5 ONLY books that MUST be read.

(295 Posts)
Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:07:56

Any era, any genre.

No crap.


LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 12:12:31

To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

Sleeping At The Starlite Motel or Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

American Ghost by Janice Owens

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:15:27

Why must they be read? I really liked Swamplandia, and the Bailey White ones, but I'm not sure they MUST be read.

ShriekingGnawer Wed 20-Nov-13 12:20:49

My Dear, I wanted to tell you

To Kill a Mockingbird

Wild Swans

The Snow Child


Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:21:47

I know I'm changing the rules, but now I would like a small justification appendaged to each choice <stern>

AHardDaysWrite Wed 20-Nov-13 12:26:04

Hamlet. Cos I'm with Harold Bloom on this one - first human in literature etc.

Gulliver's Travels. Arguably the first novel, so important for that reason.

Sherlock Holmes stories. Because everyone should know Holmes.

Mockingbird. 'Nuff said.

The Handmaid's Tale. My favourite dystopian fiction.

Kveta Wed 20-Nov-13 12:26:16

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson - because it is still the funniest book I have ever read, and the only one that still makes me snort with laughter on re-reading it.

The complete Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - because it is just bloody marvellous.

The Crow Road by Ian Banks because it is clever and funny and sad and I loved Prentice when I was a teenager.

All Quiet on the Western Front - war is bleak and shit and pointless on either side.

Black Beauty - because Ginger <sobs heart out>, just because Ginger sad

(I accept that these may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they would be my Desert Island books)

Kveta Wed 20-Nov-13 12:27:16

AHard I was going to put Holmes in too, but we are only allowed 6 choices <shakes fist at Hully>

Kveta Wed 20-Nov-13 12:27:28

5 choices.


Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:31:04

5 choices sorts out the wheat and the sheep, innit.

AHardDaysWrite Wed 20-Nov-13 12:31:05

Kveta I've got a SH anthology so therefore they are one book so there Hully

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:32:01

Yy, anything between just two covers is fair game.

ShriekingGnawer Wed 20-Nov-13 12:34:06

I've changed my mind about all of my choices. This is too hard <goes back to procrastinating and eating a metre of Jaffa cakes>

AHardDaysWrite Wed 20-Nov-13 12:35:41

Forgot about All Quiet on the Western Front. Dammit. And Black Beauty. And A Tale of Two Cities. Don't like this game...

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:37:18

No cheating Shrieking, no posting a further five under the old changed-my-mind guise.

This is hardcore.

Kveta Wed 20-Nov-13 12:38:32

what are your choices Hully?

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:38:42


Everyone gets ONE second chance only.

So hone with care

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:39:08

I'm honing, Kveta, still honing.

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 12:39:12

I am placemarking, because I don't think that (among the gazillion or so books I have ever read) there is one that I would say is essential


Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:40:32

<shoves Maryz in with the chaff and the goats>

SkullyAndBones Wed 20-Nov-13 12:41:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 12:41:21

I could offer five children's books [generous]

Dededum Wed 20-Nov-13 12:42:23

A fine balance - Robinton Mistry - beautiful complicated powerful
The Leopard - G. de lampard (sp) - if you want to understand power & politics
Barbara Kingsolver - The poisonwod bible - if you've ever been to Africa, evocative, sad, beautifully written
George Orwell - Animal Farm or 1984 - classics with depth
A day in the life of Ivan Devensoich (sp) - early 'misery' literature. So powerful

These jump out, I am sure I can do another 5!

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:42:35

I am going to have to have your justifications, Skully

LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 12:42:43

I can only speak from my perspective. My life would be infinitely the more impoverished without their lyrical, rich and magical language.

Swamplandia- to encourage the development of a major talent and learn about Florida Crackers-a largely unknown culture over here. Same applies to Janice Owens who wrote 'The Cracker Kitchen' too. A favourite cookbook/food memoir.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn- one of the clearest and most honest child characters. And I have read excerpts at two funerals so far and both bought the houses down so to speak. I have reread this countless times and can emote great chunks of it by heart.

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit Wed 20-Nov-13 12:42:57

Emma, Austen because it is fabulous to have a heroine that isn't perfect but is likeable.
Mockingbird for all the reasons before.
Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple, it's a simple seeming story but has much to say on the nature of human nature and the place of women.
The Blue Flower Penelope Fitzgerald's masterpiece. A book doesn't have to long to be almost perfect.
Little Dorrit / Martin Chuzzlewit Dickens's because they're a cracking read.
How to be a woman Caitlin Moran because it made me think.
Kingfisher's Catch Fire Rumer Godden because it speaks wise words about cultural relations and not condescending on another culture simply because they aren't as sophisticated.

Actually not sure about the last one, also considering The Pearl - Steinbeck amongst others.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 12:43:29

I've got one of yours, Dededum

It has survived the first two honings

SkullyAndBones Wed 20-Nov-13 12:44:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit Wed 20-Nov-13 12:44:21

oh hell I can't count! Sorry! Lose Emma maybe....

LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 12:45:35

Because I can re read them all and enjoy afresh. Because I luffs Bailey white w/ all my heart. She wrote about 'the silent waiting of spiders'. That is enough for me.

Dededum Wed 20-Nov-13 12:46:03

Hurrah, I feel I have won a prize!



hermioneweasley Wed 20-Nov-13 12:50:21

To Kill a Mockingbird. Because it is the best book ever written

Wonder. Because it is the contemporary heir to "mockingbird"

The Beauty Myth. Because we need to think about why women's worth is based on looks and taking up as little space as possible.

Pigs in Heaven (though was sorely tempted by the other Barbara Kingsolver mentioned, Poisonwood Bible) because it raises a real dilemma about family vs cultural identity.

