BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Paul Mason
« Previous | Main | Next »

What are your "50 Books That Are Books"?

Paul Mason | 22:29 UK time, Saturday, 4 December 2010

Time is cruel because it reduces you to your essence.

Ben Hecht was, essentially, the man who wrote the screenplays for several fast-talking Hollywood masterpieces about urban life, one of which - His Girl Friday - is a cult movie for everyone who practises or aspires to practise the profession of journalism.

But there was depth to Hecht: he wrote novels; he was a news reporter in the bleak Germany of 1919-21; he - like Runyon - sought out and knew the low-life people of his age; he supported the Irgun against the Brits in Palestine; he wrote a musical with Kurt Weill.

One other thing he did was write an article called "Fifty Books That Are Books", in which without visiting his own bookshelves, he sat down at a typewriter and listed the 50 books you should have in a library if that was all you were allowed.

In the spirit of Christmas and all the other holidays I propose to Idle Scrawl's readers that they post their own, following the style of Hecht, here, in the Comments.

The key is to do it from memory - in the name of which I offer you this from the 1910 newspaper column by Hecht about Christmas/Channukah in Chicago:

"We once lived in a world of toys. In a world of adventure. In a world of strange
thoughts and weird imaginings. Adventure, thoughts and imaginings were toys like these. Yes, these toys have souls because we remember that they meant
something, were something.

What is it they meant and were?

But we've forgotten that. Almost. And the crowd of men and women shuffle up and down the aisles and down the streets outside. The holidays bring them all an identical gift. The holidays bring them the gift of memory."

So: post your 50 book comments. I will try and compile a list of the most commonly chosen on Christmas Eve so anybody bored enough to be reading then can download it. The only rule is that like Hecht you cannot consult your shelves or the internet.


  • Comment number 1.

    Fifty books - am hard pushed to think of ten!

  • Comment number 2.

    Confess, Paul, did you actually write this late Saturday evening or delayed posting it so we would see it early Sunday morning when we would be in various states of impairment?

  • Comment number 3.

    good luck. i doubt if today most people have read 50 books let along remember them. The jewish terrorist [in todays language] Hecht lived in a pre tv age when people read books as today people watch tv shows. so in the modern age 50 tv shows or 50 websites from memory is likely to give the same psychological profile?

    indeed look at someone's bookmarks and the cookies on their computer and you will have a good insight into the psychology and what they might think is the highest idea of the mind?

    what are your 50 bookmarks from memory paul?

  • Comment number 4.

    when do we start burning the books? If only the very rich can go to Uni there will be no need for them as we will be an nation of morons.....never mind, eh, as long as Nick thinks he's right....

  • Comment number 5.


    Now there is a lot of fuss (probably justified) about video games, and their effect on the brain/mind.


    When TV entered our homes, decades ago, did anyone consider it might be the new Snake of Eden? What part of the Ape does TV ANGER, VIOLENCE, PORN, AVARICE, ENVY, BULLYING, DEGRADATION and SPITE etc talk DIRECTLY to? I suggest the term 'subliminal' is relevant. But we are long gone from 'The Garden' and damnation gathers pace.

    I think I'll try to lose myself in a book . . .

  • Comment number 6.

    I think you should probably have made it ten for this abbreviated medium. I'll have a go later, however.

  • Comment number 7.

    ... I say later, but anything to do with books hooks me. You swine! Off the top of my head, so I got all the way through to fifty before even getting close to politics. Couldn't I have 75?!

    Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
    The Tiger Who Came To Tea - Judith Kerr
    The Twits - Roald Dahl
    Charlotte's Web - EB White
    Stig of the Dump - Clive King
    Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling
    When the Wind Blows - Raymond Briggs
    Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - TS Eliot
    The Sword in the Stone - TH White
    The Road of Bones - Anne Fine
    Call of the Wild - Jack London
    Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
    The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
    Lord of the Flies - William Golding
    To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
    The Owl Service - Alan Garner
    Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
    Moby Dick - Herman Melville
    Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
    Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
    Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
    A Kestrel for a Knave - Barry Hines
    The Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger
    The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
    Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
    Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
    Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Sterne
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
    Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
    The Red and the Black - Stendhal
    The Stranger - Albert Camus
    Johnny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo
    Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
    The Leopard - Lampedusa
    Over Milk Wood - Dylan Thomas
    All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Remarque
    The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
    Fup - Jim Dodge
    Owl Creek Bridge - Ambrose Pierce
    The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass
    Silent Spring - Rachel Carson
    Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
    In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
    Empire of the Sun - J G Ballard
    The Double Helix - James Watson
    Aspects of the Novel - EM Forster
    Origin of Species - Charles Dickens
    A Time for Machetes - Jean Hatzfeld

  • Comment number 8.

    "Over Milk Wood" - sigh @ me. "Charles Dickens" - sigh @ me. Typing in the box is not all it's cracked up to be, dontchaknow.

  • Comment number 9.

    50 films would work too.

  • Comment number 10.

    Top 50, off the top of my head, although I suspect this is just Paul's ploy to boost his amazon wishlist:

    1. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
    2. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
    3. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
    4. Don Quixote - Cervantes
    5. The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
    6. Don Carlos - Schiller
    7. Collected Stories - ETA Hoffmann
    8. Germinal - Emile Zola
    9. Cousine Bette - Balzac
    10. Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann
    11. Into the Silent Land - Paul Broks
    12. The Last Samurai - Helen deWitt
    13. Under the Frog - Tibor Fischer
    14. Troubles - JG Farrell
    15. Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman
    16. Liquidation - Imre Kertesz
    17. Collected Stories - Maupassant
    18. Sentimental Education - Gustave Flaubert
    19. The Lord Chandos Letter - Hugo von Hoffmanstahl
    20. The Soccer War - Ryszard Kapuscinski
    21. Hopeful Monsters - Nicholas Mosley
    22. Fiasco - Thomas E Ricks
    23. Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Laclos
    24. The Man Who Was Thursday - GK Chesterton
    25. Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis
    26. The Great Crash 1929 - JK Galbraith
    27. Independent People - Halldor Laxness
    28. Stalingrad - Anthony Beevor
    29. The Mortdecai Triology - Kyril Bonfiglioli
    30. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
    31. Austerlitz - WG Sebald
    32. Scarlet and Black - Stendhal
    33. Eastern Approaches - Fitzroy Maclean
    34. Between Silk and Cyanide - Leo Marks
    35. Moby Dick - Hermann Melville
    36. Zuleika Dobson - Max Beerbohm
    37. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
    38. Joe Gould's Secret - Joseph Mitchell
    39. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
    40. The Conscience of a Liberal - Paul Krugman
    41. If This is a Man - Primo Levi
    42. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - Mario Vargas Llosa
    43. Petersburg - Andrei Biely
    44. Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
    45. Maus - Art Speigelman
    46. Perfume - Patrick Suskind
    47. Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
    48. An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears
    49. The Royal Game - Stefan Zweig
    50. Mr Mee - Andrew Crumey

  • Comment number 11.

    Sunday lunch prep glass of wine 50 books -bliss
    Catcher in the Rye John Salinger
    The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Dombey & Son Charles Dickens
    Grub Street George Gissing
    Hamlet William Shakespeare
    Dolls House Henrik Ibsen
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K dick
    Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
    Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
    The Magus John Fowles
    Red Harvest Dasheill Hammet
    Copenhagen Michael Fryan
    A Question of Attribution Alan Bennett
    Birthday Letters Ted Hughes
    Secret Rapture Donna Tartt
    Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak
    Collected Stories Dorothy Parker
    Collected Stories Saki
    War & Peace Tolstoy
    Ragged Trousered Philanthropist Robert Tressell
    Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen
    Animal Farm George Orwell
    The Cherry Orchard Chekov
    Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
    English History 1914-45 AJP Taylor
    Unreliable Memoirs Clive James
    Diaries Evelyn Waugh
    Waldon Henry Thoreau
    Second World War Churchill
    Essays Montaigne
    God Delusion Richard Dawkins
    History of Art Eric Gombrich
    Wealth of Nations Adam Smith
    Essays George Orwell
    The Prince Machiavelli
    Greek Myths Robert Graves
    What The Dog Saw Malcolm Gladwell
    Edward Murrow Sperber
    Advantage of Nations Michael Porter
    Decline of The Roman Empire Gibbon
    Eminent Victorians Lytton Strachey
    Oscar Wilde Richard Ellman
    The Peoples’ War Calder
    Adolf Hitler (Hubris) Ian Kershaw
    Age of Empires Eric Hobsbawn
    Brewers Phrase & Fable
    Oxford Book of Quotations
    Cambridge book of Literature
    Chambers Dictionary
    King James Bible

  • Comment number 12.

