Amazon recently produced a list of 100 books we should read in a lifetime. Book lists are always slightly personal to the creator, but this one is made by Amazon editors, and they have a lot of data to hand from publishers and sales.
I thought it would be fun to go through the list and offer my own recommendations (or not!). I’ve read a lot of these books, and I don’t think they’re all worth a read! Some of them deserve to be on this list, but I reckon I could cut the list down to 50 books easily! I haven’t summarised each story as you can get that on the web; I’ve just shared my thoughts.
1. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
The first in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. The TV series is much better, so I’d recommend skipping the book and watching TV instead! This book needed a better editor, as it’s long and rambling. The TV series pulled the stories together much more coherently, in my opinion.
2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
I’ve not read this, although it’s just been made into a film. The trailer looks good, but also sad. It’s about Jews in Nazi Germany though so I guess that’s expected.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This is such a good book. It always pops up on these lists, and with good reason. If you haven’t read it yet, do it!
4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
This used to be one of my favourite books, but I’ve got a bit bored with it now that it’s become super-fashionable and cool. People get so focussed on the jazz that they ignore the characters. You should read it though if you haven’t already.
5. The tiger who came to tea – Judith Kerr
Not read this!
6. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
Or this – maybe a generational thing? I don’t have kids.
7. Nineteen eighty-four – George Orwell
One of the original good dystopia fictions, and definitely worth a read just so that you can understand the genre that’s boomed into existence with The Hunger Games, etc. Also, so much that Orwell wrote about has actually come true, in Britain at least.
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is on my reading list and has been for years. One day!
9. We’re going on a bear hunt – Michael Rosen
Another children’s book I haven’t read…
10. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
This book has a lot of pages, so be aware of that! It is very good though, and I loved the comparison to Greek tragedy. It sort of reminds of me of the Dead Poet’s Society. It’s the only Donna Tartt book I’ve read, and is worth a read.
11. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
A weird, depressing book! I sort of feel like people should read it because it’s famous for good reason, but I will think you’re odd if you say this is one of your favourite books!
12. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole – Sue Townsend
I love this book! I’ve read it loads since I was a teenager, and it’s such a good read. Adrian Mole is a brilliant character.
13. Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt
This book is a fascinating look into statistics. I feel like it should be compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in politics (including politicians!).
14. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
Another Nazi Germany story. I’ve not read it, and it will be sad!
15. The Hare with the Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal
This book was everywhere recently on GoodReads! Lots of people kept reading it/adding it to their reading list. I haven’t read it, and the name annoys me for some reason. Sorry, Mr de Waal.
16. Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
I read this book as a teenager, and now I don’t remember anything at all about it except that it has a good cover design. It’s actually on my list to read again because I feel I should remember the story!
17. A brief history of time – Stephen Hawking
Unless you’re a physicist, don’t bother reading this. I did read it, and have saved you the job. Be glad it’s out there in the world, and that there are genius brains thinking about these things. I’m pretty sure that most people who claim they have read this have skipped many pages. It’s hard work.
18. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
You will notice a lack of Russian authors in my reading here. I don’t know why, although I did read some Bulgakov (not on this list) once, and it was very odd.
19. Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee
This is another book that I enjoyed as a teen and now don’t remember anything about, except that it was an old hardback copy that I read with a beautiful red and white print pattern. I should read this again.
20. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
I saw the trailer for the film, and the answer is no.
21. Long walk to freedom – Nelson Mandela
I’ve seen this book in bookshops and it’s really long! Maybe one day (on a kindle)!
22. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
I’ve never read a Daphne du Maurier book. My Mum has and is refraining from commenting!
23. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
This is a nice story, and Hemingway is a good writer. Stop trying to make him hipster though. He was a writer with a way with words – lots are. Worth a read as it’s a good book.
24. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Why does this book appear on these lists? I do not like the Bronte sisters, and Wuthering Heights is rubbish. It’s depressing and pointless. Read some Austen!
25. The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
This is such a brilliant novel. Oscar Wilde deserves to be famous, and this book deserves to be on this list. Read it!
26. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
I’ve not read this and probably never will since it details a real murder story. However, I understand that it’s very good.
