The Big 100 Reading Challenge: Eight Years Later

Hey! This post isn’t related to NaNoWriMo, this month’s defining project, but if you want to know how that’s getting along you can read my daily updates over on Patreon.

Back in the youthful years of the yesterlands, I had a blog dedicated to book reviews, TV reviews, and long descriptive essays on my family holidays to Welsh cottages. I was poring over some of my old posts recently, on a bit of a nostalgia trip, when I came across a reponse I’d made to this meme – a challenge list of 100 books to read before you die, inspired by the BBC’s Big Read survey all the way back in 2003 (the distant past). The original meme claims that the average person has only read six out of the 100, though I’m not super confident on the legitimacy of that statistic.

At the time of that original post – 7th November 2011 – I had read eight books out of the 100. I thought it would be fun to come back to this list eight years later, and see how much further I’ve progressed towards going to the grave satisfied with my choice of literature. The list works like this: bold books are texts I had read at the time of the original post, whereas the books bolded in blue are new additions to the list. Italicized books are books I’ve partially read, but never finished (something which I abhor doing and yet still, frequently, do).

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shaskespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor HS

This update tells me I’ve now read 17 books from the list, which means I’ve read nine new Big 100 books over the last eight years! This is incredibly upsetting. If I had read one fewer, we could’ve had some really fun 8/8/8 symmetry going on, but it seems that isn’t to be. Once again, the universe thwarts my attempts to divine its patterns and logic.

Having said that, remembering and reflecting on this list is reminding me how many great and influential works of literature there are that I’ve never even picked up. How have I still never even started To Kill a Mockingbird? Like, what’s up with that? So I’m going to set a ceremonial deadline – I’ll return to this list, another eight years down the line (I’ll be 31. Christ) and, by then, have read another 10 books at least from the remaining selection. Can it be done? Yeah! Will it be done! I’ll probably forget! But it’s nice to at least think about making an attempt.

That’s all from me today – hope the world is treating you kindly! Let me know your thoughts on the Big 100 if you’re so inclined. Or don’t. Just do whatever!

-Alex xo

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