    Good idea - a pleasant diversion! This is a list from various times in my life, which i think is the only way to do an 'all time' list :-)

    In order of memory:
    1. Q - Luther Blisset / Wu Ming (a must)
    2. Wobblies & Zapatistas - Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubjac (sic - sorry andrej, i am doing this from memory!)
    3. Football in Sun and Sand (can't remember)
    4. All Played Out (pete someone? oh dear)
    5. Bevan - Michael Foot
    6. Throne of Kings - George A A Martin
    7. Hyperion - Dan Simmons
    8. This Bloody Mary is the last thing i own (*)
    9. The Wizard of the Pigeons (*)
    10. Great Apes - Will Self
    11. Manituana - Wu Ming
    12. Goalkeepers are Different - Brian Glanville
    13. Our Word is our Weapon - Marcos (and Don Durrito)
    14. GB84 - David Peace
    15. The Damned United - David Peace
    16. Prison Diaries - Gramsci
    17. Facing the Enemy - Skirtl (sic?)
    18. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - Open the chest (turn to page 400)
    19. Gyles Brandreths Bumper Book of Jokes (still use a few, 30 years later)
    20. The Night of the Owl - Sciascia
    21. Life: A users manual - Perec
    22. name of the rose - umberto eco.

    God, my memory is so bad! I'm going to have to retired hurt i'm afraid, or i'm going to start stealing from other people's lists!

  • Comment number 13.

    So: post your 50 book comments! Uh, okay, I'll give it a try, but I don't think I'm going to get close.
    "The Earth Chronicles" by Zechariah Sitchin:
    The 12 th Planet,
    The Stariway to Heaven,
    The Wars of Gods and Men,
    The Lost Realms,
    When Time Began,
    The Cosmic Code and his companion books:
    Genesis Revisited,
    Divine Encounters,
    The Lost Book of Enki
    Since then, he has also introduced and edited:
    Of Heaven and Earth.
    I'm afraid that aside from the Earth Chronicles, I can't think of more titles because I do not read fiction. I am a great fan of ancient history (well before Rome or Greece) and the stark, naked truth about humankind's origins. I tend to remember more facts than titles, except for "The Earth Chronicles", which I'm in the process of re-reading.
    But I want to thank you for allowing me the space to pay tribute to a great author, great researcher, and amazing thinker on humankind's origins.
    Zecharia Sitchin passed on October 9, 2010. His passing unfortunately was more like a whisper than a bang; yet I believe that this man understood more about humankind's origin than any other person who ever lived.
    Maybe Christmas Eve is a great time to make a start on humankind's real beginnings.

  • Comment number 14.

    Keep going people: if we can't come up with 50 Mr Steve Jobs and also Mr Jeff Bezos are in trouble, because the modern equivalent of Ben Hecht's bookshelf is the Kindle/iPad and I think they are counting on us to buy more than a few books on these platforms.

    What I've found working on mine, in this memory based way, is I keep coming up with things I read as a young person. Mine - to be revealed later - is, like Hecht's a product of its time.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    [I have a Kindle but am sulking that there's no way to buy a Kindle book for someone else, or to lend them mine.]

  • Comment number 17.

    Moby Dick - Melville
    A Confederacy of Dunces - O'Toole
    Catch 22 - Heller
    Collected Short Stories - Flannery O'connor
    The Outsider - Camus

    Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
    Reader's Block - Markson
    Vanishing Point - Markson
    Big Sleep - Chandler
    In Cold Blood - Capote

    Billy Bud Sailor - Melville
    Common Sense - Paine
    Consider the Lobster - David Foster Wallace
    Witches -Dahl
    Red Harvest - Hammet

    His Dark Materials - Pullman
    I, Claudius - Graves
    Darkness at Noon - Koestler
    1984 - Orwell
    Homage to Catalonia - Orwell

    Selfish Gene - Dawkins
    Ballard of Sad Cafe - McCullers
    The Prince - Machiavelli
    Dubliners - Joyce
    Bear versus Shark - Bachelder

    Moneyball - Lewis
    Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald
    Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
    Breathing Underwater - Darrieusecq
    Loving Sabotage - Nothomb

    American Slavery - Kolchin
    Roast Chicken and other stories - Hopkinson
    Gun Germs and Steel - Diamond
    The Unfortunates - Johnson
    Ballard of Dingus McGee - Markson

    We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families - Gourevitch
    Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail - Thompson
    Slaughterhouse 5 - Vonnegut
    A Confederate General From Big Sur - Brautigan
    Tristram Shandy - Sterne

    Terror and Liberalism - Berman
    Scoop! - Waugh
    Our Man in Havana - Greene
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Le Carre
    Pride & Prejudice - Austen

    Fall of Baghdad - Anderson
    Naive, Super - Erland
    The Progressive Dilema - Marquand
    The Damned Utd - Peace
    The Road - McCarthy

  • Comment number 18.

    These are in no order of merit; most are in my personal library. Some people talk of hoarding gold and silver, but I have deliberately built up a large collection of books, as insurance against the possible demise of civilisation as we know it. My list contains volumes which I might want to take on my personal Ark if there were another flood. Hence I had to leave out some favourites: eg I chose Priestley's English Journey rather that Orwell's '...Wigan Pier'), and I allowed no more than two from any author.

    1. The Hobbit - J R R Tolkien.
    2. Farmer Giles of Ham - ditto.
    3. The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling.
    4. Just So Stories - ditto.
    5. Straight and Crooked Thinking - Robert Thoulless.
    6. Eastern Approaches - Fitzroy Maclean.
    7. The King James Bible.
    8. The life and times of Muhammad - Sir JB Glubb.
    9. The Lost Centuries - ditto.
    10. Cromwell - Our Chief of Men - Antonia Frazer
    11. The Sleepwalkers - Arthur Koestler.
    12. The Age Of Uncertainty - JK Galbraith
    13. The Importance Of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde.
    14. Pygmalion - GB Shaw
    15. The Good Companions - JB Priestley
    16. English Journey - ditto.
    17. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein.
    18. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress - ditto.
    19. 2010: Odyssey Two - Arthur C Clarke
    20. Pears Cyclopedia
    21. The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
    22. The Day Of The Triffids - ditto
    23. The Master And Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov.
    24. The White Guard - ditto
    25. And Quiet Flows The Don - Mikhail Sholokhov.
    26. Dr Zhivago - Boris Pasternak.
    27. War And Peace - Leo Tolstoy.
    28. Foundation Trilogy - Isaac Asimov.
    29. Caves Of Steel - ditto.
    30. Maskerade - Terry Pratchett.
    31. The Last Hero - ditto.
    32. A Writer's Notebook - W. Somerset Maugham.
    33. Dune - Frank Herbert.
    34. Mist Over Pendle - Robert Neill.
    35. Lilliburlerro - ditto.
    36. Caesar - Colleen Mc Cullough.
    37. Spartacus - Howard Fast.
    38. Eyes Of Horus - Joan Grant.
    39. Henry Treece - The Green Man
    40. The Economic Consequences of The Peace - JM Keynes
    41. Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious - CG Jung.
    42. Songs Of Innocence And Experience - William Blake.
    43. The Graphic Work - MC Escher.
    44. Mathematics For The Million - Lancelot Hogben.
    45. Founding Fathers - Alfred Duggan.
    46. I Claudius - Robert Graves.
    47. Funeral Games - Mary Renault.
    48. The Stranger From The Sea - Winston Graham.
    49. The Complete Works - William Shakespeare
    50. Decline And Fall - Evelyn Waugh.

  • Comment number 19.

    Aargh! I left Shogun off! - Dump Day of the Triffids!

  • Comment number 20.

    That's tougher than you'd've that it would be.

    If, on the assumption that 50 individual books won't get more than a single nomination and so some of your final fifty will be there with just the one vote, you cold include Reader's Block by David Markson, you'll have made the list immeasurably better. He died this year and like Melville a century before he towered over his American contemporaries with minimal recognition.

  • Comment number 21.

    The Origin of Species, Darwin
    Frontiers of Astronomy, Hoyle
    Dreams of a Final Theory, Weinberg
    The Extended Phenotyple, Dawkins
    The Selfish Gene, Dawkins
    The Dinosaur Heresies, Bakker
    Histories, Herodotus
    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon
    The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine
    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche
    Candide, Voltaire
    Gulliver's Travels, Swift
    Collected Works, Shakespeare
    Complete Poems, 1909-65, T S Eliot
    The Metaphysical Poets, Helen Gardner
    Catch-22, Joseph Heller
    Ulysses, James Joyce
    The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig
    Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
    The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
    The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
    Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
    The Collected Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle
    The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
    The Great Crash 1929, John Kenneth Galbraith (not enough people read!)
    Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
    Animal Farm, George Orwell
    Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
    The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell
    Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
    The Fight, Norman Mailer

    After that it gets hard. What to leave out gets tougher. I'd like to say, "Green Eggs and Ham" though I don't actually own it, and throw in a bio of Einstein (probably "Subtle is the Lord") as an example of a good bloke, and one of Nixon (perhaps "Nixon and Kissinger" by Robert Dallek) for an example of the banality of evil men.

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul,and others.

    Between us we could probably come up with a really good thousand.