The Golden Compass. A terrifying exploration of childhood and what it means to be human.

TheSmallPrint Wed 20-Nov-13 12:52:48

Has anyone mention 50 Shades yet? <runs and hides>

NCISaddict Wed 20-Nov-13 12:57:08

I really struggle with most peoples lists as I hate science fiction and dystopian fiction.
My favourites (today) are:
To kill a Mocking Bird
The Diary of a Provincial Lady- got me through three labours.
Notes from a Small Island Bill Bryson
Notes from a Big Country Bill Bryson
Little Women.

Reasons are because I have re read them and will do so again.

LittleBairn Wed 20-Nov-13 12:59:00

Pride and Prejucide by Jane Austen

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

Anne Franks Diary

The Mitfords Letters between 6 sisters

The King James Bible

CrocodileScream Wed 20-Nov-13 13:01:14

To Kill a Mockingbird
Important lesson about true bravery and challenging the status quo.

All quiet on the western front.
Because there are always two sides to a story and often there are no winners.

Lord of the Flies
Because humans will always turn on each other.

Goodnight Mr Tom
Because it is beautiful and I could live without it.

Twas the night before Christmas
Because it is magical.

LittleBairn Wed 20-Nov-13 13:01:39

herminoie I love Pigs in heaven too. I decided not to put down one of His Dark Materials just because you need all three together IMO.

Dededum Wed 20-Nov-13 13:01:59

I wonder how many people did To Kill a Mockingbird for O level / GCSE'S - I did, is that why so many people choose it?

Didn't choose Shakespeare because he is best when acted.

Think one has to include classics because they are books that challenge you

Dickens - Nicholas Nickeby (fab descriptions of places but not so much people)
Austen - love Emma but is that because I did it for A level so read it over and over.

And where is Lord of the Rings - Tolkein invented an entire language! Love it, a classic story of good and evil.

And totally off the wall;
Sebastian Bach - The Seagull - totally beautiful and great of an angst driven 18 year old.

ommmward Wed 20-Nov-13 13:02:16

Lord of the Rings, because it captures the spirit of epic so well

Dorothy Sayers Gaudy Night, because all of us are just a little bit in love with lord Peter Wimsey.

Diana Wynne jones, because of her moral clarity and because her female characters are SO likeable. Hard to pick just one book. Maybe hexwood, or else howls moving castle.

Jane Austen pride and prejudice. Because there is so much implicit back story behind each character.

Can't narrow down number five. Perhaps Steve augarde The Various, but it's a cheat because its the first of a trilogy. Magical and tragic and glorious.

SanityClause Wed 20-Nov-13 13:03:27

The Handmaid's Tale is my favourite work of fiction. I read a review where the reviewer said something along the lines of "people said it could never happen, and then it did, in Afghanistan".

I love Jane Austin for light reading. If I had to choose one, it would be Pride and Prejudice....or Persuasion....or Pride and Prejudice....but probably Persuasion.

I love anything by Barbara Kingsolver. Perhaps The Poisonwood Bible. She seems very knowledgeable about her subjects, and her books bring to life the way the big ishoos affect ordinary people.

Schindler's Ark. A really well researched book, about how even a real sleaze bag has it within them to do amazing good.

Poetry. I have an anthology from school called The World's Contracted Thus, which has loads of stuff from Milton and old Scottish ballads up to about the early '70s. Perhaps a more up to date one would be good, though.

SkullyAndBones Wed 20-Nov-13 13:04:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

heartichoke Wed 20-Nov-13 13:07:27

Too hard - there are so many more, but with only 5 (that have to be justified) ...

The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck) - for grand, sweeping commentary on human nature & existence

The Good Earth (Buck) - for grand, sweeping commentary on human nature & existence

The Book Thief (Zusak) - for grand, sweeping... you get the gist

Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) - ditto

the archy and mehitabel omnibus (Marquis)- for comedy value

Dededum Wed 20-Nov-13 13:07:57


We did TKAMB and twelfth night. I think everyone did Shakespeare at my school 30 odd years ago. TKAMB is a good book but surprised how so many people choose it!

I`m going to have to come back and forth to this, as I need time to think, but so far:-

To Kill a Mocking Bird - without doubt the best book ever,

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, one book that blew my head as I ended up not knowing what to think, and why yet played my mind like an out of tune fiddle.

Now I`m toying with,

Animal Farm - loved this book at school, made me question life.

Pride and Predjudice, silly, but I love.

And then I struggle because I desperately want to say something like The Faraway Tree, bare with me, as it is one of my first memories of books when I was a child, I loved it, thought it was magical so therefore feel it should be on my list as it started my love of books and stories.

CrocodileScream Wed 20-Nov-13 13:11:24

Okay I change Night Before Christmas to The Book Thief.

BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:11:47

Therese Raquin by Zola - because it just goes to show your conscience will get you.

The Magus by John Fowles - it's surreal, it's about youth and love and it's clever.

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald - beautifully written and 1000x better than any cinema offering (although I did quite like the Robert Redford version).

Rabbit, Run by John Updike - evoking 1950's America and the fact that the American dream wasn't so wonderful after all.

The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart - incredible survival as a ww2 prisoner of war in Japan.

lifeisajumprope Wed 20-Nov-13 13:13:04

Rebecca - Dapnhe Du Maurier - Dark, gothic. Brilliant twist. Love the housekeeper who mirrors how awful Rebecca is and I love how Du Maurier never names the protagonist - mirroring how ordinary and sheepish she is compared to Rebecca (in her eyes)

Wuthering Heights - Bronte - Dark, gothic....there's a theme here....

Under the Dome - not usually an SK fan but I loved loved loved to hate the villain - end was a bit naff but the villain made up for it.