27. The man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks
This book is on my reading list, and I will read it one day!
28. Bad Science – Ben Goldacre
This book is a brilliant look at the pharmacy industry, amongst other things, and is worth a read if you want to know the truth behind headlines. Ben Goldacre also has a great Twitter feed.
29. Never let me go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Nope! All Ishiguro’s books have depressing titles which put me off.
30. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
Obviously this book is on the list. You can’t just read one of the trilogy though, and the second book is a bit rubbish. So, watch the film trilogy instead. It’s visually brilliant and you get to watch Orlando Bloom be an elf.
31. The Enchanted Wood – Enid Blyton
Enid blyton has been ruined for me by the BBC documentary that showed how horrible she was to her own children. As such, I don’t recommend this!
32. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
I tried to read some Dickens once, and I didn’t like it.
33. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
This book is an excellent book, but it’s a bit like marmite. I know lots of people don’t like it as it doesn’t take war seriously and can be hard to read in places. However, I think the humour is the point (and so do critics!). How else do you deal with a topic as horrid as world war?
34. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
I’ve never even heard of this book. Sorry, Mr Barnes.
35. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Finally some Austen! The classic tale of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy… I discovered recently that one of my friends hadn’t read this and I was shocked. SHOCKED! You should read this just because you’re supposed to have done.
36. Crime and Punishment – F. M. Dostoevsky
Another Russian I haven’t read and probably never will.
37. Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz
I have read four of the books in this series and they are all most excellent. A young James Bond, and easy to read. Big tick here! P.S. The film is also good.
38. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
If you want to totally warp your mind, read Catch-22 and then read this. You will turn into a pacifist overnight and oppose all war. This book is seriously depressing. You should still read it though because war is bad (!).
39. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
I have not read this, and the title just makes me giggle (grow up). I also think it was a song? Anyway I have read Haruki Murakami’s biography on running so I’ll recommend that instead as it’s very good.
40. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
I have read this, and although the idea is novel I don’t really care for the book. Or any film that involves this story.
41. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
I have read this book, but I do not like the way people misinterpret the title and the science inside. Also, it’s a bit hardcore biology so like with Stephen Hawking I’m not sure why you would read this if you’re not interested in science.
42. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
I’m pretty sure that you cannot call yourself a geek if you haven’t read this series. Read all five books, and enjoy.
43. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
This is one of the books from my teenage years. It’s such a lovely, warm story. It’ll only take a couple of hours to read, so go read it!
44. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
Haha, no. I watched the Swedish version of the film and it was very violent.
45. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
I have not heard of this book or this author.
46. Dissolution – C. J. Sansom
I have not heard of this book either!
47. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
I have tried to read this a couple of times, but I’ve never got into it. The only book of Gaiman’s I have read is the one he wrote with Terry Pratchett (Good Omens), which is a good read.
48. Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
I’ve met Bill Bryson. I have told this story many times. Haha. I haven’t read this book, but I’ve read lots of his other books and he’s a good author so I’m certain this book is good too!
49. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
Gosh, I read this years ago when I was going through my modern American travel writers phase. I don’t remember liking it though!
50. Oranges are not the only fruit – Jeanette Winterson
I’ve never read this.
51. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
I think Roald Dahl should be a staple for all children. All his books are most excellent, and Charlie is no exception.
52. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
I read this book at school. I don’t remember it, and most my Steinbeck knowledge nowadays comes from Mumford and Sons!
53. A History of the World in 100 Objects – Dr Neil MacGregor
Doesn’t this sound like a lovely book? I haven’t read it, but I love the title!
54. Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
I saw the film and the answer is no. I don’t like reading depressing books.
55. The Stand – Stephen King
I also don’t like horror books, so nope. I’ve never read any Stephen King except his book on writing, which was good.
56. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Pretty much the same answer as Trainspotting. Saw the BBC adaptation, and am no way reading the book!
57. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
Nope, no horror books here!
58. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
I’ve read some Evelyn Waugh, but I’ve never read this even though it’s one of his more famous novels. One day.
59. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
This is one of those books I always think I have read, but I actually haven’t.
60. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
Major tick. Love Peter Rabbit, and have been to the Beatrix Potter museum. My sister and I had lots of her books.
61. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
We’ve got a little section of “nope, not read”s coming up. Are you ready? Not read.
62. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
63. London: The Biography – Peter Ackroyd
64. Wild Swans – Jung Chang
65. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
It’s a Discworld novel; of course I’ve read it. Most excellent.
66. White Teeth – Zadie Smith
67. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John le Carre
I don’t really like crime novels unless the main character is James Bond. So I’ve not read this.
68. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
I have been trying to read some Woolf books. I haven’t read this one, but I like the others that I’ve read so far.
69. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Saw the film and am definitely not reading this. Was depressing!
70. Atonement – Ian McEwan
Same as above!
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
Of course I have read this. I am a British woman! It’s a great book.
72. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
73. Brighton Rock – Graham Greene
I’ve only read two Graham Greene books, and this is not one of them! I recommend Travels with my aunt.
74. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
I have read this, and I recommend it. I also had it on cassette tape and remember listening to it a lot. Random!
75. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
I have read a lot of James Bond novels, including this one. I was a big fan of Bond in my younger days. The Sean Connery adaptations are the best, but Daniel Craig is nice and brooding. Bond was proper grumpy in the books.
76. Do androids dream of electric sheep? – Philip K. Dick
I haven’t read this.
77. Watchmen – Alan Moore
I haven’t read this I don’t think (dredging my memory, but I don’t remember buying it). However, I loved the film!
78. Little Women – Louise May Alcott
A classic. I have read it, and I cried. Pretty much the standard response.
79. London Fields – Martin Amis
80. Venice – Jan Morris
Not even heard of.
81. Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin
82. Watership Down – Richard Adams
Saw the animation. Cried. Not going to read the book!
83. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Seen the TV adaptation… Not reading any Christie as not interested in crime books.
84. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
I have never read any Eliot. I probably should.
85. The Hound of Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book, that I can remember. Tsk. Love Robert Downey Jr’s version though.
86. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
This is a film, isn’t it? And I think it has Liam Neeson or Sam O’Neill in it? So maybe I’ll just watch that instead. [N.B. It's Ralph Fiennes.]
87. Schlinder’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
Gah, this film. Not going to read the book unless I feel like crying for days. But the film adaptation is good.
88. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
I have read this, as all girls should (and boys I guess!). An important book.
89. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
Love the film with John Cusack and Jack Black. Haven’t read the book.
90. Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne
I love this book and have it in an illustrated hardback edition. A staple of any childhood.
91. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Of course. And by now surely everyone has read this?!
92. Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian
This book is appropriately depressing, etc. (it’s set in WWII). However, for a true Magorian gem I recommend skipping this book and reading Back home instead, which is about an evacuee who comes back to England from Connecticut as a teenager after the war, and has to learn how to be British again. A very good book.
93. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
I’ve never read any Margaret Atwood. I probably should get on that.
94. The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson
I used to love Jacqueline Wilson books when I was a young teen. Between us my sis and I had most of them, but I see that she’s still publishing and there are a lot of new titles I don’t recognise. I’ve read this one though, and I used to watch the BBC show too (I was probably not as young as you think I should have been to watch that!).
95. Birdsong – Sebastien Faulks
This book is rubbish, don’t read it. I got half way through, and it was the first book I ever abandoned without finishing!
96. Last Orders – Graham Swift
I have never heard of this book.
97. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
I have read this. And I think I’ve seen the Samantha Mumba film as well. Haha. Of all the times he could travel to, the Time Traveller chose an unfortunate period in Earth to visit.
98. My Man Jeeves – P. G. Wodehouse
I’ve read a lot of Wodehouse books. They make me chuckle. I recommend them for a laugh if you need cheering up.
99. The Commitments – Roddy Doyle
I think I know of this author, but not the book.
100. The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy
I read this book years ago. I’ve actually been trying to get a copy to read again, but although my local e-library has all the sequels it doesn’t have the first one available. [N.B. I found it on the Kindle for £2.99 so I have it now!]
I’ve counted the books as I’ve written them up here, and I’ve read 45 of them. I feel like it should be more. How many of them have you read? If you do a similar blog post, share it below so I can visit and have a look!