    @21 Have you read Banesh Hoffman's bio of Einstein? If we had a "book Ark", I would certainly include Richard Feynman's autobiography too.

    I'm glad to see that others have included Koestler and Fitzroy Maclean.

  • Comment number 23.

    1) Name of the Rose - Eco
    2) Foucault's Pendulum - Ec0
    3) Bardolino - Eco
    4) LOrd of the Flies - Golding
    5) The Beach - Garland
    6) Catch 22 - Heller
    7) Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
    8) Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
    9) Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky
    10) Jupiters Travels - Simon
    11) Scoop - waugh
    12) Barrows Boys - flemming
    13) South - Shackleton
    14) The white Spider - herrer
    15) Dune -Herbert
    16 Complicity - Banks
    17) Espedair St - Banks
    18) The Bridge - Banks
    19) The Wasp Factory - Banks
    20) Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks - Brookmeyer
    21) My Family and other Animals - Durrel
    23) Rommel - Gunner Who - Milligan ( and the rest of the trilogy)
    24) The Kontiki expidition - Heyerdahl
    25) The LOng Way - Moitessier
    26) The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst - Tomalin
    27) The Rebel - Camus
    28) The Plague - Camus
    30)Gravity's Rainbow - Pynchon
    31) The easy care Garden Expert - Hessayon
    32) The crying of Lot 49 - Pynchon
    33) Nausea - Satre
    34)Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Pirsig
    35) Thousand and one Arabian Nights - Classic
    36) Greek Myths - R. Graves collected 1&2
    37) Chocolat - Harris
    38) The Life of Pi - Martel
    39) End of Mr Y - Scarlett
    40) Twelfth Night - Shakespeare
    41) Julius Caesare - Shakespeare
    42) A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich-Solzenisyn
    43) Das Boot - Bucheim
    44) Tractatus -LOgico- Philosophicus Wittgenstein
    45) Philosophical Investigations - Wittgenstein
    46) Phaedrus -Plato
    47) Mirror of Nature - Rorty
    48) Contingency Irony Solidarity - Rorty
    49) Serendipities : Language and Lunacy - Eco
    50) Landrover Workshop Manual - Haynes

    unedited and splurged out quickly !

  • Comment number 24.

    Ulysses - Joyce
    The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
    War and Peace - Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
    Alcools - Appolinaire
    The Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes
    Life and Fate - Vassily Grossman
    Sabbath's Theatre - Philip Roth
    The Time of our Singing - Richard Powers
    At Swim, Two Boys - Jamie O'Neill
    Destiny - Tim Parks
    Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
    Madame Bovary - Flaubert
    A Sentimental Education - Flaubert
    Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Gibbon
    1982 Janine - Alasdair Gray
    Dubliners - Joyce
    A la Recherche du Temps Perdu - Proust
    Tolstoy - Henri Troyat
    Everyman - Philip Roth
    The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
    Middlemarch - George Eliot
    The Gulag Archipelago - Solzhenitsyn
    Cancer Ward - Solzhenitsyn
    Under Milk Wood - Dylan Thomas
    The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendhal
    The Trial - Kafka
    Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
    A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel
    Citizens - Simon Schama
    A People's Tragedy - Orlando Figes
    Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
    A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
    Short stories of Arthur Schnitzler
    The Road - Cormac McCarthy
    For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
    Crash - JG Ballard
    20,000 Streets Under the Sky - Patrick Hamilton
    Living/Loving/Party Going - Henry Green
    Platform - Michel Houllebecq
    The Scarlet Petal and the White - Michel Faber
    The Red and the Black - Stendhal
    Les Fleurs du Mal - Baudelaire
    Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
    Molesworth - Geoffrey Willans
    Just William - Richmal Crompton
    Narnia novels - CS Lewis
    Paradise Lost - Milton
    Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
    Accordion Crimes - Annie Proulx

    I could go on - not looking at your bookshelves makes it difficult to remember less obvious choices - don't think I could name 50 TV shows or websites that meant anything to me though...

  • Comment number 25.

    Very sorry about the spelling.

    1)The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Jill Tomlinson
    2)The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
    3)The Quangle Wangle's Hat – Edward Lear
    4)Animal Farm - Orwell
    5)The Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
    6)The Hobbit - Tolkien
    7)Pale Fire – Nabakov
    8)Molloy – Samuel Beckett
    9)Murphy – Samuel Beckett
    10)Malone Dies – Samuel Beckett
    11)The Foundation Pit – Platonov
    12)Diary of a madman and other collected short stories – Gogol
    13)Dead Souls – Gogol
    14)Notes from Underground – Dostoevsky
    15)Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
    16)Mysteries – Knut Hamsun
    17)Victoria – Knut Hamsun
    18)Ulysses – James Joyce
    19)The Trial – Kafka
    20)Recovery – John Berryman
    21)The Man Without Qualities – Robert Musil
    22)Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
    23)War and Piece – Leo Tolstoy
    24)Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
    25)Trout Fishing in America – Richard Brautigan
    26)In Watermelon Sugar – Richard Brautigan
    27)The Fall – Albert Camus
    28)Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry
    29)The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reisse – Jose Saramago
    30)The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa
    31)Germinal – Zola
    32)Krapp's Last Tape – Samuel Beckett
    33)The Outsider – Albert Camus
    34)The Leopard – Tomassi De Lampedusa
    35)The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    36)Brighton Rock – Graham Greene
    37)A Day in the life of someone somethingovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    38)The Pillars of the Community – Henrik Ibsen
    39)The Insect Societies – E O Wilson
    40)Pan – Knut Hamsun
    41)The Dark Materials thing – Phillip Pullman
    42)All of the Disc World books – Terry Pratchett
    43)The Diary of Adrian Mole – Sue Townsend
    44)Candide – Voltaire
    45)Aesop's Fables – Aesop
    46)The Ilyiad – Homer
    47)The Odyssey – Homer
    48)First Love and other novellas – Samuel Beckett
    49)Nausea – Sartre
    50)Rhinoceros – Eugene Ionescu

  • Comment number 26.

    This is a great thread. I find a lot of the posts on here (and of course the blog itself) very interesting, even if I disagree with many! Threads like this make it one of my favourite blogs. That coupled with the fact that I nearly always choose fiction based on recommendations makes this the perfect thread.

    I would add that I'm a kindle owner and absolutely love it. However, my reading list is now so long if I add one of these to the end I'll probably start it in 2020.

    I recently read a speed-reading book by Buzan. I have an average reading speed so there is plenty of room for improvement but I'm not convinced speed reading will leave fiction as enjoyable. Any thoughts from our well-read posters?

  • Comment number 27.

    1 Treasure Island: Stevenson
    2 The Fall: Camus
    3 Moby Dick: Melville
    4 Poems: Du Fu
    5 The Outlaw Josey Wales: Forrest Carter
    6 Socialism Utopian and Scientific: Engels
    7 Crash: Ballard
    8 The Remains of the Day: Ishiguro
    9 Dombey and Son: Dickens
    10 Heart of Darkness: Conrad
    11 The Secret Agent: Conrad
    12 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: Sillitoe
    13 Dune: Herbert
    14 The Communist Manifesto: Marx and Engels
    15 Silas Marner: Eliot
    16 The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: Tressell
    17 Private Dancer: Leather
    18 Rough Guide to South East Asia: Rough Guides
    19 The Sociological Perspective: Burger
    20 Ways of Seeing: Berger
    21 1984: Orwell
    22 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Le Carre
    23 Yardie: Headley
    24 Pride and Prejudice: Austen
    25 My Life: Trotsky *
    26 Candide: Voltaire
    27 Pele: Pele
    28 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Kesey
    29 Call of the Wild: London
    30 Jaws: Benchley
    31 The Beach: Garland
    32 To Kill a Mockingbird: Lee
    33 Boot Boys: Allen
    34 The Boy Looked at Johnny: Parsons / Burchill
    35 The Catcher in the Rye: Salinger
    36 The Plague: Camus
    37 In Cold Blood: Capote
    38 Williwaw: Vidal
    39 Persuasion: Austen
    40 The Jungle Book: Kipling
    41 The Satanic Verses: Rushdie *
    42 A Clockwork Orange: Burgess
    43 A Short History of Nearly Everything: Bryson
    44 The Silence of the Lambs: Harris
    45 Wheels of Terror: Hassell
    46 Legion of the Damned: Hassell
    46 The Making of the English Working Class: Thompson
    47 The Electric Kool – Aid Acid Test: Wolfe
    48 The Fan Man: Kotzwinkle
    49 A Journal of the Plague Year: Defoe
    50 Three Men in A Boat; Jerome
    *These are the Bookends.

  • Comment number 28.

    Forgot so many, but i've had my turn. The one i can't leave out is "El Diego", maradonna's autobiography. Basically, he comes across as a nice Alan Partridge.

    I'd need to get my brother on for the rest, we share different parts of one cultural memory.