Animal farm - Orwell - One of the few books I read in school that I enjoyed - I think it appealed to my rage-against-the-machine-teenaged-heart at the time

The Hobbit - Tolkien - who doesn't like the Hobbit?

SkullyAndBones Wed 20-Nov-13 13:13:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HalleLouja Wed 20-Nov-13 13:14:41

In particular order

To Kill A Mockingbird - there is a reason we all read it at o-levels / GCSE. Its such a good book.

Birdsong - I really liked it when I read it. Very moving.

The Kite Runner - shocking but well written

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver was well written and shocking about what's going to happen with global warming.

Need to think of a 5th and maybe rethink it properly when DD naps.

Pascha Wed 20-Nov-13 13:15:06

Thats Not My Tractor - A searing commentary on modern farming machinery.

Black Beauty - Horses are nice.

World Atlas - Knowing your place in the grand scheme of things is both humbling and enlightening especially when you find out Mauritius is in an entirely different ocean to the one you were expecting

Pride and Prejudice - Its the only Austen I actually like, therefore it must be good.

ginslinger Wed 20-Nov-13 13:18:26

A dark adapted eye - Barbara Vine - the characterisation of Vera is wonderful, it shows that genre fiction can exceed its bounds

The Women's Room - Marilyn French - to remind us

The Road - Cormac McCarthy - the language, the words

GiraffesAndButterflies Wed 20-Nov-13 13:19:29

Lord of the Rings. Because Harry Potter and the Dark Materials and even Narnia pretty much stands gaping in awe by comparison.

All the Jeeves and Worcester books. Because they are hilarious and moreish and will brighten your day.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Because it's tragic and beautiful and yet also interestingly sci-fi-ish and futuristic. It's this century's 1984.

Room by Emma Donoghue. Because it's heartbreaking and wonderful and also an incredibly gripping page turner.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Because it's amazing and heartbreaking and wonderful and also interestingly futuristic and an incredibly gripping page turner and horrifying and possible and scary and fucking brilliant.

Jane Eyre. Because it's a classic for a reason.

<whistles innocently>

MonstersBalls Wed 20-Nov-13 13:21:27

Oh good idea for a thread! I'll be back….


NoComet Wed 20-Nov-13 13:22:53

Hitch hikers and his dark materials because both make you think while being entertaining and enjoyable.

Lord of the flies should never be read by anyone ever, because it's depressing, tells you what you already know (that humans are a deeply unpleasant lot) and is neither entertaining or enjoyable.

Animal farm, should be read my everyone who is too young to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I thought it was utterly predictable and pretty pointless, DD1(15) really enjoyed it because she hasn't had wall to wall communist Russia on her TV and in the books she reads.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:24:17

Now look here.

There are RULES, people <glares at Giraffes' sixth>

And when I say MUST read and with a justification, I don't mean, cos you really loved it, I mean what does it bring to humankind's lonely dark trudge and solitary wrestling with this thing we call life en route to the yawning grave?

"silent waiting of spiders" v gd.

BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:24:18

Agree with Wodehouse. Yes!

I also want to add every single 'Just William' book as a cheeky sixth selection. I read them even now and I'm 48. Timeless and VERY funny.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:25:41

Pascha - you made me laugh, especially Thats Not My Tractor - A searing commentary on modern farming machinery

BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:26:08

Gosh you are strict Hullygrin

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:26:59

<cracks whip>

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:30:35

I loved the Faraway Tree too, onestep, but I'm not conviced Moonface and Silky really added a great deal to the grappling with existential questions we must all do at 3 in the morning.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:30:59

not convinced either

Kyrptonite Wed 20-Nov-13 13:31:14

The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz zafon. Loved it since I was 17

Room- one of the few books to make me cry

The Kite Runner- it's amazing.

Harry Potter- not for style or anything but purely for the adventure and the anticipation of waiting for the next one.

The railway children- it's been my favourite since I was 6 and first read it.

LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 13:31:38

My choices lighten my heart and make me marvel at what can be done with words. If I am on a desert island I want to be entertained. If I want to be informed I'd take a survival manual.

Trying not to get defensive, breathe and smile.

Sneaking in a sixth, I'd take The Womens Room too. Or Susannah Moores' Sleeping Beauty because of its tropical setting (Hawaii) and lush, dreamy like prose.

NoComet Wed 20-Nov-13 13:31:42

Also Black Beauty because it's just so simple and so complete a story. Rich, poor, kindness, cruelty all of life is there.

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nihm, because it is simply the only other children's book I ever bothered finishing.

(Except twins at st Clair's and they don't count.)

Again it is, superficially a very easy read, but like Black Beauty, it encompasses a whole life time of events and choices. It even has an ecological twist for today's youngsters.

If you have never read it Do!

Hmm, now see I loved Birsong, it was just one of those books you read and savour every word. The Kite Runner as well, War House is a lovely book as well, made me weep.

Thats 8, I cant choose.

I think we should be able to have different criterias tbh, one for what 5 books moved you, what 5 books made you question life, what 5 books you just loved just because you did etc etc. smile

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:32:34

Yes Banana, none better and none funnier. I have so far (owing to life's vicissitudes), bought the entire collection of William twice. One of my favourite bits is William teaching the frog to know and love him, and to jump.

Unfortunately the frog showed a much greater aptitude for jumping..makes me weep.

LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 13:32:44

That should be Sleeping Beauties....

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:34:09

No one needs be defensive, you must stand your corner and fight your ground and wave your choices aloft with a proud and happy heart.

ChristmasCareeristBitchNigel Wed 20-Nov-13 13:35:51

In no particular order

Lord of the Rings
Jamaica Inn
Madame Bovary
Any of the Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge. If I had to choose one, Jennings' Little Hut would be my choice.

