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Are You a Well-Rounded Reader?

About a year ago, I got fed up after seeing, for the umpteenth time, that lame BBC list of the 100 books you should read going around on Facebook. My friends and I had already noted several errors and problems with the BBC’s list (if it was, indeed, their list), and I thought the record should be set straight. So I created a Facebook note, listing the books I think a well-rounded reader of literature would have on his/her list.

Be forewarned: This list is long! It doesn’t include any nonfiction (that’s a project for another day), and I’ve had a couple versions so far. This one is the latest.

Rules for Playing Along

In each category, indicate how many you’ve read. Each line counts as one point; even if you’ve read more than one item in the line. If there’s more than one item on a line and they’re separated with “or,” you can count that line if you read just one of the items in the line; if there’s more than one item on a line and they’re separated with “and,” you have to have read all of the items to count the line. Use bold to indicate what you’ve read, italics to indicate what you started and didn’t finish (just cus).

The number beside the category indicates what I think a well-rounded reader would have for the category. Feel free to pass along any suggestions or recommendations to make this a better list!

Classical (Greek and Roman) and Mythologies: 15

(my total = 9)

  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Aenid by Virgil
  • Histories by Herodotus
  • Anything by Cicero, Seneca, Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Tacitus
  • Greek Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  • The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise) by Alighieri Dante
  • The Metamorphoses by Ovid
  • The Bible
  • The Koran
  • Plutarch’s Lives
  • The Niebelungenlied (The Volsung Saga)
  • The Kalevala
  • The Upanishads and/or The Mahabharata
  • The Arabian Nights
  • Beowulf
  • The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer
  • Le Morte D’Arthur by Thomas Mallory
  • Grimms’ Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
  • Anything by Joseph Campbell
  • Tunkishila

British: 10

(my total = 24)

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
  • Five or more of the plays of Shakespeare
  • Any other British play written before 1900
  • The Fairie Queen by Edmund Spenser
  • One novel by Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, or Tobias Smollett
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Three or more of the novels of Charles Dickens
  • Three or more of the novels of Jane Austen
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • The Jungle Book, Kim, or Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover (or Sons and Lovers) by D. H. Lawrence
  • To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own, or Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot
  • Two or more novels by Graham Greene
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Three poems each by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Shelley, and Byron
  • One long or three short poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Animal Farm or 1984 by George Orwell
  • Ivanhoe or another novel by Sir Walter Scott
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Moonstone or The Lady in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Any novel or story by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, or Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • Any novel by E. M. Forster
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Heart of Darkness or another novel by Joseph Conrad

Irish: 5

(my total = 6)

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray or one other play or poem by Oscar Wilde
  • A collection of poetry by W. B. Yeats
  • Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
  • A collection of poetry by Seamus Heaney
  • Arms and the Man or another play by George Bernard Shaw
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  • Any play by Samuel Beckett
  • A short story collection by William Trevor, Frank O’Connor, or Sean O’Faolain

American: 10

(my total = 31)

  • The Sound and the Fury and two other novels by William Faulkner
  • A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and one other novel by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Grapes of Wrath and one other novel by John Steinbeck
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Walden and/or A Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
  • Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson (add an extra point for any of his journals!)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Huckleberry Finn and one other novel by Mark Twain
  • The Call of the Wild or White Fang by Jack London
  • Any one of the novels of James Fenimore Cooper
  • Any story by Washington Irving
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Three or more poems by Carl Sandburg
  • Three or more stories by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Three or more poems by Robert Frost
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • Three or more stories by Flannery O’Connor
  • One or more novels by Edith Wharton
  • Any two novels by Henry James
  • Three or more stories by Eudora Welty
  • Three or more essays by E. B. White
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Any novel by Willa Cather
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • The Glass Menagerie or another play by Tennessee Williams
  • Any play by Eugene O’Neill
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  • Any novel by Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, or John Dos Passos
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • One novel by Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, or John Updike

German, French, and European: 10

(my total = 9)

  • Three or more stories by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Count of Monte Cristo or another novel by Alexandre Dumas
  • Two poems each of Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine
  • Any play by Moliere
  • Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
  • The Human Comedy or any other novel by Balzac
  • Anything by Jean-Paul Sartre, Andre Gide, or Anatole France
  • Any novel by Emile Zola
  • The Stranger or another novel by Albert Camus
  • Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
  • Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • The Trial or Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  • One play or poem by Bertolt Brecht
  • One play or poem by Friedrich Schiller
  • One novel each by Herman Hesse, Gunter Grass, and Heinrich Boll
  • Any poetry by Petrarch
  • The Decameron by Boccaccio
  • The Doll’s House or any other play by Henrik Ibsen

Russian: 5

(my total = 4)

  • War and Peace and one other novel by Leo Tolstoy
  • One play and one collection of stories by Anton Chekhov
  • One or more novels by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Anything by Gogol, Gorky, or Turgenev
  • One or more novels by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Eugene Onegin and one other poem by Alexander Pushkin