    Can't you link 2 kindles if you register them as having the same owner? I was reading something about it in the 10,000 page support manual the other day (NOT in my top 50)

  • Comment number 29.

    Can't believe I forgot to include Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano - should be in my top 10, let alone 50.

  • Comment number 30.

    Crikey Paul you do set us some unusual homework.
    Thought about this during a glorious walk this afternoon, so almost keeping to the key rule.
    1 A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
    2 Down Under - Bill Bryson
    3 Solider - Mike Jackson
    4 Storm - Vince Cable
    5 The Foxes of Harrow - Frank Yearby
    6 Water Babies - Charles Kingsley
    7 The Snow Goose - Paul Gallico
    8 English Dictionary - Oxford Press
    9 Essential France AA
    10 Brittany AA
    11 New Zealand - Lonely Planet
    12 France - Lonely Planet
    13 Robinson Crusoe - Danial Defoe
    14 Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
    15 The Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
    16 A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle
    17 Lady Chatterleys Lover - D H Lawrence (banned by school and parents in the 50s, so essential to obtain and the only sex education my class got)
    18 Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
    19 Bible - Anon
    20 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Ronal Dahl
    21 The Hobbit - J R Tolkien
    22 Just so Stories - Ruyard Kipling
    23 Tale of Two Horses - Aime Tschiffely (sorry had to research spelling)
    24 Moorland Mousie - Golden Gorse
    25 Taylor of Gloucester - Beatrix Potter
    I could list another 25 off the top of my head, but all would be ones I faied to appreciate eg Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen.
    Most of the bookie wookies I have read over the last few years have failed to make any lasting impression on my little grey cells.

  • Comment number 31.

    One of the late night programmes on Fivelive did the same thing over the course of this year.

    Each week they would discuss the top books to have on your book shelf but, bizarrely, they were obsessed with works of fiction and dismissed any non-fiction work.

    How you can have a list of the top 50 books and have no non-fiction in it staggers me - what about an Atlas? What about the Concise Oxford English dictionary? You have no words without a dictionary and no books without words.

    Other posters have suggested some excellent works of fiction, although I am yet to see 'The Call of the Wild', 'Last of the Mohicans' or 'A Christmas Carol' amongst the lists.

    But I think it is lazy, and indeed easy, to simply jot down a list of 50 books supposedly on your book-shelf. How many actually have those books? How many have actually read those books if they do indeed have them?

    A BBC newsreader friend is regularly ordering 7 or 8 books per month from Amazon simply to display around the house - yet never gets around to opening them let alone reading them.

    Far more difficult in my mind to jot down just one single book and have to give a compelling reason as to why you consider it important. Those who have posted their 50 books above - could they actually narrow their lists down to just one book and give the reason why they feel it should be on a list of top books?

    I will go back to my original argument about works of non-fiction.

    I have, for several years, been an admirer of the hospice pioneer Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, of the work she did in the concentration camps at the end of World War Two, of the work she has done in the field of hospices and in the work she has done on death and the dying - a subject that most of us refuse to confront.

    Her book, 'Life Lessons: How Our Morality Can Teach Us About Life and Living', itself written at a time when Elisabeth was herself coming to the end of her life, is one of the most remarkable, life-affirming and life-changing works I have ever read. Unlike the wonderful works of fiction already listed it deals with real people living real lives facing real death.

    For this reason, because I believe that everyone would benefit from reading it, I nominate:

    Life Lessons: How Our Morality Can Teach Us About Life and Living by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

  • Comment number 32.

    only allowed 50 books in a library from memory?

    Complete Shakespeare
    Complete Plato
    Complete Aristotle
    Complete Proclus
    Complete Psuedo Dionysus [10 Letters etc]
    Damascius On First Principles
    Taming the Tiger
    Cicero On Friendship
    Lao Tzu
    Sun Tzu
    Philosophical Midwifery by Pierre Grimes
    Diary of a Nobody
    Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
    Complete Dictionary/Thesaurus
    World Atlas.

    [unless they come as single complete volumes its now way over 50]

  • Comment number 33.


    i didn't see your post until i posted mine. :) i did think it a sad day for shakespeare.

    these are books i not only read but have most of them although some of the classics are printouts. others, like scoop and diary of a nobody, are talking books

  • Comment number 34.

    a new translation of Damascius On First Principles is being discussed here

    he takes the ineffable as the highest principle.

  • Comment number 35.

    (1) American Tabloid - Elroy
    (2) The Third Policeman - O'Brien
    (3 The Big Sleep - Chandler
    (4) The Elements of Typographic Style - Bringhurst
    (5) The Dubliners - Joyce
    (6) How to Talk Dirty and Influence People - Bruce
    (7) Oliver Twist - Dickens
    (8) Great Expectations - Dickens
    (9) The Assistant - Malamud
    (10) At Swim Two Birds - O'Brien
    (11) Seize the Day - Below
    (12) My Dark Places - Elroy
    (13) The Playboy of the Western World - Synge
    (14) The Butcher Boy - McCabe
    (15) Farewell My Lovely - Chandler
    (16) Remains of the Day - Ishiguro
    (17) The Hustler - Tevis
    (18) Exotica - Toop
    (19) The Third Man - Greene
    (20) Paddy's Lament - Gallegher
    (21) Humbolt's Gift - Below
    (22) A Time of Gifts - Leigh Fermor
    (23) The Outsider - Camus
    (24) Complete Prose - Woddy Allen
    (25) Classic Italian Cookbook - Hazan
    (26) Simple French Food - Olney
    (27) The Man who ate Everything - Steingarten
    (28) The Handmade Loaf - Lepard
    (29) Miles Davis - Davis
    (30) The Jazz Life - Hentoff

  • Comment number 36.

    31, Tawse

    Always enjoy reading your posts, and I'll definitely be seeking out your recommendation, but you're sounding a bit cynical tonight. I do solmenly swear that I've read every single one of the books on my list, and they've all had a profound effect on me in one way or another. Even the Edward Lear one still really makes me laugh, although I always have to google it if I want to read it since I don't own it anymore. If I was going to recommend one I'd have to say Notes from Underground. I can't explain how in awe I am of the mind that created that book.

    29, I acquired a taste for Mezcal after that book that got totally out of hand.

  • Comment number 37.

    @30 Most Shakespeare is better heard than read. My parents were active in the Middlesbrough Little Theatre, and my father (and ex repertory company actor) used to walk about the house reciting. So having seen and heard a fair amount of Bard, if I do read it, I sort of hear it too! :-)

    @31 I have read every single book on my list, (though only about half of the Bible and Complete works of Shakespeare). I have a personal library of about 1000; about 50% of which is non-fiction, and have read many more from the public library in the past. In recent years I've bought a fair few out-of print books sold off by libraries because they were getting a little worn, or unfashionable. Ironically, I had to pay quite alot for some of these library "rejects", like Glubb's books on Arabic History.

    I put Pear's Cyclopedia on the list, because it crams a lot of good stuff, including maps, into a single volume; though I do have electronic Britannica and two old sets of encyclopediae as well.

    If I had to narrow down to one, it would be Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert Thoulless. This book changed my life. Here is my review on Amazon about from 2002: I eventually got another second hand copy from an online bookshop.

    STOP PRESS! At long last it's being republished - due out April next year!!

  • Comment number 38.


    Maybe a good alternative ? and readily available

    A Rule Book for Arguments - Weston :

    Short and Sweet too !

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks for this Paul, reading through the various lists it was like bumping into forgotten friends in the street. There are some great books in the lists, many of which I share and just seeing their names again illicited strong emotions of various kinds.

    I am not sure if I willl get to 50 but here goes, please forgive my poor spelling.

    1) The Catcher in the rye
    2) The seven pillars of wisdom (TE lawrence)
    3) Out of Africa - Issac Dinesson
    4) Stranger in a strange land - Azimov
    5) Wuthering heights
    6) The hitch hikers guide to the galaxy
    7) The hitch hikers guide to Europe (circa 1986 version)
    8) Zen and the Art of motorcycle Maintenance
    9) Lila an enquiry into morals
    10) The tao of Lau Tsu
    11) Long Walk to Freedom (Mandela)
    12) Cosmos - carl Sagan
    13) Dune - Herbert
    14) The Heart of the matter - Graham green
    15) The Illiad
    16) The Trial
    17) The Biggles books (probably considered too non pc to print for kids now)
    18)Fear and Loathing in las vegas
    19) The quiet American - green
    20) Tricks of the Mind - Derren Brown
    21) The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
    22) 1984
    23) Picture of Dorian Grey
    24) Tess of Deubervills - hardy
    25)Various books on quantum theory and relativity - but none stand out

    I really struggled to get to 25 from memory. Not sure If I would want to dilute the above list further by thinking about it too much so here it stands at 25.

    How about an 'Anti' book list (books you read under duress because you thought you would get something out of it and wish you hadn't bothered).