Kyrptonite Wed 20-Nov-13 13:37:46

I'm making a wish list for my kindle from everyone's suggestions grin

I've never read an Austen. I've tried. I've bloody tried but I can't get into them. I've never admitted that before

BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:38:10

Love it when I bump into a fellow William appreciatorgrin. It's the illustrations too. Just perfect.

Fluffytent Wed 20-Nov-13 13:38:13

Fanrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
Under the Skin - Michael Faber
World War Z - Max Brooks
King Lear - Shakespeare
1984 - George Orwell

Fluffytent Wed 20-Nov-13 13:38:52


BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:39:44

Can I add The Picture of Dorian Grey? <dodges missile from Hully for adding a 7th)

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:40:08

I wrote about William in my masters' thesis <wins fan of the year prize>

Sparrowghost Wed 20-Nov-13 13:42:40

to kill a mocking bird
little dark thorn
memoirs of a geisha
lord of the flies
the queens blade

LESuffolk Wed 20-Nov-13 13:42:40

Thank you Hully. I was a bit tongue in cheek although ask me again and I'll likely have a different list.

Today I am in my deep southern/tropical mangrove and ghosts phase.

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 13:43:08

The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck. Because it shows the resilience of humans under the worst situations. And because when I read it, at about age 14, it was the first book that ever really moved me with its descriptive writing & made me realise what good writing could do.

The other four I will have to think about & hone a long list & probably post them in annoying dribs & drabs as there are many books I've read that could make the cut.

ChristmasCareeristBitchNigel Wed 20-Nov-13 13:44:04

oh sorry, I forgot my justifications

Lord of the Rings All the book you ever need, actually. So symbolic, allegorical and intricately written. I reread it faithfully every year

Rebecca Because I love du Maurier. I love the richness of her descriptives,

Jamaica Inn again, i love du Maurier. I love the brooding atmosphere and the gathering fear as the book progresses. And I love gothic novels

Madame Bovary a perfect description of malcontent and ennui

Any of the Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge. If I had to choose one, Jennings' Little Hut would be my choice. Just the thought of some of the passages make me cry with laughter. On the face of it these are children's books. But they are so beautifully written (think PG Wodehouse style) that they transcend the genre.

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 13:44:08

And then you lot bloody well keep posting more things that I hadn't thought of - just to make the whole job harder.

BananaNotPeelingWell Wed 20-Nov-13 13:44:20

That is AMAZINGshock. Highly impressive Hully.

Jane Eyre- because she's everything you want to be as a woman and it was written at a time when women weren't encouraged to have opinions etc. also it's allegorical nature fosters a wider understanding of religion in our country in history (I reckon anyway).

Whatever Love Means by David Baddiel- one of my favourite modern novels. Incredibly clever. Also taps in to that whole post Diana hysteria that defined the late 90s.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson- an interesting look at post WW2 America and bloody hilarious.

The Time Travellers Wife- a true original.

High Fidelity- universal themes of love and music make this accessible to all.

I had to bump One Day by David Nicholls, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Secret History there but I stand by my choices.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:45:12

<does a little twerky thing. Regrets it>

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Wed 20-Nov-13 13:45:42

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
The Stand, Stephen King

I tried not to think too much and just write which books have really stood out to be as being exceptional.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 13:45:53

Well done, somedizzy, impressive rigour in choice-making.

lambbone Wed 20-Nov-13 13:47:17

Ommmward are you me?

Splendid to find a DWJ fan. I'd have gone with Fire and Hemlock or The Merlin Conspiracy though. F&H is so full of allusion and mystery. Got me reading ballads. And The Golden Bough!

And Mansfield Park rather than Pride and Prejudice. All those flawed characters just come alive

Not heard of your last choice. Mine's The Flounder by Gunther Grass (in translation - I'm not that hardcore).

Inertia Wed 20-Nov-13 13:55:23

Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre - I know he comes at this issue from a particular perspective and I'm sure there are counter-arguments to his assertions, but I think we should all question things a bit more.

The Infinite Book by John D. Barrow-beautiful explanations of a tricky concept.

Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson- it's hard to pick just one, but reading Bill Bryson books is like snuggling into a comfy pair of slippers - warming and make you feel much more cheery.

The first four parts of the the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (but I wasn't overly keen on the 5th, bit inconsistent). Funny and insightful, and also a celebration of the art of the sandwich.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins- because somehow our world is being run according to the whims of people who believe in various supernatural beings, and as a species we really should face up to the evidence before us and accept evolution rather than invoking deities to justify our actions.

SucksFake Wed 20-Nov-13 13:56:33

TKAMB - because it teaches all of us to stand up to the wrongs we see in the world.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods - because I loved it, and because it was extremely well written and researched (and covered such diverse topics as epilepsy, social isolation, cannabis growing and euthanasia).

East of Eden - because the characters are so well written that they are still etched on my brain years after the first reading.

The Book Thief - because I loved the concept of Death as narrator and it appealed to such a wide variety of my family. A book for all generations.

I Know This Much is True - again, a very well researched book. The relationship between the twins was a complex one (read it when pregnant with my own ID twin boys), and one which could make me cry now, even thinking about it.

MrsHowardRoark Wed 20-Nov-13 13:57:19

Lolita - it is so beautifully written, like the most exquisite poetry but full of creeping horror and pain. It is absolutely relevant today and arms you against a world that sexualises children.

Brideshead Revisited - it captures the feeling of being on the outside looking into something wonderful. And you can decide if it has a happy or sad ending.

The Road - because it could happen and if everyone read this it must lessen the chances!

The Windup Bird Chronicle - shows what it is to write space and emptiness. Like the best meditation.

