The Big Read

Ren: Hey, Jasper. Where’s Phil?
Jasper the Pup: I told you, they put him to sleep.
Ren: So wake him up.
Jasper the Pup: You don’t wake up from the *big* sleep.
Stimpy: What’s the big sleep, Ren?
Ren: He’s DEAD! DEAD you idiot! You know what DEAD is? Just like we’ll be if we don’t get out of here!

I nabbed this meme from Inherent Passion. My mom is a librarian, and instilled in me from an early age a deep love for books. Still, I only came in at 40 (in part because I got tired of checking IMDb to see which Austen or Brontë film was which).

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The program was created in response to the National Endowment for the Arts report Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, which identified a critical decline in literary reading among American adults. In partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, this study, with a sample size of 17,000, revealed the following about literary reading in the U.S.:

  • Less than half of the adult American population now reads literature. (In this survey, literature is defined as any novels, short stories, poetry, or drama, with no distinctions made for quality or length.)
  • The percentage of the U.S. adult population reading any book has declined by seven percent over the past decade.
  • Literary reading is declining among all age groups, but the steepest decline is in the youngest age groups.

As Mrs. Passion (heh heh) points out, there are some discrepancies on the list. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are listed separately. Same with The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Hamlet. For me, this causes a quandary. I’ve read a bit of Shakespeare, but not everything he’s ever written. I read Chronicles as a kid, or rather, my sister read it to me, but I don’t think we finished the series. I’m not fully convinced that this particular list came directly from the NEA, as it isn’t the sort of organization that would miss such an error. Also, as I browse through official site, there are a number of books mentioned that I personally feel are, if not “better” than some on this list, then perhaps more classic. Fahrenheit 451, anyone? Still, it’s fun.

Look at the list and:
1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you own.
3) Underline the books you have seen a movie or TV production of.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (I started to read this is a kid, but never got into it. I suppose I should try again.)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Not complete, no.)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’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 (Is there an EXTRA bold I could use?)
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 (Does everyone start singing Lazy Sunday to themselves when they see this title, or is it just me?)
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
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 (Okay, seriously, enough with the Jane Austen. Another reason I don’t believe this list comes from the NEA.)
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 (That is, I think I own it. I have a bunch of Bryson’s books scattered around the house.)
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 (My dad is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve read/seen some, but not all.)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (I’ve seen Apocalypse Now, which I think should count.)
92 The Little Prince РAntoine De Saint-Exup̩ry
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Bank
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

Now go to your local library. If you don’t already have a library card, get one. They’re free. Take some books home. Also free. Borrow a few DVDs while you’re at it. Those are free as well. Or stay at the library, find a nice quiet space, and stare out the window. (My favorite window seat at my local library looks out over a grassy field filled with romping prairie dogs.) A lot of libraries even have their own coffee shops now. Go get a latté and a brownie. They’re not free, but they’re probably tasty.

4 Replies to “The Big Read”

  1. I know, I checked on The Big Read web site and didn’t see that list anywhere. And I’m not sure I agree with it all. But I am glad you played! My mom is a branch assistant at a library so she’s always recommending books to me!


  2. I would have had a 1%. But after a quick review, I realized that No. 78 wasn’t “Gremlins” after all…

    On a side note… how Hustler and Penthouse didn’t make this list is beyond me…


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