    Here is my starter for a bit of fun

    1) Ullyses - what was all that about ?
    2) A brief History of time (ditto above)
    3)Thus spake zarathustra - - clever but just too wierd
    4)Shakespear (I enjoy the plays greatly but to read them raw is too much like learning another language now)
    5)Anything by Charles Dickens .. i just never 'got' him for some reason despite trying a few times.

    A great and welcome distraction this, thanks Paul.


  • Comment number 40.

    @38 Certainly looks complementary. :-)

    @29 I keep on having afterthoughts too. I need at least 100 books, not 50! For example how could I forget Gore Vidal? In particular, his books Julian, Lincoln, 1876, The Smithsonian Institution, inspired me to considerable research of my own on the subjects and main protagonists.

  • Comment number 41.

    I wasn't having a go at anyone people - just throwing my tuppence in.

    Are we allowed to include Erotica? Some of the finest works of literature have been works of Erotica.

    'The Story of O' is so over-rated in my personal opinion. Perhaps it loses something in translation?

    Anne Rice, when she is not writing about vampires, has penned some of the finest modern-day stuff to get you all hot and bothered. But, of course, no man should be at home without that Victorian classic, 'A Man and his Maid', on his bookshelf.

    I wonder what chances I have of anything on my bookshelf making the final list?


  • Comment number 42.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
    Across the Barricades (from school, remember?)
    All the President's Men Bernstein and Woodward
    An Evil Cradling Brian Keenan
    Around The World in Eighty Days Jules Verne
    Beyond Chutzpa Finkelstein
    Biko Donald Woods
    Biochemistry - Stryer
    Blood River Butcher
    Bury the Chains Adam Hockschild (I think)
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Dahl
    Climbing Mount Improbable Dawkins
    Collapse Jared Diamond
    Complete Poems and Songs of Rabbie Burns
    Disarmed and Dangerous, about the Berrigans
    Fairy Tales Hans Christian Andersen
    Flat Earth News
    Frankenstein Mary Shelley
    Freedom Evolves Daniel C Dennett
    Grimm's Fairy Tales
    Hamlet William Shakespeare
    In the Shadow of Man Jane Goodall
    Liberty in the Age of Terror A C Grayling
    Life On Earth David Attenborough
    Life Stories David Attenborough
    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
    Little Women Louisa M Alcott
    Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Nineteen Eighty Four George Orwell
    Roots Alex Haley
    Scottish Journey Edwin Muir
    Season of Blood Fergal Keane - you really want to put this down because the subject is so awful and so real (I remember so well) and we did nothing but it is such a well written book, you don't put it down, you try to hide from what your are reading as your heart breaks with horror and shame
    Tell Me No Lies John Pilger
    The Demon-Haunted World Carl Sagan
    The Great War for Civilisation Fisk
    The Greatest Show on Earth Richard Dawkins
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
    The Last of the Mohicans
    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy J. R. R. Tolkien
    The Loved One Evelyn Waugh
    The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire Arundati Roy
    The Origin of Species Charles Darwin
    The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry
    The Secret Seven Adventure Enid Blyton
    The Stand Stephen King
    We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families Philip (don't remember his surname)
    Wild Swans

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 31 - I've read all the books on my list - I do wonder why anyone would bother typing out a list books they haven't read (and am sure they haven't)! - and I included Call of the Wild. Ner!

    @ 38 - I spent many happy hours as a child looking at my mother's Pears Cyclopaedia. I recall being unduly fascinated by the order of precedence. The swottish child's Princess Barbie, perhaps?!

  • Comment number 44.

    @41 Good Point about the erotica, though the lady @30 mentioned Lady Chatterley. Can anyone who has read it ever forget Leslie Thomas' "Virgin Soldiers"? You also reminded me that my mother gave me an illustrated Folio edition of Ovid's "Art Of Love". That resides on the top shelf of its bookcase to keep it away from children. :-)

    @39 Jericoa - several books mentioned here are wholly or partly on my "anti" list, even though I have some of them. I may come back on that one!

  • Comment number 45.

    Is this a substitute for what is going on in the world?

    Is this it till after Christmas?

    Does this mean 'no reporting' taking the place of the usual 'pathetic, elitist, responsibility-dodging, miss-the-point and spew govt propaganda' BBC reporting that we get (and pay for) the rest of the year?

    Just so's I know

  • Comment number 46.

    this is a great game

    what i jus' flicked through, same as your , recognized (i'm using spellin' ck too) jus' the same old same old.


    when i's a kid me parents caught me reading something about 3 score and 10, don't know that just came to me. there was some rabble rousing song. No what it was, was, well ! can't remember. They seemed to think that i 'did'nt know. llad, din't still don't

    Love this game

    enit blighton . famous five. neah. what tis the first thing i read. ! member me mah. lighting the fire with , well using lastnights newpaper to creat a draghtf... she quoted from an article 'bout holographs. only 'member 'cause the thing caught fire.

    for me at that time seemed she believed in fakurs 3D, wow.

    fifty books ye want fifty books

    me big sister never brought back some book and i thought we's banned from all public libraries for ever. Me mah said she could read before she went to school. she was left handed but ye wrote with the right.

    Maybe it was lady chaterlys lover, she read when her parents' betters baned.

    Betty byrne walked down the lane, and rubber plastic from china gave off a poision

    fifty ways to kill yer liver

    she told me to write with me left hand, times had changed. by third grade ( iff'n yr with. 10 yr's old ) some gad damm sadist arrived in the class, we better get our 20 times tables together.

    shame shame shame

    this goes on today. what do they call it now. some italian city name. zizek know's it.

    how many are we upto now !

  • Comment number 47.

    Some political ones:

    The Rights on Man – Tom Paine
    Capital – Karl Marx
    Value, Price, and Profit - Karl Marx
    Socialism: Utopian & Scientific - Engels
    Reform or Revolution - Rosa Luxemburg
    The Accumulation of Capital – Rosa Luxemburg
    The State & Revolution – Lenin
    Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
    Limits to Capital – David Harvey
    The End of Oil – Paul Roberts
    The Enemy of Nature – Joel Kovel
    The Great War for Civilisation – Robert Fisk

  • Comment number 48.

    somebody somebody pls ck this out...

    if on 07 december 1938 naom chomsky gets an almanak in birthday present from granny in NYC. if this happens is there any referance to Ben Hecht there.

  • Comment number 49.


    de me

    subject: naom chomsky

    imagine it is 07 dec 1938

    some kid gets an almanac, it is his birthday : cant find the shit meself

    does it have a reference to Ben Hecht


  • Comment number 50.

    This is so dated. Surely the list should be along the lines of:

    1) Call of Duty
    2) Call of Duty: United Offensive
    3) Call of Duty 2
    4) Call of Duty 3, 4, 5, 6.... 9 million
    5) Doom
    6) Doom II
    7) Duke Nuke'Em
    8) Quake
    9) Quake II
    10) Quake III to XII
    11) World of Warcraft
    12) Pacman
    13) Donkey Kong
    16) The Gamers Guide to Divorce
    17) Dummies Guide to 'Why did she leave me?'

  • Comment number 51.

    I had to get to post 30 - ruralwoman - to find A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson which should be on every list. Also no mention of Micheo Kaku but Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins did get a brief mention. I am astonished that science and technology seems to virtually ignored. Everything around us is science, including the beginning of the multiverse - John Gribbin, Michoe Kaku.

  • Comment number 52.

    Thanks for the time-wasting diversion Paul, I should stop at 15...
    1. Fictions - Borges
    2. The Aleph - Borges
    3. The Idiot - Dostoevsky
    4. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
    5. Philosophical Investigations - Wittgenstein
    6. Master and the margarita - Bulgakov
    7. Small is beautiful - Schumacher
    8. The Castle - Kafka
    9. The Trial - Kafka
    10. Economic philosophy - Robinson
    11. Shock doctrine - Klein
    12. Feast of the goat - Llosa
    13. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - Bassani
    14. Zeno's Conscience - Svevo
    15. The heart of darkness - Conrad

  • Comment number 53.

    By the way.. for anyone who has a Kindle or other e-book reader, if you didn't know you don't have to pay for books that are past copyright.

    Can download many classics for free here:

  • Comment number 54.

    Cracking Christmas present Paul (more like a bumper bag that gets bigger with each post), and I was only going to get you a tie :)

    Fifty books is not enough and fifty authors isn't either.

    If Jobs wants to leave a legacy then he could create a modern Alexandrian Library, accessible at low cost to every person on the planet, I want to see every book in there (even the ones I will never read)

    Ben, speed read company statements, press releases and user manuals, noting the relevent details.

    An author (of both fiction and non-fiction) creates a rich world with words that you immerse yourself in. A good book stops time.

    'what tis the first thing i read'

    The first book that I chose and bought myself was a childrens version of Reynard the Fox, possibly an adaptation of Michel Rodange, I'm not sure why I chose that one, perhaps it was the cover, on reading the Wiki description the book may have influenced me in ways I had not thought of.

