Which 100 Books List?

David Bowie in 1973

I have a thing about lists of 100 books. Anytime I discover a new list of the best, worst or most popular 100 books, I skim through, counting how many I’ve read. I don’t think this habit is just about achieving a sense of accomplishment, rather, I like to imagine it helps me discover what kind of reader I am. If there’s a large overlap with any given list, I feel as though it tells me something about what sort of books I’m drawn to, as well as suggesting that the unread titles on said list are probably things I’d also enjoy. So today I’ve done an experiment; I’ve looked at 10 prominent and/or new 100 book lists and made a tally to discover whose is most in line with my reading habits. Here are the results:

The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time

Read 25, Own But Haven’t Read 10

Goodreads Top 100 Literary Novels of All Time

Read 24, Own But Haven’t Read 11

New York Public Library 100 Most Popular Children’s Books of the Last Century

Read 47, Own But Haven’t Read 2

Book Riot’s The 100 Greatest American Novels, 1893 – 1993

Read 21, Currently Reading 1, Own But Haven’t Read 3

BBC’s The Big Read Top 100

Read 43, Own But Haven’t Read 9

The World Library 100 Best Books of All Time

Read 23, Own But Haven’t Read 7

100 Favourite Novels of Librarians

Read 39, Own But Haven’t Read 11

NPR’s “Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels”

Read 59, Own But Haven’t Read 5

NPR’s “Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books”

Read 31, Own But Haven’t Read 14

David Bowie’s Top 100 Must-Read Books:

Read 5, Currently Reading 1, Own But Haven’t Read 6

So what does this tell me? Well, apart from the fact that David Bowie and I aren’t shopping the same book store sections, it confirms that I’ve been spending most of my reading time on Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and English Literature (next time I might try not counting any books that I read mainly because they were assigned during my high school or undergraduate courses). Despite my English Literature degree (which was mostly British Literature based), I was surprised to discover how many fewer classic American novels I had read when compared with, say, the BBC book list. I was also pleasantly surprised by the high degree of overlap with librarian favourites. As a long time bookseller, I’ve always fancied myself a bit of an unofficial librarian. Apart from all this, however, the main thing the experiment has made me wonder is: What titles would I put on my 100 books list?

Liz Gillett


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