John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

The Great British Literary Census

The British bookseller Waterstone's recently asked its 5,000 employees to name their five favorite books written since 1982, when the chain was founded. I've posted the list behind the cut; I bolded the books that I've read, and underlined those I started but never finished. The books, for some reason, are listed in reverse order of publication.

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
  2. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
  3. Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
  4. Kate Mosse, Labyrinth
  5. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
  6. David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
  7. Susannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  8. Andrea Levy, Small Island
  9. Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
  10. Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
  11. Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  12. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
  13. Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
  14. Zoe Heller, Notes On A Scandal
  15. D.B.C. Pierre, Vernon God Little
  16. Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
  17. Sarah Waters, Fingersmith
  18. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
  19. Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things
  20. Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
  21. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind
  22. Yann Martel, The Life of Pi
  23. Ian McEwan, Atonement
  24. Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl
  25. Glen David Gold, Carter Beats The Devil
  26. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay
  27. Sophie Kinsella, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic
  28. Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius
  29. Zadie Smith, White Teeth
  30. Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
  31. Anthony Beevor, Stalingrad
  32. Julia Donaldson, The Gruffalo
  33. Joanne Harris, Chocolat
  34. Michael Coetzee, Disgrace
  35. Louis Sacher, Holes
  36. Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  37. Douglas Coupland, Girlfriend In A Coma
  38. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  39. Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
  40. Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
  41. Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
  42. Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain
  43. Iain Pears, An Instance Of The Fingerpost
  44. Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel
  45. Alex Garland, The Beach
  46. Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes:A Memoir of a Childhood
  47. Philip Pullman, Northern Lights: His Dark Materials
  48. Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
  49. Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
  50. Kate Atkinson, Behind The Scenes At The Museum
  51. Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
  52. David Guterson, Snow Falling On Cedars
  53. Dava Sobel, Longitude
  54. Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  55. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
  56. Jonathan Coe, What A Carve Up
  57. John Berendt, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil
  58. Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong
  59. Louis De Bernieres, Captain Corelli's Mandolin
  60. Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting
  61. E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
  62. Donna Tartt, The Secret History
  63. Jung Chang, Wild Swans
  64. Iain M. Banks, Crow Road
  65. Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow
  66. Cormac McCarthy, All The Pretty Horses
  67. Robert Harris, Fatherland
  68. Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
  69. Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch
  70. Bret Easton Elllis, American Psycho
  71. Pat Barker, Regeneration
  72. James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential
  73. A.S. Byatt, Possession
  74. John Irving, A Prayer For Owen Meany
  75. Ken Follet, The Pillars Of The Earth
  76. Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains Of The Day
  77. Thomas Harris, The Silence Of The Lambs
  78. Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
  79. Stephen Hawkings, A Brief History of Time
  80. Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye
  81. Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
  82. Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire Of The Vanities
  83. Ian Rankin, Knots and Crosses
  84. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen
  85. Patrick Suskind, Perfume
  86. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
  87. Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy
  88. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera
  89. Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
  90. Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor
  91. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  92. William Gibson, Neuromancer
  93. Iain M Banks, The Wasp Factory
  94. Martin Amis, Money
  95. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
  96. Susan Hill, Woman In Black
  97. Terry Pratchett, The Colour Of Magic
  98. Roald Dahl, The BFG
  99. Raymond Feist, The Magician
  100. Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged Thirteen and Three quarters

A couple of quick comments about the list above. First of all, the original list named Alan Moore as the sole author of Watchmen; I added Dave Gibbons, the artist. Second, I'm not entirely convinced that the book listed at no. 83 is the right book. Knots and Crosses is a real book; it's the first novel in Ian Rankin's popular Inspector Rebus series, and it's not entirely out of the question that it would make the list, especially since the list appears to list the first book in popular series to represent all the books in said series. (I mean, how many people really think Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the best of the Harry Potter books, or The Color of Magic the best Discworld novel?) But I wonder if they meant to list Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. Back in 2003, the BBC published a list of Britain's 100 best loved novels. None of Ian Rankin's books appear on that list, but Noughts and Crosses shows up at no. 61. Makes me wonder.

I'm sort of glad I didn't have to participate in this survey, because when I read the list I tried to think of what five books I would have listed, and I found that it was very hard to narrow it down to a mere five books. But I did try, and here's what I came up with, in reverse order of publication:

  1. Bill Bryson, Walk About (2002)
  2. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)
  3. Nick Hornby, About a Boy (1998)
  4. Robert Crais, Indigo Slam (1997)
  5. Wilton Barnhardt, Gospel (1993)

The first book on the list might be considered a cheat, since it's an omnibus edition of two different books by Bryson, A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country (a.k.a. Down Under). I decided it was OK to list it because both books were written during the eligibility period.

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