    Every book I've ever read (liked and disliked) has played (and continues to play) its part, a book is for life not just for christmas :).

    In my mis-spent young adulthood I had a job (on my own for 10hrs per night, 6 days per week) it was a rubbish job with rubbish pay but it allowed me to read up to 6 books per week (4 to 5 hrs per night), my local library was the county book repository (fortunately).

    Two or three sci fi books (my favourite fiction genre) although I had to ration myself, they were getting thin on the ground towards the end but all of Clarke, Assimov, Heinlein etc. I like anthologies of short stories.

    One or two other fiction which could be from any genre except romance and westerns (not a fan but Shane was one I did read)

    One biography (often political although anything that caught my eye) or autobiography (a life, in your own words)

    One textbook on physics, chemistry, psychology, social sciences etc.

    When it got difficult to find new books I gave up the job (and the reading) and went and found a proper job.

    In another recession in another town (with a smaller library) the summary of modern classic literature in the Pears encyclopedia was invaluable and I gained from reading James, Melville etc.

    Talking of the Pears, I had three, one from the 30's, one from the early 70's and a current one, the contrast in the accepted knowledge between the editions is fascinating.
    I have on my desk a book called 'The Universal Book of Everything' (which has to be the coolest title ever :) published at the end of 1937, Chamberlain is just walking down the steps of the plane...

    My list, sorry I haven't got one although I like reading everybody elses, titles and authors that conjure up memories of books I have read or pictures of others I wished to have read or ones I know I never will read.

    Last book I read, Fermats Last Theorem, current book is the Orwell Diaries but it is a bit slow going, I've been reading it for two years now, sometimes not even a page per day :), next book will probably be The point of Departure by Robin Cook.

    Merry Christmas to Paul and All.

    PS. my favourite short story is Space-time for Springers by Fritz Leiber.

  • Comment number 55.

    Am I alone in having the 1974 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records on my bookshelf?

  • Comment number 56.

    Here goes...
    1. Germinal - Zola
    2. The Age of Extremes - Hobsbawm
    3. What a Carve Up - Coe
    4. The Redundancy of Courage - Mo
    5. Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
    6. The Rachel Papers - Amis
    7. Julius Caesar - Shakespeare
    8. One of Us - Young
    9. Why Not Socialism? - Cohen
    10. 1984 - Orwell
    11. Whoops - Lanchester
    12. Heat - Monbiot
    13. A Savage War of Peace - Horne
    14. A Secret History of the IRA – Moloney
    15. The Prince – Machiavelli
    16. My Dad - Browne
    17. Christmas Carol - Dickens
    18. The Road – McCarthy
    19. The Rider – Krabbe
    20. Football Against the Enemy –Kuper
    21. Amsterdam – McEwan
    22. The Wild Places – McFarlane
    23. A Moment of War – Lee
    24. Readers Digest Guide to DIY
    25. The Diaries – Clarke
    26. Kitchen Diaries – Slater
    27. The Conclave – Bracewell
    28. GB84 – Peace
    29. The White Tiger – Adiga
    30. The Year of the Goat – Varga Llosa
    31. Bonfire of the Vanities – Wolfe
    32. L’Etranger – Camus
    33. The World Turned Upside Down – Hill
    34. The Constant Gardener – Le Carre
    35. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – Cassell
    36. Stig of the Dump – King
    37. The Spirit Level – Wilkinson and Pickett
    38. Into the Wild – Krakauer
    39. Ill Fares the Land – Judt
    40. On the Black Hill – Chatwin
    41. The Thirty-Nine Steps – Buchan
    42. The Line of Beauty – Hollinghurst
    43. The English Patient – Ondaatje
    44. Animal Farm - Orwell
    45. Treasure Island – Stevenson
    46. Goodbye to All That – Graves
    47. Europe Transformed 1878-1919 - Stone
    48. What is History? - Carr
    49. Wind in the Willows – Grahame
    50. Oxford English Dictionary

  • Comment number 57.

    "I've been reading it for two years now, sometimes not even a page per day :)"

    I used to plow through them no matter how much I hated them. Nowadays I'm still reluctant but will stop if less than halfway through, but it still feels like I ought to try and make the best of it. Yet I have walked out of the odd film, which is far less of a time investment to sit right through. I ought to be more harsh, as I will only read a finite amount before I pop my clogs, so reading something I don't enjoy is a real waste.

  • Comment number 58.

    #57 Ben, there isn't much that I have started that I haven't finished, only Finnegans Wake by Joyce springs to mind (the last page looks just like the first to me, I just couldn't make head nor tail of it).

    The Orwell Diary entries are published on the day George (Eric Blair) wrote them but 70 years late.

    'That bastard Chiappe is cold meat. Everyone delighted, as when Balbo died. This war is at any rate killing off a few Fascists.'

    this is the entry for 1st Dec 1940 and nothing since. (but he'll be back :)

  • Comment number 59.

    Bobrocket - "An author (of both fiction and non-fiction) creates a rich world with words that you immerse yourself in. A good book stops time."

    Yes, this is my feeling on this too. I feel speed-reading fiction is missing the point. But for academic stuff it's sometimes useful.

    I love Orwell but if you are finding it too slow, try Spike Milligan's war diaries. Silly but funny.

    Regarding binning books, it's rare that I bail out early. The only one I recall gladly letting go was "Life of Pi".

    Interesting lists. I'll cross-reference those that have some I know I enjoyed and add them to my amazon wish list...

  • Comment number 60.

    #7 - GorlagonUK:

    Origin of Species - Charles Dickens


  • Comment number 61.

    don't be so pedantic, tis a word game

    1) read various
    2) can't remember
    3) what was i reading on that train from madrid to gard du nord.

    ... jeas so long ago, what is that novel where the writer is saying, he is trying to convince his mate, 'bout truth of story, 'bout some old guy 'members saving the body from death, and looses his back, god what is the name of that... i laughed on a midnight train, an my eyes met the only other english speaking passanger,

    wont narman mahler, not that high brow, hotel newhamshire guy, think. what the xxxx was that novel ! killing me now. get it in a minute

    keep it up boys

  • Comment number 62.

    #60 - yes! I did sigh @ me at #8. You missed Over Milk Wood, which I also sighed at myself about. It's quite a tricky task this, typing straight into the comments box without a) looking at bookshelves, b) sneaking a look at other webpages and c) not typo-ing. I'm afraid I wasn't quite up to all three!

  • Comment number 63.

    Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (the whole set)
    Aristotle Nicomacean Ethics
    Atwood Up in the Tree
    Burgess A Clockwork Orange
    Carr The Twenty Years Crisis
    Carroll Alice in Wonderland & Alice Through the Looking Glass
    Chomsky Manufacturing Consent
    Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment
    Endo Scandal
    Fischer The Thought Gang
    Fischer Under the Frog
    Gregory Eye and Brain
    Guevera Bolivian Diary
    Hayek The Road to Serfdom
    Hegel The Philosophy of Right
    Heller Catch 22
    Hobbes Leviathan
    Holland Dinner with Mugabe
    Huxley Brave New World
    Ishiguru A Pale View of the Hills
    Ishiguru An Artist of the Floating World
    Judt Post-War
    Kafka The Trial
    Kant Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals
    Keynes The General Theory
    Kipling The Jungle Book
    Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    Lee To Kill a Mocking Bird
    Levi The Periodic Table
    Machiavelli The Prince
    Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom
    Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude
    Marx & Engels The Communist Manifesto
    Mill On Liberty
    Milne The House at Pooh Corner
    Orwell 1984
    Orwell Animal Farm
    Park The Truth Commissioner
    Plato The Republic
    Popper Open Society and its Enemies (Vols 1& 2)
    Reinhart and Rogoff This Time is Different
    Roth The Radetsky March
    Smith Theory of Moral Sentiments
    Smith Wealth of Nations
    Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life…
    Swift A Modest Proposal
    Voltaire Candide
    Wentworth Thinking Aloud
    Zauman Modernity and The Holocaust
    Zweig The Royal Game

  • Comment number 64.

    Haven't got around to finishing reading all of these yet (esp Will Shaks). In no particular order....

