. 

 

60. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor M Dostoyevsky (1999)

    Also on the Norwegian and the Sybervision lists - Another book on my must read list. The story follows a man who feels he can commit the "perfect murder" then his resulting turmoil after the fact. The story was excellently written showing exactly how the main character felt through his entire ordeal. My only problem with the story is the epilogue because it was added afterwards. The only reason it was even in the story was because the publishers felt the story was not complete and they needed closure. It is obvious that the chapter was an afterthought and I feel it should not have been written but that is a little late now.

 

 

61. Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman

 

62. Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden

 

63. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (2004)

    Also on the Sybervision list - An enjoyable book describing London and Paris (the 2 cities) during the time of the French and American Revolutions. The story describes a love story during a time of crisis and how far people are willing to go for the ones they love. A little confusing at times but still fun to read none the less.

 

 

 

 

64. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough

 

65. Mort by Terry Pratchett (March 2016)

     The second of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books that I read on the list is Mort. This is actually book 4 in the Discworld series and although you don't HAVE to read the books in order, I do. Book 1,  The Colour of Magic, which I read and reviewed in 2011, is on the list. The following two books were not on the list and I listened to them via audiobook (I have to physically read the book if it's on the list, otherwise I can do audiobook), and then I read this book. The basic premise is that Death, a character that has shown up off and on in the previous 3 books, is tired of his job and looking to take on an apprentice. The apprentice he has chosen is Mort. Hilarity ensues as Mort ends up screwing things up and tries to figure out how to fix things. In general this book, like the other Discworld books, is very short, just over 200 pages in paperback, so it is a quick read. But it is an enjoyable read. After the first two Discworld books, Pratchett seemed to reign in his snarky humor, allowing for the storytelling to take center stage. Whereas I felt the first two books were more a direct commentary on society, Mort was more of a story set in the Discworld universe with commentary sprinkled here and there. While reading Mort, I at first wasn't all that enamored with it. I couldn't see where it was going and it was starting to be a little bit of a slog. That changed however when Mort screws up big time (I won't spoil it) and has to figure out how to fix it, which he does for the rest of the novel. In general I rather enjoyed this book, not as much as The Colour of Magic which I still think was one of the best satirical novels I have ever read, but I still thought it was an enjoyable, worthwhile read.

 

66. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (March-May 2012)

    The first thing that comes to mind after read this book is "What the hell?". I have read some really good books on the list and some not so good ones but this comes close to one of the worst books. I didn't even know it was the second book in a series until I looked it up afterwards, which explains some of the initial confusion. The story is about a bunch of children who go into the woods and visit magical lands on top of a magical tree. Now this is not the imagination of the kids going on, this really happens since the mother meets many of the creatures that come from the tree. Really? That is how you want to do this? I would have thought it was all in their minds and the mother doesn't see it, that would have been the way to go. But no. That is not the story. Also, the lands in general suck. There is the Land of Do-As-You-Please and other such nonsense. The book itself reads as several short mini-stories wrapped into one book, with them going on a mini adventure that is summed up in a couple of chapters. The good thing is that the stories are not drug out, and they get resolved fairly quickly. This book is such trite garbage that I don't recommend it to anyone.

 

67. The Magus by John Fowles

 

68. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

 

69. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (May 2016)

Guards! Guards! is the 8th book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and the third to be featured on the BBC's 100 Greatest Books list. That should tell you something about the quality of writing that appears in the Discworld series. However, since the BBC 100 Greatest Book list is a reader chosen list, this could just mean that he is popular in England, but not really worthy of being placed on the list (I'm looking at you Wilson), however that is not the case. Each of Pratchett's entries into the Discworld series (as of the first eight entries that I have read) have been works of literary art. He crafts language in such a way that many authors try to imitate but never get the full gist of. Of the first eight novels, six have been a standalone stories (Books 1 and 2 form one continuous story-line). However, the way that Pratchett crafts his novels, produces a reading experience that does not force you to read the stories in order. This is also a draw back for the series as well though, where one story does not have many (if any) impact on future stories. Even world altering events, which can occur in one book, are barely referenced, if at all, in future novels. For this reason, the timeline is also very difficult to pin down, even though several characters appear throughout different story-lines within the overall series. The Discworld series broken up into character subsets, where every few books he returns to a character or group of characters (i.e. Rincewind, or the Witches) and focuses on them. And it seems that for the first few books, that kick off stories seem to be his most popular, with all three out of the four Discworld books on the 100 Greatest Books listed being a kickoff story.

