Saturday, September 29, 2012

20 books to read before you… 

There's nothing like a list of books to read or movies to watch. The internet is filled with such trivia. My own favourite list for reading books or watching films is the one before you die. Nothing beats it. In fact, Goodreads has a list of 20 books “you must definitely read” before you die. What a shame if you don’t! But why must you read a particular book or watch a specific movie before you kick the bucket? What's the occasion? I can see we're back to square one.

For the heck of it, I compiled my own list of 20 books that I am going to read before I…no, not that…let’s just say in the next two years. I know I'm being overly optimistic. These are titles of books handed down over the past three decades. Actually, my to-be-read list of some of the great books is much longer and so I have put down only those b
ooks I have been wanting to read for a while now. Books that come with high recommendations from all kinds of sources. Books I ought to have read a long time ago. Books I should be rereading now. 

So, what does my Top 20 look like? Take a look below… I might add that I have a vague recollection of having read books 2, 3 & 5 in college though I can't say for sure.

01. Jane Austen — Pride and Prejudice
02. F. Scott Fitzgerald — The Great Gatsby
03. John Steinbeck — The Grapes of Wrath
04. Joseph Conrad — Heart of Darkness
05. George Orwell — 1984
06. J.D. Salinger — The Catcher in the Rye
07. Anthony Burgess — A Clockwork Orange
08. Jack London — The Call of the Wild
09. Fyodor Dostoevsky — The Brothers Karamazov
10. Philip Roth — American Pastoral
11. James Joyce — Dubliners
12. Norman Mailer — The Naked and the Dead
13. Henry Miller — Tropic of Cancer
14. William Faulkner — As I Lay Dying
15. Saul Bellow — The Adventures of Augie March
16. William Styron — Sophie's Choice
17. Leo Tolstoy — War and Peace
18. Oscar Wilde — The Picture of Dorian Gray
19. Gabriel García Márquez — One Hundred Years of Solitude
20. William Golding — Lord of the Flies

Though not a part of the list, I'm going to squeeze in Fountainhead by Ayn Rand as well.

I can hear the authors sniggering—“You didn’t read our books all these years. What makes you think you’re going to read them now? You might as well read them before you…”


  1. I've read 10 of these. I think I did this kind of thing once myself. I'll have to go back and look at my older blogs. I included some robert e. howard on my list. :)

    1. Charles, I hope I can read that many at least over the next two years, as most of the books on my list are longish. I'd be interested in reading your list and knowing who else is there besides Howard.

  2. Good list Prashant - glad to say I've read them all (and the Rand for good measure) - of course, woudl be fun to prove that some of these were read by people AFTER they died ... More to the point perhaps are witch are the 20 books one would want to re-read? Of your list I'd probably forego the Henry Miller and I might pick a different book by Burgess.

    1. Sergio, it's terrific that you've read all the books in the above list. I suppose you must have read them very early on. I have read some of the other books by these authors but none of the ones featured here, not yet. I'll have to read them at least once before figuring out which ones to reread.

  3. I'll suggest that Sergio is correct in denigrating the Miller, at least compared to the rest of the numbered list...though TROPIC is still much better than anything Ayn Rand coughed up. Queen of the cardboard mouthpiece character.

    1. Todd, I read TROPIC OF CAPRICORN a few years ago though I ought to have read TROPIC OF CANCER first which I never did, prequels and sequels being all too confusing to me. For some reason Ayn Rand is popular among Indian booklovers. In fact, only yesterday I saw two guys pouring over ATLAS SHRUGGED and FOUNTAINHEAD in a new bookstore I frequent. I read ATLAS... decades ago and have been meaning to read it again but the size is putting me off given that I have plenty to read.

  4. I've only read seven of them, Prashant so I feel quite shame-faced.

    THE GREAT GATSBY (Don't miss this. It's my second favorite book of all time.)

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE My favorite book of all time.

    1984 - Definitely a must read.

    THE CATCHER IN THE RYE Only read this because everyone my age was doing so. Not something I'd re-read today.

    THE CALL OF THE WILD - Another must read.

    SOPHIE'S CHOICE - Not such a great book but worth reading. The film was better.

    LORD OF THE FLIES - Yes, I read it and admired it. But I wouldn't read it again. Too grim.

    That's about all I remember. The only two books I re-read today are PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE GREAT GATSBY.

    1. Yvette, THE GREAT GATSBY and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE are right on top of my to-read classics. I try and squeeze in at least one classic every month. I'm a slow reader of classics—they don't always come easily to me. I'm currently reading MOLL FLANDERS by Daniel Defoe, a bold and brave book. My aim is to read a minimum of three to four books by each of the big authors like the ones I mentioned above.

  5. What an interesting list. I have read 10 on the list, and Fountainhead (And what a let-down it was! I really wonder as to how Rand is so popular.) Anyway, I'd say you really, really must read As I Lay Dying, 1984, Dorian Gray, Hundred Years, Gatsby, and Heart of Darkness. Some of the others have long been on my wishlist though I think Miller is not really my cup of tea. :)

    1. Thanks, Neer, except I ought to have read most of these a long time ago. The six novels you mentioned are uppermost in my mind and I'm even up to reading them in ebook format, though you might not get Faulkner and Márquez as ebooks yet. I can't comment on Miller as I'm not familiar with his writing.