    1. The Complete Works - William Shakespeare
    2. Gladstone - Philip Magnus
    3. Between Silk and Cyanide - Leo Marks
    4. Brief History of time – Stephen Hawking
    5. The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
    6. The Origin of Species, Darwin
    7. Candide - Voltaire
    8. L’Etranger - Camus
    9. La Peste - Camus
    10. The Glassbead Game - Hesse
    11. Siddharta - Hesse
    12. Nightrunners of Bengal - Masters
    13. The UK Economy - Prest & Coppock
    14. A textbook of Economics - Lipsey
    15. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Pirsig
    16. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    17. Love on the Dole - Arthur Greenwood
    18. Collected Stories - Saki
    19. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Le Carre
    20. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Gibbon
    21. I Claudius - Robert Graves.
    22. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
    23. Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
    24. Animal Farm - George Orwell
    25. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
    26. Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
    27. The Lord of the Rings - J R R Tolkien
    28. The Hobbit - J R R Tolkien.
    29. Poems of Catullus
    30. The Day Of The Triffids - John Wyndham
    31. The Long walk to freedom - Mandela
    32. A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
    33. 2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C Clarke
    34. Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
    35. Aubrey/Maturin any one or more of the 19 novels - Patrick O’Brien
    36. Bevan - Michael Foot
    37. La Porte Etroite - Gide
    38. Stalingrad - Anthony Beevor
    39. The Next Moon - Ewen Southby Tailyour/Andre Hue
    40. War diaries of Sir Alan Brooke 1939-45 – Ed. Danchev/Todman
    41. Dambusters - Paul Brickhill
    42. Empire of the Sun - J G Ballard
    43. Pacifist at War, Francis Cammaerts – Ray Jenkins
    44. Aristide, The story of Roger Landes - Nicolson
    45. Biggles and [the Inca Gold ?title?] - WE Johns
    46. Chariots of the Gods – von Daniken
    47. Narnia novels - CS Lewis
    48. Stig of the Dump - Clive King
    49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
    50. Emile & the Detectives – Erich Kastner

    I'll confess to being prompted by the earlier entries, but a selection from over the years.

  • Comment number 65.

    51# Horace Knight
    Thank you for supporting my best ever read A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
    It explained so much, so well and with great deal of humor.
    I will always be grateful to the tourist met on a fishing trip in Marlborough Sound who strongly recommended it only two years ago.
    Dickens depressed, Hardy too, Shakespeare failed to inspire ... Bryson lit a fire.

    I would like to ask my learned friends can anyone recommend a book on Oliver Cromwell?

  • Comment number 66.

    #65 Cromwell
    'Gods Englishman' by Christopher Hill, but don't forget that CH comes at it from, ahem 'the left'.

  • Comment number 67.

    @65 Re Cromwell: Antonia Fraser's 'Cromwell - Our Chief Of Men' is on my list. A very interesting pro-Cromwell book from a Roman Catholic.

    Her historical stuff is very well researched, and though she makes her personal opinions clear, she presents the facts dispassionately enough for it to be possible to come to a rather different conclusion. I found this with her book 'The Gunpowder Plot'.

    @39 Jericoa One on my "anti" list is Karl Popper's 'Logic of Scientific Discovery'. It's not that I disagree with his conclusions, but his style is long winded and bombastic. It seems at times like Monty Python's Miss Ann Elk: "This is my theory which is mine and belongs to me".

    Whilst looking for this on YouTube I came across another absolute gem too, about Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion:

  • Comment number 68.

    books that are books...

    mots et choses - foucault
    war and peace - tolstoy
    2666 - bolano
    underworld - delillo
    frankenstein - shelley
    kapital - marx
    gravity's rainbow - pynchon
    recherche du temps perdu - proust
    crime and punishment - dostoyevsky
    the past - alan pauls

    usa - dos passos
    tender is the night - fitzgerald
    savage detectives - bolano
    pedro paromo - juan rulfo
    camera lucida - barthes
    collected letters - hunter s thompson
    the speed of light - javier cercas
    rainy season - jose agualusa
    remainder - tom mccarthy
    bartleby - vila-matas

    great expectations - dickens
    paradise lost - milton
    don juan - byron
    crying of lot 49 - pynchon
    moby dick - melville
    the outsider - camus
    sonnets - shakespeare
    snow - pamuk
    the sacred book of the werewolf - pelevin
    a grain of wheat - ngugi wa thiong'o

    leviathan - hobbs
    beyond good and evil - nietzsche
    simulacra - baudrillard
    gatsby - fitzgerald
    the plague - camus
    narziss and goldmund - hesse
    madame bovary - flaubert
    the good soldier - ford
    confessions - rousseau
    madness and civilisation - foucault

  • Comment number 69.

    No one's mentioned Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner - yer ain't lived.

  • Comment number 70.

  • Comment number 71.


    Antonia Fraser's `Our Chief of Men' is the most readable biography on Oliver Comwell. Christopher Hill's `God's Englishman' is a bit wordy and worthy. However, Hill's knowledge of his subject and context is excellent. His various works on the cultural and intellectual origins of the Civil War are second to none.

    For a really good taste of the period from all sides I can recommend Diane Purkiss `The English Civil War: A people's history. A heavy tome which looks at the society from both the top and the bottom. It creates a superb context and she likes one of my heroes, Gerrard Winstanley.

    I have also recently enjoyed reading Whitney Jones' `Thomas Rainsborowe' a biography of one of the truly wonderful men of the Civil War period. `There is no he that is in England that hath not a life to live as the greatest he'. An early Tom Wintringham if there ever was. The book has some good footnotes for more research. For context of the wider issues then Brailsford's `The Levellers' is a good read; but it is now out of print I believe.

    It has taken me twenty years to find the English in my family amongst the Caledonians and the Hibernians but their boots seem to be marching me into Bedfordshire where one district sent a regiment to the New Model. This is a wonderful irony!

    I also recommend Willaim Godwin's `Political Justice' which comes directly out of the English puritan culture. Given the context of our times we need to refer back to all those folk: Mr. & Mrs. Lilburne, Mr & Mrs Overton, William Walwyn, John Milton, the amazingly irritating but delightful John Bunyan who served his time in the Parliamentary Army not far from where I now sit, his associate John Gibbs, and so on and so on: the list is long.

  • Comment number 72.

    Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach

    I don't know why but it suddenly jumped into my head, I've been thinking books since you posted this article Paul :)

  • Comment number 73.

    No one admitted to 'Men are from Mars Women are from Venus' yet?

    In an age of anxiety the lack of books on depression, positive thinking, relationships, divorce and sexual dysfunction are surprisingly lacking.

    Someone is buying them but seemingly not the posters who post to this blog.


  • Comment number 74.

    73# tawse57
    I thought we all evolved from monkeys rather than other planets.
    Nobody has admitted to the Kama Sutra either.
    66, 67 and 71#
    Thank you kindly for your recommendations.
    I will give Antonia Fraser's `Our Chief of Men' a try.
    Actually this blog made me think of a book I really enjoyed as a child "The Children of the New Forest" which in turn reminded me I wanted to read about Cromwell.
    I couldn't add it to my list at 30 without the authors name, ditto Winnie the Pooh... ditto Kama Sutra ! Only joking far too complicated for me.

  • Comment number 75.

    Winnie the Pooh and the Kama Sutra should never be mentioned in the same breath let alone the same sentence.

    Judging by the hiruste drawings of a man and his partner in the first editions of 'The Joy of Sex' we did indeed evolve from monkeys ruralwoman.

    Oddly, no one on here appears to have that book on their bookshelf either - probably explains why so many of us so frequently post on here.

  • Comment number 76.

    History teaches us that fools do not learn the lessons from the mistakes of the past... and then, just to compound their stupidity, they go out and repeat the same mistakes again and again.

    'This was the prime error made during The Depression. Contrary to Bernanke's claims of being "a student" of The Depression he's really the Fool-in-Chief of that time. FDR's devaluation of the currency trashed the tax base and guaranteed sky-high unemployment for the same reason it's happening now - devaluation of the currency destroys the finances of the middle class and below as their spending on essential commodities (food, fuel, clothing) is not only more-or-less fixed in volume (which means their cost to those people ramps as price rises) but as a percentage of income this expenditure is much higher than it is for upper-income earners.'

    Same thing is happening here in the UK.

    The Private Sector, especially the small business person, continues to be bled dry. There is very little life blood left in thousands of such businesses up and down the country.

    Meanwhile, although there is much talk of Public Sector job cuts to share the pain, few cuts are happening at all in reality in the Public Secor. It is a bluff by the ConLib Government but it is a deadly one as small businesses continue to die.

    Talk is cheap.

    I think a fundamental problem we have, on both sides of the Atlantic, is that the political class is not economically savvy enough to realise that the so-called financial gurus and self-proclaimed 'students of the Great Depression' havent got a clue and, in many ways, are repeating the same mistakes of the 1930s.

    Perhaps we should put some Economic and Great Depression books not just on this list but in the Christmas stockings of every Western politican?

    Is there a 'Dummies Guide to What Ben Bernanke Did Wrong' out yet?

  • Comment number 77.

    @74 The standard wedding present I give is a case of wine and a (suitably tasteful) illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra - there's a cute cartoon one by 'Sherry' available too!

    I also read - and really enjoyed - 'The Children Of The New Forest', by Captain Marryat, when I was nine or so. about the same time as I first read 'Treasure Island' for myself - my mum had read it to me when I was younger. A few years later I borrowed Marryat's 'Peter Simple' from the library, which was nowhere near as good.

    I did like him, but I'm afraid my favourite Pooh quote is "I'm not being photographed with that bloody bear!" (by Christopher-Robin Milne.)

  • Comment number 78.

    OK, I give in...

