50 Essential Reads & My Illiterate Ass

More fun from Kevin, based on the recent Orange Prize essential list. Your mission: Bold the titles you’ve read. My count is 22, or less than half of the 50.

1. A Hundred Years of Solitude — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. A Prayer for Owen Meany — John Irving
3. A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth
4. American Pastoral Philip Roth
5. Atonement — Ian McEwan
6. Being Dead — Jim Crace
7. Birdsong — Sebastian Faulks
8. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — Louis de Bernieres
9. Cloudstreet — Tim Winton
10. Disgrace — JM Coetzee
11. Enduring Love — Ian McEwan
12. Faith Singer Rosie Scott
13. Fingersmith Sarah Waters
14. Fred and Edie Jill Dawson
15. Fugitive Pieces Anne Michaels
16. Girl with a Pearl Earring — Tracy Chevalier
17. Grace Notes — Bernard MacLaverty
18. High Fidelity — Nick Hornby
19. His Dark Materials Trilogy — Philip Pullman
20. Hotel World — Ali Smith
21. Middlesex — Jeffrey Eugenides
22. Midnight’s Children — Salman Rushdie
23. Misery — Stephen King
24. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow — Peter Hoeg
25. Money — Martin Amis
26. Music and Silence — Rose Tremain
27. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit — Jeanette Winterson
28. Riders — Jilly Cooper
29. Slaughterhouse-Five — Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Blind Assassin — Margaret Atwood
31. The Corrections — Jonathan Franzen
32. The Golden Notebook — Doris Lessing
33. The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood
34. The House of Spirits — Isabelle Allende
35. The Name of the Rose — Umberto Eco
36. The Passion — Jeanette Winterson
37. The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver
38. The Rabbit Books — John Updike
39. The Regeneration Trilogy — Pat Barker
40. The Secret History — Donna Tartt
41. The Shipping News — E Annie Proulx
42. The Tin Drum — Gunter Grass
43. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle — Haruki Murakami
44. The Women’s Room — Marilyn French
45. Tracey Beaker — Jacqueline Wilson
46. Trainspotting — Irvine Welsh
47. Unless — Carol Shields
48. What a Carve-Up — Jonathan Coe
49. What I Loved — Siri Hustvedt
50. White Teeth — Zadie Smith


  1. Interesting idea for a list. Of course these things are always incomplete, but man, Morrison seems a fairly major oversight by the British literary public. Salinger and Harper Lee are still alive, so technically eligible for the award, but maybe their lack of production disqualifies them. Surprised not to see DeLillo or Peter Carey. And Nick Hornby, really? Always thought of him as an English Tom Perrotta–enjoyable but strange to see on a list with Gunther Grass, Rushdie, Vonnegut, and others. Oh yea, and what about Milan Kundera?

  2. I’d guess I’ve read about half from glancing at it. Nice to see Irvine Welsh getting some props, though I enjoy his short stories better than Trainspotting.

  3. Copy edited version of previous grammatically infelicitous comment:

    Do I score a 50 if I have read 100 Years of Solitude 50 times?

  4. Birnbaum: Well, my girlfriend was able to improve her score because she’s read “100 Years” in Spanish. Of course, I’d easily get in the 30s or 40s if I counted the OTHER titles I’ve read by these authors. Or, for that matter, if I noted that about five of these titles are in the bookpiles. 🙂

    And I’m with Charles. Prefer “Acid House” to “Trainspotting,” though I prefer Vollman’s streetcred to Welsh’s.

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