The Summer Reading Bucket List

I stumbled upon this list recently, compiled by BBC, which includes 100 of the most influential novels of all time. They apparently believe that the average person will only have read 6 of the following works.

Well, BBC….I am proud to say that I am well above average, at a grand total of 21.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – read some, but not others…
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville 
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare 
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Unfortunately, no Spanish literature made it onto this list...that's too much work even for me, especially during my "off" season

So as I realized how many incredible novels I’ve made it through – I think García Marquez, Sylvia Plath, and Ian McEwan top my personal list – I realize that there is nothing more fufilling than to keep plowing through those books you’ve always wanted to read. This ridiculously comprehensive list is one that has been building up slowly in my head for a few years, and I figure with the free time I’ll have this summer, I might as well get through as many as I can.

I’ve organized the list by works I’ve already read and loved, and their respective “genre”. It’s like a map: if you like one book, it shall lead you to a whole group of books like it that are likely to suit your interests. This is a highly ambitious list, so if I can even make it through half I will be happy. I’ve tried to provide brief descriptions of each novel that I enjoyed, to help the non-bookworm out a little. Here goes!

The Russian Masters/Writers Who Liked Dysfunctional Relationships: Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

I read Pasternak’s work so long ago I can hardly remember any of it, but I remember that this timeless love story between a Russian Doctor and the famous Lara – set, of course, against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution – was compelling and depressing, like most Russian literature.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (I’m actually in the middle of this…it is so perverted)

I don't know what is up with Russian literature, but it always freaks me out a little bit. "Lolita" is literally about an old guy obsessed with a little girl. Yes, really.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (Ugh…maybe this will wait until next summer)

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Lost Generation/The Ones That Left America To Hang Out In Paris:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald/A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I’ll start with Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby is a defining American novel, and anyone who hasn’t read it should get on it, as soon as humanly possibly. Haley and I were discussing today that this isn’t a particularly poetic or moving work, but its articulation of the spirit of the Jazz Age and the ceaseless search for the American Dream is beyond comparison. Hemingway’s post-humous work A Moveable Feast is another favorite that I read right before departing for Paris. It is one of his lesser known works, but for any book geek like me it’s a must-read: Hemingway describes life among the Expatriates like it’s just another day in the city, and leaves off as his life takes a more scandalous turn.

Tender is the Night, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned – F. Scott Fitzgerald

For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also RisesErnest Hemingway

The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford (Okay, so I read this for my Lit in History III class Freshman year, but I want to re-read it because I don’t think I ever actually really read it)

The Women Who Changed Women, And (Kind Of) Hated Men:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath/A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s famous essay, I have found, is elusive in print, but a pinnacle work in the story of tragic feminist literature. Her argument, though somewhat elitist, is poetically written and points to the need for women to have a place in society, and more specifically, in the literary world. Plath’s fictional work, on the other hand, examines the role that many men play in the mental breakdown of a young, rather progressive woman. She finds herself oppressed by both the men and women in her life who push patriarchal values onto her, and fights to free herself as she is torn between a professional life that would deem her “un-feminine” and a cookie-cutter life that would not allow her to fulfill her full potential.

The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan

The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir

Orlando: A Biography – Virginia Woolf

The Ones That Made You Wonder What They Were Smoking: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

This book gave me nightmares for about a week straight, but I loved it. Vonnegut, in his own twisted, surreal way, narrates the bombing of Dresden and the height of WW2. Though a bit trippy, it was one of those books that both perplexed and fascinated me, and I loved it. Vonnegut is an incredible writer, however zany he may come across, and you will finish his books with your forehead crinkled and your lips probably chewed off, but you will inevitably take something away from it.

Breakfast of Champions and (finally finish) Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (I know, I know…so college…but I’ve heard that the book is actually amazing)

The expats would be proud.

The Ones That Made You Question…Everything: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s futurist novel made me cry. No, really. Her world is one where women literally become nothing more than sex objects, used to give birth to children, and that’s pretty much it. Though tragic, the novel is breathtaking in its own way, and it left me thinking…and thinking…and thinking…

Animal Farm and 1984 – George Orwell

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

The Ones That Made You Wonder Why You (Might) Live in America: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Okay, so another book that I hardly remember reading, except that I really loved it, even though it was incredibly depressing. Steinbeck is best known for expressing the Depression-era mentality that articulated the failure of the American Dream and the lives of the poor workers who were under-acknowledged in American society. His writing is a thing of beauty in and of itself. My mother claims that The Grapes of Wrath is a novel that can only be truly appreciated once you’ve had a family, a house, a life – something that could be taken away like it is in the novel – but I am going to attempt to appreciate this book for it’s own sake anyway.

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

The Southerners: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor/To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee/In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Even a Yankee like me can tell you that Southern literature is some of the most incredible art to come out of this country. The story of the South is one unlike any other story, and these others articulate it better than anyone. Flannery O’Connor’s famous short story is grotesque in all manners, but amusing in an unexpected way (I can’t say much more without giving away the whole story). Oh, Harper Lee. Perhaps my favorite piece of American literature, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those books you can read over and over again. Her story of a white lawyer in the South defending a black man accused of raping a white woman (whew) is one that involves every aspect of the Southern struggle, and it is told through the eyes of Atticus Finch’s young daughter, Scout, who sees the world in an entirely different light than her father. It is brilliance in verbal form. Lee’s good friend, Truman Capote, is perhaps best known for his novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s, which went on to become Audrey Hepburn’s defining film role. However, his non-fiction work In Cold Blood is a thrilling investigation that examines the murder of a family (I believe they were in Kansas), and the murderers that claimed it was a robbery gone wrong. I think my friends thought I was pscyho for reading this in high school, but it remains one of my favorite pieces of literature.

Absalom, Absalom! and As I Lay Dying- William Faulkner (I started reading this in Paris for a class on the American South, and I couldn’t finish it. But I will!!)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  and A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams (I shall resist just watching the movie…I shall resist just watching the movie…)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Sometimes I have to force myself to put the highlighters down and just soak in the words.

Those Writers That Just Make You So Freaking Depressed: We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Family by Philip Gourevitch

This book will break your heart. Gourevitch, a writer for the New York Times, helped cover the genocide in Rwanda, and later wrote this book that digs deep into the roots of the genocide and the aftermath of four years of civil war that tore the country apart. Gourevitch, who wrote during and after the actual war, mixes poetic language with scientific observation and keen journalistic skills that allow him to delve into the emotional aspect of the crisis while simultaneously exposing the political undercurrents that were at work. Heartbreaking to get through but worth every pang, I would put this on a must-read list, especially for students of political science who sometimes fail to see the humans on the other end of policies.

Aftermath by Susan J. Brison

The Original Hipsters: A Supermarket in California (poem) by Allen Ginsberg

I. Love. Ginsberg. These guys were amazing. “What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! — and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?” They were unafraid to proclaim themselves, and they loved their country despite its flaws and emphasis on the mainstream. Coolest guys ever.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

Selected Poems – Allen Ginsberg

Influential Contemporary Writers (Those Who I Call The “Postmodernistas”): Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a writer that I aspire to be like. No, actually, I just kind of want to be her. She is awesome. Her book of essays, Changing My Mind, was one that I literally could not put down for like, three days. I was on the Paris metro, waiting for friends, walking the streets by the Musée d’Orsay, with this book in hand. I pretty much gorged myself on her words, because she knows exactly how to use them. Her essays are insightful and thought-provoking, and her literature is even more rich and bold. I was supposed to read White Teeth for a literature class, but never really got around to it. Hence, the goal to get through her two most renowned works this summer.

White Teeth and On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (this alone might take half the summer)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz


4 thoughts on “The Summer Reading Bucket List

  1. wasn’t there a book called “steal this book”? Could have been by Abbie Hoffman? He wrote something you could read under the “original hipsters” Check it out!

  2. Marina, I have some of these books at home. A Fine Balance was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Set in India and an extraordinary book. Check my bookshelf before you purchase anything.

  3. I love this blog! Anyhow… I easily enjoy visiting your site because you guys often supply exquisite articles about my popular topics. Informative post.. I enjoyed it once again. I have already add this blog to my faves. I am planning to subscribe to the websites feed as well. Thanks for the awesome post. I am glad you took the time to post it. Thanks

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