    'The Silver Sword', about a brother and sister trying to survive in World War Two Polish ghettos, is a book that I remember with fondness from child-hood. Even now I can recall the sense of fear, the feelings of hunger and the determination to survive that the book evoked.

    As this is a blog, surely a more interesting and relative list should have been 50 bloggers that you follow... or 50 links you had clicked on but wished you hadn't... or 50 twitters you would like to throttle?

  • Comment number 79.

    I ran out of steam at 31. I can remember many more that I wish I hadn't read (step forward Louis Althusser) but without checking my shelves 31 is about it.

    Ruth Scurr: Fatal Purity
    Mike Davis: City of Quartz
    Raymond Williams: Resources of Hope
    Jonathan Coe: What A Carve Up
    George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia
    Richard Dawkins: The Blind Watchmaker
    Isaac Deutscher: The Prophet Armed
    Isaac Deutscher: The Prophet Unarmed
    Isaac Deutscher: The Prophet Outcast
    Antonio Gramsci: The Prison Notebooks
    Mark Mazower: Dark Continent
    Derek Sayer: The Violence of Abstraction
    Hilary Mantel: A Place of Greater Safety
    Tony Judt: The Burden of Responsibility
    Claus Offe: Disorganised Capitalism
    Raphael Samuel: The Lost World of British Communism
    E P Thompson: The Poverty of Theory & Other Essays
    David Coates: The Labour Party & the Struggle for Socialism
    Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation
    Karl Marx: Early Writings
    Marx & Engels: The Communist Manifesto
    Simon Clarke: The Foundations of Structuralism
    Donald Sassoon: One Hundred Years of Socialism
    Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle
    Robert Skidelsky: John Maynard Keynes 1883-1946
    Ed Moloney: A Secret History of the IRA
    Henry Patterson: The Politics of Illusion
    Michael Mann: Fascists
    Theodore Adorno & Max Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment
    John Gaventa: Power & Powerlessness
    Stephen Lukes: Power – a radical view
    Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities

  • Comment number 80.

    Trying to wring these out was an oddly cathartic experience. Something meditative to make time stand still amid the current troubles. Thanks for the opportunity.
    Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne
    The Endless Steppe, Esther Hautzig
    The Stone Book stories, Alan Garner
    The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliff
    The Rocks of Honey, Patricia Wrightson
    The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
    Dao De Jing
    Oku-no-Hosomichi, Matsuo Basho
    The Bible
    Essays of Montaigne
    Poems of John Donne
    Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
    Middlemarch, George Eliot
    War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
    Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
    Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Short stories of Henry Lawson, including “The Drover’s Wife”
    To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
    Poems of Wilfred Owen
    The Slave, Isaac Bashevis Singer
    Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton
    Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
    Catch-22, Joseph Heller
    The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
    The Color Purple, Alice Walker
    Remembering Babylon, David Malouf
    Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
    Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
    Animal Farm, George Orwell
    Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
    Walden, Henry David Thoreau
    The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
    A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
    A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey
    The Condition of Postmodernity, David Harvey
    Renewing Socialism, Leo Panitch
    Nemesis, Chalmers Johnson
    The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein
    The Spirit Level, Wilkinson and Pickett
    Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
    Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky
    Unto Others, Sober and Wilson
    Hierarchy in the Forest, Christopher Boehm
    War and Peace and War, Peter Turchin
    Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy Wilson
    Primates and Philosophers, Frans de Waal
    Unschooling Society, Ivan Illich
    Introduction to Functional Grammar, Halliday and Matthiessen

  • Comment number 81.

    A library should be for consulting – about the glories of novels, short stories, poetry, essays but also art and human knowledge. With only 50 books allowed, novels will have to be excluded - which means no Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” or Voltaire’s “Candide” let alone any of the powerful South Americans (Allende, Marquez) or Israeli novels from Oz or Yehoshuova (“The Liberated Bride”). However, some books come in multi-volume collections eg Lewis Crassic Gibbon’s “Sunset Song”; Lawrence Durrell’s “The Alexandrian Quartet”; Olivia Manning’s “Balkan Trilogy”; and Naguib Mahfouz's "Children of the Alley" and therefore give good bangs for bucks. Collections of essays, poetry and short stories also give much more reading per book (unless it’s War and Peace) - so the collected poetry of Brecht, TS Eliot, Norman McCaig and WS Graham would be there; as well as the Collected Short Stories of Nabokov, William Trevor, Carol Shields, Heinrich Boell and Alice Munro; and the essays of Montaigne.
    If allowed, I would also have a few collections of painters eg the Russian Itinerants or Scottish colourists. Chuck in a few Etymologies and overviews of intellectual endeavours of recent times such as Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and Peter Watson’s A Terrible Beauty - and I would then have space for about 30 individual titles. My basic criteria would be (a) the light it throws on the last century and (b) the quality of the language.
    Robert Michels; Political Parties (1911)
    Joseph Schumpeter; Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
    Reinhold Niebuhr; Moral Man and Immoral Society
    Arthur Koestler; early biography
    Leopold Kohr; The Breakdown of Nations
    JK Galbraith; The Affluent Society
    Ivan Illich; Deschooling Society
    Robert Greene; 49 laws of power
    Tony Judt; History of Post-war Europe
    Gerald Brennan; South from Granada
    Richard Cobb; Paris and Elswhere
    Amos Oz; Tale of Love and Darkness
    Claude Magris; Danube
    Julian Barnes; Nothing to be Frightened Of
    Michael Foley; The Age of Absurdity
    Toby Jones; Utopian Dreams
    Nassim Taleb; The Black Swan
    Roger Deakin; Notes from walnut tree farm
    Geert Mak; In Europe – travels through the twentieth century
    Donald Sassoon; A Hundred Years of Socialism in Western Europe
    And, more classically -
    Marcus Aurelius; Meditations
    Machiavelli; The Prince

  • Comment number 82.

    1. Leo Tolstoy “Anna Karenina”
    2. Leo Tolstoy “War and Peace”
    3. Haruki Murakami “The wind-up bird chronicle”
    4. Haruki Murakami “A wild sheep chase”
    5. Simone de Beauvoir “The Mandarins”
    6. Simone de Beauvoir “She came to stay”
    7. Simone de Beavoir “The Second Sex”
    8. Simone de Beauvoir “All men are mortal”
    9. Jean-Paul Sartre “Words”
    10. Fyodor Dostoyevsky “Brothers Karamazovs”
    11. Fyodor Dostoyevsky “Crime and Punishment”
    12. Ivan Turgenev “Fathers and Children”
    13. Mikhail Lermontov “A hero of our time”
    14. Aleksandr Sozhenitsyn “One Day in life of Ivan Denisovich”
    15. Ken Kesey “Sometimes a great notion”
    16. Albert Camus “The outsider”
    17. John Steinbeck “Of mice and men”
    18. John Steinbeck “East of Eden”
    19. Jonh Steinbeck “The grapes of wrath”
    20. Herman Hesse “The prodigy”
    21. Herman Hesse “Siddhartha”
    22. Emile Zola “Earth”
    23. Voltaire “Candide”
    24. Louis-Ferdinand Celine “Journey to the end of the night”
    25. Henry D. Thoreau “Walden”
    26. Isabel Allense “The House of Spirits”
    27. Salman Rushdie “Shame”
    28. Salman Rushdie “The satanic verses”
    29. Salman Rushdie “Midnight’s Children”
    30. James Baldwin “Giovanni’s room”
    31. Julio Cortazar “Hopscotch”
    32. Eca de Queiroz “The Relic”
    33. Gabriel Garcia Marquez “One hundred years of solitude”
    34. Jose Saramago “Blindness”
    35. Jose Saramago “The year of death of Ricardo Reis”
    36. Fernando Pessoa “The book of disquiet”
    37. Homer “Odyssey”
    38. Homer “Iliad”
    39. Jack Kerouac “On the road”
    40. Heinrich Boll “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum”
    41. Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov “And quiet flows the Don”
    42. Miguel Angel Asturias “The President”
    43. Bertrand Russell “History of western philosophy”
    44. Isaiah Berlin “Russian Thinkers”
    45. Noam Chomsky “Hegemony or Survival”
    46. Noam Chomsky “New world of indigenous resistance”
    47. Hannah Arendt “Eichmann in Jerusalem”
    48. Naomi Klein “The shock doctrine”
    49. Stephen Hawking “A brief history of time”
    50. James Gleick ‘Genius”

  • Comment number 83.

    Good grief! I can't do 50, but I couldn't manage without these
    1 The Go Between L P Hartley
    2 The Whitsun Weddings Philip Larkin
    3 A Glass of Blessings Barbara Pym
    4 Phillips School Atlas published c.1972 (new countries have since been invented)
    5 A moveable feast Ernest Hemingway
    6 Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course
    7 Found in the Street Patricia Highsmith
    8 Sweet William Beryl Bainbridge
    9 Summoned by Bells John Betjeman
    10 Psychogeography 2 Will Self

    Happy New Year!


More from this blog...

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.