 

Guards! Guards! takes place following the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork, a group that basically has gone defunct since the Patrician came into power some couple hundred years ago, but the group still persists. The story begins as a sect of people are trying to take over the government by calling a dragon from who-knows-where, to scare the city. This will allow a long lost heir to the throne to come, save the city, and be crowned king, therefore kicking the Patrician out of power. Things obviously don't go as planned and the Night Watch is left to save the day. Out of the three current Discworld stories on the list (that I have read), I would say this one has the most plot, which is definitely a great thing in a book to have. I felt in Pratchett's other books, the story-line could be summed up in just a couple of pages. It was the satire and the way Pratchett describes things though that really made those books worth reading. But with the addition of a worthwhile plot, it elevates this story to one of his better among great stories. His humor, as always, is spot on in this story, with nothing lost through his continuing to write in this series. If anything, his books have become better and better. I would have to say, out of the three books, this book is my second favorite after the first in the series, The Colour of Magic. And that's only because nothing has come close to the humor in that book, of which I don't think he has even tried since. With Pratchett's approach of changing his writing style and character focus through the Discworld series, he has continually made the series feel fresh with each entry. So far, I would say that if for some reason you don't like one book in the Discworld series, try a different book, it is likely going to feel completely different.

 

70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    Also on the Observer list -

 

71. Perfume by Patrick Süskind

 

72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

 

73. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

 

74. Matilda by Roald Dahl (July 2010)

    I rather enjoyed this book a lot (Annabelle and I did). I found this to the best of the Dahl books that were on my list. The story was nice and linear as opposed to several of his other books which seemed to be more disjointed jumping around. The characters were also some of his best and actually made you care about what happened to some of them. A sign of a good book (where you actually care about the people). I loved how, at the end, the story line tied up very neatly and how aspects of people's personalities came back in a rather surprising (at least to me) way. The story is about an extremely intelligent 4-5 year old girl named Matilda. Although she happens to live in a house where her parents don't think anything is possible out of a girl and her school's headmistress hates children. So life kind of sucks. But she has a teacher who goes to bat for her and in return Matilda not only helps the teacher out of a bad situation but helps herself as well. The morals of the story are great and at many points in the book I actually got rather upset at several of the characters. Another great thing about this book and most of Dahl's works are the use of larger words. Words you wouldn't typically find in children's books. He uses them in such a way that they fit into the context of the story and the person is able to understand the meaning of the words, just by the context. No additional sentence explaining the definition of the word. Another Dahl book on my list, and actually I think it should be ranked higher than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

 

75. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

 

76. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

 

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

    Also on the Observer 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.

 

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

    Also on the Observer and Norwegian 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.

 

79. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

 

80. Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson (July 2012)

     This is another book by the person who brought us The Story of Tracy Beaker, which I recommended. I thought that story was different enough to be considered by people to read. This book has a similar vein in that it is a story told in the first person, but this time by a set of twins. They go back and forth as to who is writing the story talking about their day to day lives during some major changes as their father quits his job and moves to the country with a girlfriend, bringing them along. I enjoyed reading the story but I felt that nothing really changed by the end of the book. I felt the same at the beginning as I felt at the end. Kind of blah. Sure things happened and the book was different at the end, but not a really satisfying finish. It felt like an episode of a sitcom. An ok read but not a "great" story as some on the list so I can't recommend anyone pick this up.

 

81. The Twits by Roald Dahl (May 2010)

    This was a rather interesting book, as I've come expect from Dahl. The story follows a married couple who are the most despicable, ugly people you could ever imagine. The things that they do eventually get them into trouble and they get their just deserts in the end from the trouble they cause. Although Dahl can be a bit gruesome at times he does go out of his way to never fully describe the gruesome act, just imply it. So, I think this could be a nice book for children to read since it starts off with a very good lesson, that if you continually have ugly thoughts you turn into an ugly person but if you continually have good thoughts you turn into a good looking person, no matter what your outward appearance may be. Overall, not a fantastic book, but it is fun and short, and it is the first book on the list that I read to my daughter.

 

82. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

 

83. Holes by Louis Sachar (December 2010)

    I had a preconceived notion about this book because I saw the movie a few years ago and rather enjoyed it. This made me feel like the book was likely to be rather enjoyable as well, and I was right. The movie followed the book rather closely, but it still had been long enough since I saw it that not everything was as obvious to me while I was reading through it. The story is well paced, often bouncing back and forth between the history of the book to the current time, always making it clear what time you were in. My favorite thing about the book is there wasn't one wasted part of the story. Anything mentioned in the historical context actually came back up in the present context, even when you wouldn't have thought of it. So, I would list this as one of my must reads because not only is it a fun story, I feel it was very well written and actually displays a very good moral lesson.   