Sophie's World - an introduction to philosophy in a totally accessible format.

jacksgrannie Wed 20-Nov-13 14:04:25

Can a lurker join in? Am very old therefore have read almost all books ever written. My choices (at the moment) are:

Birdsong - Sebastian Faulkes (how can he have written it and not been there?)
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (nuff said)
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (what a heroine, such spirit, such character)
Persuasion - Jane Austen (because I defy anyone who has read Austen not to be able to recognise her absolute mastery of the language)
Room - Emma Donahue (controversial one this, but I absolutely could not put it down.)

ElleBellyBeeblebrox Wed 20-Nov-13 14:15:59

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Because its sad, shocking, hilarious, and totally captures the utter futility and misery of war.
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. Because its just magical, and though others have tried, nothing else comes close.
The Stand by Stephen King. Because it does post apocalyptic struggle between good and evil brilliantly.
One flew over the cuckoos nest by Ken Kesey. Just fantastic, edges out the wonderful film IMHO.
War of the Worlds by HG Wells. Because its the scariest book ever.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Wed 20-Nov-13 14:21:07

This is impossible!! Only five???

Well, I'll have a go anyway:

To Kill a Mockingbird. Do I even need to explain this choice?
The Grapes of Wrath. Ditto.
Pied Piper by Nevil Shute. Because John Howard is such a good person.
The Woodlanders. I know some people don't like Hardy, but I love him. (Can I have the collected novels as one choice please?)

There are too many contenders for the fifth one. Perhaps Growth of the Soil (fantastic novel), Jane Eyre, The Bell, or ...... I don't know, it's too hard sad

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 14:26:12

Last light by Alex Scarrow
Aftermath by Roger Williams
Touching the void by Joe Simpson
Battle for the trees by Merrick
Senseless acts of beauty by George McKay

LittleBairn Wed 20-Nov-13 14:34:31

jacksgrannie Persuasion was my favorite Austen for a long time.
I've had Birdsong on my to be read pile for a while I really must read it soon.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 20-Nov-13 14:38:19

Cold Comfort Farm - because it's one of the funniest books ever written

Handmaid’s Tale - because not only could this happen, but it also has happened and easily could do again

Beloved - because it's one of the hardest books I've ever read but also one of the most wonderful, beautifully written. Heartbreaking and will teach you more about slavery and the way it breaks people and families than anything else could. "She cannot be lost because no one is looking for her."

A big massive book of Greek myths and legends - because most of the stories, poems, plays and films you meet with in your life will derive from these in some way, plus they're raucous, bloody and amazing.

Letters from a Faint Hearted Feminist - because it's a VERY funny but also a great exploration of what it's like being a woman and how your choices can impact on your life.

Welshwabbit Wed 20-Nov-13 14:42:33

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark) - because it is perfect in every way.

The Secret History (Donna Tartt) - because I said elsethread that it would be on my top 5 Desert Island books list, and because I don't like being inconsistent. Also because if you read it at the right time, it will speak to you like no other book.

Bleak House (Dickens) - because of the first chapter and Lady Dedlock.

East of Eden - because my copy was given to me by a stranger on the train who had just finished it and said I had to read it - and he was right. Less depressing than The Grapes of Wrath, too.

Am really stuck on a 5th. Not because I can think of too many, but because I'm finding it hard to think of something else that is a "must read". I do really love Agatha Christie, so I think I'm going to say "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" because it is so very clever.

ginslinger Wed 20-Nov-13 14:48:49

oh God yes - The Secret History - I'm allowed to add it Hully because I only had three first time round. So nerr

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 15:17:20

I might ban TKAM from future 5s...

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 15:37:15

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Souief.

Probably the best novel ever about the effects of British Imperialism.

And a cracking read!

DoctorTwo Wed 20-Nov-13 16:47:22

Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. It explains how and why most modern journalism is rubbish.

Hitch-22. A memoir by Christopher Hitchens. Who wouldn't want to read the autobiography of the pre-eminent polemicist of our times?

The Salmon Of Doubt by Douglas Adams. A collection of articles, essays and speeches, plus the first few chapters of what would have been the third Dirk Gently novel, and very funny it looked to be too.

Every Dead Thing by John Connolly. It's gruesome and funny and will make you want to read the rest of the series.

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. It's an honest account of drug taking within professional cycling which more or less forced Lance Armstrong into admitting doping.

Frettchen Wed 20-Nov-13 17:46:13

Not that I've been thinking about this allllll afternoon at the slight expense of doing actual work but...

I proudly present my five. Yup; 5. All with reasons. Not at all a rule breaker here. <attempts to look innocent>

The Hunger Games - I know it's a kids' book, but I think everyone should read it; it's a damning picture of the extremes of governmental control, reality television and the resilience of youth. I love it, despite how ruined I felt by the end of the trilogy. (and yes, I'm cheating because it's actually 3 books, but I am imagining somehow, somewhere there's a single book version of the set...)

Pride and Prejudice - Well, it was very close between this and Persuasion, but I think Elizabeth Bennet is just that little bit stronger a lead character. But yeah - it should be read because it shows a good case against stubbornmindedness, and because it felt right to balance a future dystopia with a classic tale of the past.

Harry Potter - Another childrens' series, I'm severely pushing at the rules set forth. But anyway, my reasoning for this one is that, as a young adult I read these books and my imagination ran wild. The world Rowling has created is so full of details and possibility and I think is in part to blame for my not-so-secret desire to be a writer. Also, because of the way Harry ages as we read, and changes before our very eyes from an innocent young 11 year old through his angsty teens, to the final 17 year old world-saving young man.

The Year of the Flood - although I think is the middle of 3 Margaret Attwood books, so can I have another imagined compendium with Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and then probably MaddAddam when I've read it. Because they're a more grown up Hunger Games; and worse they're a little bit more believable.

And finally... of the books of the world that I think MUST be read...

Deerskin - it's a fairytale retelling by Robin McKinley, and actually I don't think it must be read by anyone. But it's a book I read at least once a year and for some reason I just love it to pieces, so it's on my list out of loyalty and favouritism. So there.

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 18:05:11

'a curious incident of the dog in the night-time' - Mark Haddon (an amazing and very original read)

'Wizards first rule (and the rest of the series!) - Terry Goodkind

'The Beach' - Alex Garland (Ignore the god awful film that was made, the book was brilliant)

His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman - (again ignore the film, the books are brill, I read these not so long ago, I know their meant as 'teen lit' , but thoroughly enjoyed!!)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce (I've just finished reading this and fell in love from the get go, tale of an ordinary bloke who just 'goes for a walk' because of a letter, was brilliant!)

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 18:24:35

If we are talking about books that changed civilisation as we know it, we have to include:

The bible (for good or evil, there's no doubt it changed the world)

Harry Potter (because it got a generation loving books again - for the opposite reason I will put Shakespeare in the "caused a whole generation to hate reading" because it was forced on them in school. In fact, Dickins, TKAM, TOTF and loads of others could be dismissed for this reason, too).

Uncle Tom's cabin - changed attitudes to race issues

Lady Chatterley's Lover - changed attitudes to sex

(disclaimer: I didn't "enjoy" either of these)

Black Beauty - changed attitudes to animal cruelty

I could also make a case for Animal Farm and 1984, but couldn't choose between them.

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 18:25:47

I didn't actually enjoy any of those, except perhaps Black Beauty and some of the Harry Potters, but I'm following Hully's rules


Lolita is, I think, a very good choice. Everything that's already been said about it rings true for me.

In think i might also add Boy A by Jonathan Trigell or The Sleep of Reason by David James Smith because of the way they tapped into the way our society reacted to the murder of James Bulger.

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 18:35:24

Mary, lol, no we not talking about books that changes civilisation , just decent reads - and (none of the above) are actually good books lol!

(oops, don't wish to offend!!)

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 18:41:45

somedizzy we wont even read 'The Sun' because of Hillsborough, haven't heard of the David James Smith book, will read x

colleysmill Wed 20-Nov-13 18:42:02

Ok here goes (although I doubt many would agree with me)

The man who mistook his wife for a hat by Oliver Sacks - fascinating insight to the human mind

Parkinson's Law by Northcote Parkinson - v old book about the politics of business (I have my grandfather's copy)

Trilby by George du Maurier - to understand the real meaning behind the term Svengali

Dracula by Bram stoker - just for terrifying purposes

The man who made husbands jealous by Jilly Cooper - because life is too short and everyone should read at least one bonk buster and this is my favourite!!!

DoItTooJulia Wed 20-Nov-13 18:42:48

Who said Knowledge of Angels, I LOVE that book!

I'm going to say:

1984. The greatest book I've ever read. The father of the dystopian novel.

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe. Massively underrated, African literature needs to be more widely read.

The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver. Africa a different way.

100 Years of Solitude. Awesome epic.

The Year of the Flood, Atwood. This is where I cheat a bit, as the entire trilogy is worth reading. It's Atwood at her best, although I adore The Handmaids a tale, I think this is a refined dystopia with fantastic characters and a terrible vision of the world that could be.

I struggled not to include Birdsong, or Wide Sargasso Sea (and Jane Eyre for obvious reasons), or Arthur and George.

Surprised to see Room being mentioned. Clever concept, but not the best book I've ever read.

retiredgoth2 Wed 20-Nov-13 18:42:54

The list for right now. But ask again in a few minutes and four of the five will have changed.

-The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. The book Wilkie Collins would have written were he still alive. And a lesbian academic. But a taut wonder of the soul nonetheless.

-Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes. Always at his best as an essayist. A book about death and life and philosophy and mortality. That is warm and funny.

-Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It's not Conrad's fault that this inspired Apocalypse Now. A drudge of a film that takes longer to watch than to read this novella. 100 pages that define humanity.

-Catcher In The Rye by J D Salinger. Hokey teen angst? Darn right. And all the better for it. After reading this it is essential to watch John Hughes films on a loop and dig out one's old Joy Division t shirt. (Can be substituted for 'The Bell Jar'. Same reasoning)

-The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. I am learning Italian. For holidays sure. But primarily because I want to read this in the original. Human. Warm. Wise. Funny. Wistful. The world is better for having had Primo in it. This choice will not change.

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 18:47:04

somedizzy sorry, didn't say we live in the 'area' (even shop in the strand) - Don't think anyone wants to read books about it as its still so fresh in everyone's memory here, and people here seem to still take whole thing personally - It's a weird thing - x

Varya Wed 20-Nov-13 18:48:13

Y Y Y The Handmaid's Tale. Anna Karenina. Cant decide on the best of the others. KJB, certainly.

Dededum Wed 20-Nov-13 18:48:20

Oh yes:

Primo Levi - The periodic table
VS Naipul -anything ny him but 'A House for Mr Biswas'
Steinbeck - of mice and men

DoItTooJulia Wed 20-Nov-13 18:49:44

Oh shit, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. But it might not have made my final list.

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 18:53:18

See, it isn't books you love, according to she who must be obeyed Hully.

"And when I say MUST read and with a justification, I don't mean, cos you really loved it, I mean what does it bring to humankind's lonely dark trudge and solitary wrestling with this thing we call life en route to the yawning grave?"

