It’s December 2021 and my wife and I decide we’d like to read some classic novels. The sort of books that are recommended ‘must reads’ that stand the test of time. So we had a look through a few ‘100 books that everyone should read’ lists and went for this one – 100 Books Everyone Should Read (Ranked by the Users of Goodreads!) (listchallenges.com). Some of the other lists included the Complete Works of Shakespeare as one book which seemed a bit much. Other lists were looked over because they seemed almost entirely comprised of American literature. Lots of classic books are American, but not all of them, surely.

Initially we thought we’d read them in order, but in the end decided to just go for the ones as and when they took our fancy. This will hopefully keep us interested and not result in us leaving a load of dull sounding books until the end.

The following is the checklist of the books we’ve read and our thoughts on them.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. The Diary of Anne Frank
4. 1984 (George Orwell)
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
6. The Lord of the Rings
7. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
8. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

Charlotte’s Web is lovely. It’s set in a different time and it’s written in a different way to the more contemporary children’s books we’ve enjoyed so far. The language and the structure of Charlotte’s Web suggested to me that it was crafted rather than written. It’s really quite beautiful.

Fern saves Wilbur from being slaughtered on the day of his birth and when she can no longer look after him, Charlotte, a spider, keep a watch over him. Charlotte is a wonderfully selfless hero who exhausts herself some much in her mission to save Wilbur, that she ends up making the ultimate sacrifice. A glorious read and one that has encouraged us to explore a few more older books.

9. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
10. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
11. Fahrenheit 451
12. Jane Eyre
13. Animal Farm
14. Gone With the Wind
15. The Catcher in the Rye
16. The Book Theif (Markus Zusak)
17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
18. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
19. The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
20. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
21. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
22. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
23. Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
24. Night (Elie Wiesel)
25. Hamlet
26. A Wrinkle in Time
27. Of Mice and Men
28. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
29. Romeo and Juliet
30. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
31. The Secret Garden
32. A Christmas Carol
33. The Little Prince
34. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
35. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K.Rowling)
36. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
37. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
38. Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein)
39. Wuthering Heights
40. The Fault in Our Stars
41. Anne of Green Gables
42. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
43. MacBeth
44. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo
45. Frankenstein
46. Holy Bible King James Version
47. The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
48. The Count of Monte Cristo
49. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
50. East of Eden
51. Alice in Wonderland
52. In Cold Blood
53. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
54. The Stand
55. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
56. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
57. Ender’s Game
58. Anna Karenina
59. Watership Down
60. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
61. Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)
62. A Game of Thrones
63. Great Expectations
64. The Old Man and the Sea
65. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
66. Les Mis
67. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
68. Life of Pi
69. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
70. Celebrating Silence (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)
71. The Chronicles of Narnia
72. The Pillars of the Earth
73. Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
74. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

Just as wonderful as I remember it as a child. It’s Dahl at his best, but be warned, the follow up about the glass elevator is absolutely the worst of his books and very probably the worst book I’ve ever read.

75. Dracula
76. The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
77. Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
78. The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)
79. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
80. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
81. One Hundred Years of Solitude
82. The Time Traveler’s Wife
83. The Odyssey
84. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
85. Mockingjay
86. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
87. The Thorn Birds
88. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
89. The Glass Castle
90. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
91. Crime and Punishment
92. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
93. The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien)
94. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
95. Beloved (Toni Morrison)
96. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
97. Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
98. The Phantom Tollbooth
99. The Brothers Karamazov
100. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller