I Do Love a Good Book List

In the same way that I love following literary prize races (see my post on that topic from a couple weeks ago), I adore a good book list. This includes everything from an inspirational lifetime reading menu such as 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die to those gimmicky “5 Novels About…” or “10 Books for People Who Like…” lists you get on websites like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

Every time a new ‘Best Books Ever’ type of checklist comes out, I gleefully scan through to figure out how many I’ve already read. Usually the disappointing results smack me back and remind me that for all my voracious reading, I still haven’t read many of the classics everyone’s supposed to have read by my age.

Here for your delectation (if you like this sort of thing) is a sampling of the book lists I’ve bookmarked over the years, with my running total noted in brackets after each:


National Savings Committee, James Haworth and Brother Ltd, London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time, as chosen by the Guardian in 2003 [33]

1000 novels everyone must read, as chosen by the Guardian in 2009 (interestingly, they divide it up by genre: Love Stories, Crime Fiction, Comedy, Family & Self, State of the Nation, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and War & Travel) [155 + 2 in progress]

The 100 greatest non-fiction books, as chosen by the Guardian in 2011 [7]

Vintage 21, a set of 21 modern classics chosen in 2011 [14]

100 novels everyone should read, as chosen by the Telegraph in April [29]

The 100 best novels written in English, as chosen by Robert McCrum in the Guardian last week [34]


Anne Claude de Caylus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
65 Books You Need To Read in Your 20s, from BuzzFeed (alas, it’s too late for many of us) [13, 12 of which I think I read in my 20s]

25 Books to Help You Survive Your Mid-20s, from Bustle (ditto) [9, all read in my 20s, I think]

Conversely, here’s 15 Books You Should Definitely Not Read in Your 20s from Flavorwire (well, that’s alright, then) [I disobeyed them on 4 counts]

21 Books Every Woman Should Read By 35, from Bustle (I’ve got 3.13 years to work on it) [5; I left The Flamethrowers unfinished]

11 Novels That Expectant Parents Should Read Instead of Parenting Books, from Electric Literature (my mother may be reading this, so I must hastily add that THIS SITUATION DOES NOT APPLY TO ME!) [6]

John Steinbeck in 1962
John Steinbeck in 1962


The Best Hemingway Novels, on Publishers Weekly [2 out of 6, but A Moveable Feast is my favorite from him]

The 13 Best John Steinbeck Books, on Publishers Weekly [3]

The 10 Best Mark Twain Books, on Publishers Weekly [just 1!]

23 Contemporary Writers You Should Have Read by Now, on Reader’s Digest [I’ve read 3, Elizabeth Spencer, Percival Everett and Pamela Erens]

Beyond Murakami: 7 Japanese Authors to Read, on Book Riot [none so far]


20 Classic Novels You’ve Never Heard of, from QwikLit [I’ve heard of plenty of these, but only read 1]

12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your Theology, from RELEVANT Magazine [3]

The 10 Best Books Shorter Than 150 Pages, on Publishers Weekly [2]

10 Best Southern Gothic Books, on Publishers Weekly [none so far]

10 Novels with Multiple Narratives, on Publishers Weekly [2]

The 10 Best Short Story Collections You’ve Never Read, on Publishers Weekly [they got that right; none so far]

The top 10 novels about childbirth, on the Guardian (again, NOT APPLICABLE TO ME!) [7]

novel cureHow to not be scared of sci-fi: 10 best novels for sci-fi beginners, chosen by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin for We Love This Book [5]


Berthoud and Elderkin are the School of Life bibliotherapists as well as the authors of The Novel Cure, which is another wonderful source of top 10 lists. Two I’ve found particularly useful are “The Ten Best Novels for Thirtysomethings” (I’m working on my fourth title) and “The Ten Best Novels to Turn Your Partner (Male) on to Fiction” (my husband’s now read three and loved them all). I also highly recommend Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust series of four books, each one divided into themes.


Not a book list, but it may be useful for all you bibliophiles:

The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers, by Flavorwire


Do you love book lists as much as I do? Are you addicted to counting how many you’ve read from a checklist?

How do you fare on the lists above? 

10 thoughts on “I Do Love a Good Book List

  1. I’m a bit of a sucker for book lists too. And though I know it’s ridiculous, I feel absurdly happy if I score well, and disappointingly – er- disappointed if I don’t. I’ve just discovered your blog via one of your existing readers – Penny, and have signed up to follow your posts. I wish I got the email notification option, but as an existing WordPress user, apparently not, and I’m poor at following through the Reader. Still, I’m looking forward to reading more from you.


    1. Hi Margaret, delighted to have you following — thank you! (And thank you to Penny.) I agree it’s easiest to be e-mailed every time there’s a new post, but I haven’t figured out how to set that up yet. I also announce it on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter whenever I have a new post, if those are any good to you?


      1. I’ve just checked. by the way. To set up your blog so people can sign up to get email notification, go to ‘Appearance’in the side-bar menu, then ‘Widgets’ then select ‘Follow blog’. Hope that helps.


  2. Give me a list and I have to do my own totting up! 🙂 (I’ve saved a link to this post for future reference – truly, thanks for putting all these in one place).
    I’ve read: 35 off each off: the first Guardian list, Telegraph and Robert McCrum’s. 8 from the NF, and 245 off the Guardian 1000 novels (incl 61 of the SF ones).

    Of course, these lists are the reflection of their editors and are quite subjective and I’ve read plenty more unlisted books by listed authors. I am happy enough that I’m well-read in general, although lacking in many areas of the literary canon, but I have no desire to fill those in necessarily. It’s still fun to do the checking off though!


Leave a Reply to Rebecca Foster Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.