None of this wishy-washy "I loved it and have read it a hundred times" nonsense.

ghostinthetardis Wed 20-Nov-13 18:54:17

Jonathon Livingston Seagull. S Bach. Made me think as a teen
Anna Karenina Tolstoy. Fantastic, gripping read.
Rose Madder Stephen King. One of his best novels, the writing kept me gripped to the end.
The Hobbit. Tolkien. Just the best fantasy novel written.
The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck. Another thought provoking book

retiredgoth2 Wed 20-Nov-13 18:56:26

Gonna add another.

(Rules? Don't do rules...)

-Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeannette Winterson. A mature woman's confessional and partner piece to 'Oranges'. This was an unexpected joy of an impulse buy. I want her to be my friend. We'd fall out soon enough. But it would be worth it.

And another.

-In The Woods by Tana French. Recommended from MN. Loved it from the lyrical prologue on. Had I known it was crime fiction before I started I wouldn't have read it. A lesson learned..

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 18:58:26

My Primo Levi choice would be 'If this is a man'.If everyone were made to read this book,the world wouldn't be full of such wickedness,I'm sure.

(I will swap that for my choice of 'Senseless acts of beauty' to keep within my 5))

Maryz Wed 20-Nov-13 18:58:36

See, none of you are obeying the roooooools.

Huuuuuuuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, where are you? I win, 'cos I'm the only rule-obeyer.

retiredgoth2 Wed 20-Nov-13 19:03:33

I think the same about Periodic Table, verysmallsqueak. Better written than If This Is A Man, the same sentiments are there..

Maryz- were you a prefect at school? Just asking..

OneStepCloserIWillExterminate Wed 20-Nov-13 19:07:39

This might be my 9th or 10th but I am a rule breaker. Oscar Wildes `The Nightingale and the Rose` is such a beautiful (short) story book.

Glad you put the Bible Maryz, was going to put it but havent read the whole thing, only snippits, mainly at Sunday School a million years ago, but some great stories. I`m digressing arnt I.

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 19:08:18

retiredgoth I have to admit that I have not read it.But I will now!

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 19:12:15

Oh Bum,the bookshelf just caught my eye,and I now need to swap 'Aftermath' for 'Down and out in Paris and London' (Orwell, of course)

DoItTooJulia Wed 20-Nov-13 19:19:05

Rules are for breaking, no?

Tafflee it's an amazing book. I am the same age as the boys who killed him and as such it's always loomed large in my consciousness.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 19:25:20

<swoops in, canes everyone except Maryz, has to go out, will keep a BEADY EYE>

NutellaStraightFromTheJar Wed 20-Nov-13 19:26:02

His Dark Materials - because Lyra leaving Pantalaimon to go into the world of the dead still makes me sob like no other book ever has.
Lolita - because it is beautifully written.
Jane Eyre - because it was the first 'grown up' book I ever read, and 'Reader I married him' remains incredibly powerful.
Harry Potter - because although jk may not be the best writer in the world, she has created a whole alternate universe which millions have fallen in love with, and that takes some doing.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - because it encourages counting, healthy eating and a knowledge of life cycles.

Urgh. I find these things so hard.

Lord of the Flies - because it is beautiful, and heart breaking, and terrifying but ultimately there is some redemption: it is glorious and astonishing and...and...and.

A Clockwork Orange - because it should help us to remember what we do not wish to become. Should be compulsory reading at GCSE.

Pride and Prejudice - because it shows what a woman with a fairly confined life can see, and think and imagine: I think that Jane Austen is a fine example of how being a voracious reader and clever thinker can (only sometimes) combine to create an amazing writer. She is so quick, and funny and clever. I love her.

Lolita - Because it is horribly compelling, and very funny, and because you will inevitably be wrong in your judgment of it, if you have never read it

The Dark Tower series - because there is Roland. That is all.

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 19:31:56

somedizzy will (reluctantly!) read on your recommendation xx

Nutella I totally loved reading 'His Dark Materials' - really brilliantly written, I hate it's classed as 'teen reading' x

hairymonkey Wed 20-Nov-13 19:38:45

Anne of green gables- because I loved it soo much as a child.

Jane Eyre- because it's just lovely.

Catcher in the rye- for me it sums up completely what it was to be a teenager, and felt timeless while evoking a really strong sense of New York at that time too if that makes sense.

Vernon god little- it's just ace.

A prayer for Owen Meaney- just loved the whole book, a brilliant story.

Got loads I want to add!

GiraffesAndButterflies Wed 20-Nov-13 19:39:33

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeannette Winterson. A mature woman's confessional and partner piece to 'Oranges'. This was an unexpected joy of an impulse buy. I want her to be my friend. We'd fall out soon enough. But it would be worth it.

Except for the impulse buy I could have written all this! Oranges very nearly made my cut.

I stand by my six five but with the new rule (kuh!) about reasons being what they bring to us...

LotR because it is pure, fantastic escapism as it has never been done before or since. So if you want a break from life on the way through, here it is.

The Road and Never Let Me Go because they are beautifully written warnings of inhumanity and what the human race could do to itself. Mad scientists who are tinkering with lumps of DNA and trying to breed X-men should read these as cautionary tales.

Room because I have never read a book that so movingly portrays parenthood as this. The mother is an Everymum figure. If I wanted to give a book to someone to explain how having children makes you feel, this would be it.

Jane Eyre was nearly Pride and Prejudice. But I think on balance, Jane is a better picture of what England was once like. Plus she is more powerful than wonderful Lizzie.

And last but most essential, Wodehouse should need no explanation grin

There we go Hully, six books but five reasons <grins triumphantly>

BloominNora Wed 20-Nov-13 19:40:23

Time Travellers Wife - because it is a truly beautiful love story with a (relatively) original premise (and it is my favourite book ever)

Pride and Prejudice - because it is a classic and is a reflection of today as much as it was then.