 

84. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

 

85. The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

 

86. Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson (January - February 2014)

     This was the final of the Wilson books that are on the list (including The Story of Tracy Beaker, Double Act, and Girls in Love) and I must say this one was the worst one to read. The story focuses on a young teenage girl, Jade, who's best friend, Vicky, dies by being hit by a car during the first part of the book. She is then visited by her friend throughout the book as a "ghost" (however it may just be in her mind). The Vicky ghost gets progressively meaner throughout the story not allowing Jade to make any friends and causing her to be increasingly mean to everyone. On top of that Jade's mother is having an affair, which she discusses with Jade, and her father is perhaps a pedophile, obsessing over pictures of Vicky after she had died. It was like the author thought, how could I make things even more uncomfortable throughout the story. It is not like this is supposed to be higher literature either, this is a children's book. The writing itself is ok, fairly easy to read, but nothing exceptional. Perhaps the purpose of this book was to help children/teenagers come to grips with loosing a friend, however the way the story is written I think it would just end up making things worse. The story works out in the end but it is a very long, tortuous road to get there and there isn't much of an explanation as to why Vicky was being so mean by the end of the book. It blows my mind why any of these Wilson books made it onto this 100 Greatest Books list. They are just a transitory thing and I'm sure that if the list was redone today, they more than likely would not make it on there. Thankfully I am done with them.

 

87. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Also on the Observer list -

 

88. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

 

89. Magician by Raymond E Feist

 

90. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    Also on the Observer list -

 

91. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

 

92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

 

93. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (February 2011)

     I started reading this book because I was looking for something easy to read and I noticed that all of the Terry Pratchett books were pretty cheap for the paperbacks so I picked up all 4 on the list. I was going to start with Mort until I realized that these were books all within a series of books called the Discworld series, and The Colour of Magic was book 1. It turns out that this is a fanstasy series that takes place in a realm where the planet is a flat disk on the back of four elephants whom stand on a turtle. Other than that, something you may need to know is that magic is a major component of the story. But all in all, I really really enjoyed it. His humor is a bit off and not always what you would expect, which is what makes it enjoyable. The type of humor reminds me of Futurama in which at one point the main character asks if anyone else tastes purple. That is the sort of thing you could expect from this book. It basically follows the exploits of a failed wizard and a tourist from a distant continent. I would actually really recommend this book and likely this series, which contains about 40 books (but I haven't read any further into the series as of yet). Although now I will have to read them in order, even though the books on this list jump around a little bit. But for those who don't want to read all the books the author has stated that that is not always necessary since the individual stories should stand on their own. But I would probably recommend this book as the first one you read since it gives a pretty good introduction to the realm in which it takes place.

 

94. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

 

95. Katherine by Anya Seton

 

96. Kane And Abel by Jeffrey Archer

 

97. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (October-November 2007)

    Also on the Norwegian list - Contrary to the bizarre title this is a very good book. The title just signifies the time period that takes place and is not a the basis of the story. The book is a love story with a girl whose father tries to get her married above her station and two men who both fall for the girl. The one man is about the same level as the girl and he falls head over heals for her while the other man is a very prominent doctor who is the supreme bachelor in the community. The story starts off with the woman and the doctor as an old married couple then flashes back to the beginning of the story. It then slowly moves through the lives of these three people advancing a little on one character then falling back again with another character's story. Marquez does this phenomenally so that you do not even realize that the story changes from one character's narrative to another. The story is rather riveting and it kept me worried throughout the story about all the characters. There is no clear "good guy" or "bad guy" so I found myself cheering for both of them, worried that something major would go wrong. I would definitely recommend this for anyone in a romantic mood.

 

98. Girls In Love by Jacqueline Wilson (August - September 2012)

     This is the third of the Jacqueline Wilson books that I have read on this list with only one left to go. After the first one which I recommended (The Story of Tracy Beaker) and a little bit of the same in the second book (Double Act) I am getting the feeling that all of Wilson's book follow the same formula. The book is about a thirteen year old (or so) girl who doesn't feel good about her self and has better looking friends who are all hooking up with boys but she can't. Therefore she must spend most of the story trying to find a boyfriend while not realizing the guy she already met isn't that bad. It's cutesy but that's about it. All of Wilson's stories seem to be about a girl with a problem (orphanage, ugly, dead parent, etc.) and places the reader in those situations while not always solving anything by the end of the book. Wilson's stories are tired by the third time around and this book makes me loath having one more of her books to read.

 

99. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (January - February 2013)

     I was hesitant initially about The Princess Diaries because the last few children's books I have read on this list have really fallen flat for me (I'm looking at you Jacqueline Wilson). But I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The entire time reading it I kept picturing Anne Hathaway, since she was the one who portrayed the princess in the movie, but I have never actually seen the movie myself. The premise of the book is that this high school freshman girl refuses to talk out her feelings, so she is told by her mother to keep a diary, which is what the reader is actually reading. Along the way she learns that she is actually a princess of this small country no one has ever heard of (because it is made up). Although it could have turned out bad, the story actually works. I found myself feeling for the characters and actually enjoying it. You want to root for the underdog (the best friends brother) the entire time and you really believe that this is a story that could actually have taken place. This is one of the few books I have read with my daughter where I wanted to go find out what happens later (of which I could pick up the sequel books if I so chose). Overall, I liked the writing style and it is a rather fun book to read, I recommend it.

 

100. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie 

    Also on the Norwegian list -