Spanish, Portuguese, South American, and Caribbean: 5

(my total = 3)

  • Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
  • El Cid
  • Any poetry by Saint Teresa of Avila
  • Any poetry by Fray Luis de Leon, Francisco de Quevedo, or Baltasar Garcian
  • Any play by Lope de Vega, Pedro Calderon de la Barca, or Tirso de Molina
  • 100 Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Anything by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • One or more novels by Jose Saramago
  • 2666 or another novel by Roberto Bolano
  • One or more novels by V. S. Naipaul
  • One novel each by Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid

Asian, African, and Middle Eastern: 10

(my total = 10)

  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  • Midnight’s Children and one other novel by Salman Rushdie
  • The God of Small Things by Arunhati Roy
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • The Namesake or Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The English Patient or any other novel by Michael Ondaatje
  • My Name Is Red or Snow by Orhan Pamuk
  • Any novel by Naguib Mahfouz
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Anything by Wole Soyinka
  • Disgrace or another novel by J. M. Coetzee
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Any novel by Nadine Gordimer

Fantasy and Science Fiction: 5

(my total = 20)

If you’re a geek like me and want to find even more great stuff in this category, check out the NPR list of 100 great science fiction and fantasy books.

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
  • Earthsea series and one other novel by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Stranger in a Strange Land or any other novel by Robert Heinlein
  • Fahrenheit 451 and one other novel by Ray Bradbury
  • The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  • All of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • Two or more novels by Isaac Asimov
  • One novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
  • Any novel by Orson Scott Card, Piers Anthony, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, or Robert Jordan
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Time Machine or War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • 20,000 Leagues below the Sea or Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  • Slaughterhouse Five and one other novel by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper
  • Any novel by Neil Gaiman or Neal Stephenson
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart or The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Dark Tower series or The Stand by Stephen King
  • Any novel or story by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Any novel or series by Terry Pratchett
  • Any novel or series by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks
  • Wicked or any other novel by Gregory Maguire

Mysteries and Thrillers: 5

(my total = 7)

  • Two or more novels by Agatha Christie
  • Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
  • Any novel by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Two or more novels by John LeCarre
  • Any novel by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Any novel by Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or Scot Turow
  • Any novel by P. D. James

Modern Contemporary: 10

(my total = 24)

  • The Road and one other novel by Cormac McCarthy
  • Atonement or Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  • Beloved and one other novel by Toni Morrison
  • Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Poisonwood Bible or another novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Any novel by Charles Baxter
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Waiting by Ha Jin
  • Any novel by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • The Master or Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
  • A Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • A Thousand Acres or another novel by Jane Smiley
  • A Handmaid’s Tale and one other novel by Margaret Atwood
  • Oscar and Lucinda or any other novel by Peter Carey
  • The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Haley
  • Any novel by Philip Roth
  • Any novel by John Irving
  • Possession or any other novel by A. S. Byatt
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Any novel by Iris Murdoch
  • Any novel by Penelope Fitzgerald
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Any novel by Stephen Millhauser, E. Annie Proulx, Russell Banks, E. L. Doctorow, Marilynne Robinson, or Richard Ford
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • Any novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  • One novel by Edna O’Brien
  • A collection of poetry by Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, Donald Hall, Mary Beard, Audre Lord, Derek Walcott, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ted Hughes, or Rita Dove

Children’s: 10

(my total = 11)

  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Six, and Now We Are Young by A. A. Milne
  • Any of the Beezus and Ramona novels by Beverly Cleary
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Railway Children or another novel by E. Nesbitt
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Grinch, and Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Real Mother Goose
  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  1. Patty Peltekos permalink

    Hey, Joanne,

    Well, I’m working through my own well-rounded reading lists. Some of these books have been waiting for me for years, which I realize every time I look at the prices on them.

    Anyway, as something of a mystery addict, I’ll jump and down for adding Colin Dexter to your list. Chief Inspector Morse is such a curmudgeon–and even though he, like Sherlock Holmes, was killed by his creator (though not resurrected), he is/was a more well-rounded reader than I. He’s a well-drawn character obsessed with opera and crosswords, but he is not cozy. Just out of curiosity, why is Sherlock not on your list? Then there’s Inspector Brunetti, who is always reading one of the Romans, while his wife favors Henry James. She makes up for that by being a great cook. I wouldn’t call the Brunetti books great, but they are fun and offer images of Venice that go beyond travelogue. My two cents.

    • Patty, I’ll definitely look into reading Colin Dexter. FWIW, Inspector Morse is in my Netflix queue. (I know, I know: that doesn’t count!)

  2. Patty Peltekos permalink

    OH MY GOD, I glazed right over Sherlock on your list! Oh, woe is me! Mea culpa! Just don’t ask me to read any Henry James for my sins.

    • I’ve got several Henry James on my shelf, and several of my favorite authors/reviewers rave about him (thus the several on the shelf). I’ll let you know what I think when I finally get around to reading him.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo « Book Shares
  2. 20 Nonfiction Books You Should Read | Book Shares

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