A Well-Unread List

(Shamelessly lifted from my friend and colleague Kate’s blog, with my comments added at the bottom.)

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by some group’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, and italicize the ones you own but have not read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell**
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius**
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Miserables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince

The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything**
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves**
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed**
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Scott muses: this is an odd list–lots of classics but also lots of modern pseudo-literary flavors-of-the-month. Many of the classic authors have multiple titles–Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky. But many others only have one–Melville, Pynchon, Faulkner (who wrote 19 novels, compared to Austen’s six). There are a couple genre novels, but Dune and The Hobbitt are staples of their respective subgenres, not books that non-genre people keep around to look cool (Stranger in a Strange Land, anyone?).

So these are some vacuous people who think owning lots of Austen but only one Faulkner makes you look smart. For extra flavor, I added ** next to the titles that are particularly vain modern literati tripe.  :)

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