His Dark Materials - wonderful, fantasitical, commentary on what it means to have a soul and the dangers of organised religion.

I Am Legend - because of all of the apocalyptic novels out there this is the only one that says, well actually, humanity as we know it is not necessarily the only way, particularly as we are likely to cause our own destruction. It also reads like it was written today despite being written in 1954.

The Wasp Factory - It introduced me to Iain Banks, is original and despite its disturbing story full of the most wonderful black humour and the characters brilliantly brought to life.

I enjoyed all of these, however, if I had to I would swap The Wasp Factory for 1984 which I didn't particularly enjoy reading but is disturbing warning of what a dystopian society would be like and it's imagery is prevalent throughout our popular culture (Room 101, thought police etc)

joanofarchitrave Wed 20-Nov-13 19:41:39

The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. Tells you all you need to know about consumerism and (by implication) why the world is doomed, while being a terrific entertaining read.

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt. A quiet, intelligent examination of why we can never assume we would NOT take part in evil. With odd, unexpected shafts of light threaded through it.

Making Sense of the Troubles by David McKittrick and David McVea. Perhaps only for my generation and the ones immediately before? But the sense of understanding it brought me was so precious.

Against Our Will by Susan Brownmuller. This IMO is the one of the 2nd wave feminist classics that will last. How she can write, how she persuades!

The Noonday Demon; an atlas of depression by Andrew Solomon. Mesmerising, enlightening.

Well, what a cheerful bunch. But that's what IMO humans need to do with depressing stuff - face it head on and write the fear out of it.

Lizzylou Wed 20-Nov-13 19:41:44


What Katy Did Susan Coolidge, because I think that was the first ever book that made me really think. Showed me that things can go wrong,

Decline and Fall Evelyn Waugh, could have picked Scoop but that is but more whimsical. Fabulously witty insight into pre war England and the class system, before England changed forever. Laugh out loud funny social satire.

Complicity Ian Banks, so well written, great slice of the 90s, mystery plus comment on society/ politics.

The Plague Albert Camus, so many hidden meanings, very tightly written.

Really unsure about no, 5, unless it is TKAMB or LOTF......

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 19:42:20

I am struggling with which Doris Lessing novel I would nominate - I still can't decise, but I know that at least one of her books has to be there.

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 19:42:44

*decide - silly fat fingers.

MaryZygon Wed 20-Nov-13 19:43:25

No, retiredgoth.

I was the headmistress <lies>

hairymonkey Wed 20-Nov-13 19:52:24

Heart burn Nora ephron. I don't care if it's against the rules. Her writing makes me laugh.

A handful of Dust would have been my number six, had I been allowed one - because it is both deeply cynical and mean, and joyously funny, and so is the world.

Beachcomber Wed 20-Nov-13 19:54:35

In no particular order.

1984 by Orwell. Because it puts the fear of god into readers as to how humans can be and makes us want to be careful.

Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin. Because it describes female oppression and doesn't pull any punches (and is searing in its clarity and provides lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment).

The Women's Room by Marilyn French. Because it is a classic and much underrated.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Because it makes you think.

Many contenders for number 5 but Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill probably tops the list.

All a bit political, and I like to read pretty well anything and everything as long as not total crap, but the specification was "MUST" be read grin .

homeworkmakesmemad Wed 20-Nov-13 20:06:04

1. The Bible - Not just because I believe it contains the truth that leads to fullness of life, but also because it has had such a huge effect on our world, our society, our language etc... regardless of whether you believe it to be true.

2. The Shadow of the Wind - It is genuinely gripping - whether you actually like it or not (some people I know have found it too dark) it will not fail to draw you in - genuinely a book to get lost in

3. Animal Farm - Because it raises so many questions about humanity and society whether you read it as a teenager or as an adult

4. Encyclopaedia - Don't really care which one, but I firmly believe in stretching our minds with more knowledge - we always have more to learn

5. Life of Pi - It will grip you and it will leave you questioning how to respond to stories and truth and fantasy and so much more

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 20:09:31

Will people stop mentioning the bible!! I've read, so depressing and really unbelievable - and I guessed the ending - (eeek, comebacks!)

LifeHuh Wed 20-Nov-13 20:23:12

War and Peace - epic - history and human relationships both.
To Kill a Mockingbird -
Little Women - because it shows real girls/women trying to be good people.
Thud - my absolute favorite Pratchett book.Funny but manages to be serious about prejudice and difference too.

And being a bit more flippant and relevant to the time of year - The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,Barbara Robinson,which my DSis told me about -love it,re-read it most years,funny and touching.

LifeHuh Wed 20-Nov-13 20:31:47

"what does it bring to humankind's lonely dark trudge and solitary wrestling with this thing we call life en route to the yawning grave?"

Love this,by the way! It is a question I shall be sure to ask myself when choosing my next read grin

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 20:32:44

Life yeah, agree 'war and peace' had meaning, but arrrgghhh, what a read!!!!!

Like all the rest tho.

Pratchett books do take a bit of 'getting used' to tho, what Pratchett book would you suggest a newcomer to his style starts with?? It's difficult to know where to begin with him??

Missmodular Wed 20-Nov-13 20:39:17

Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) - because it's SO ambitious, it spans generations, it uses loads of different narrative voices, it's part science fiction... I could go on, it's extraordinary

Bleak House - again, because it's so ambitious, it attempts to paint the whole of London Victorian society from the most lowly to the aristocracy

1984 (Orwell)- because it's so shocking and yet so plausible

Dubliners (James Joyce)- because it really captures the yearnings of the human soul through the struggles of everyday life

Jane Eyre - it's flawed, but Jane and Rochester are such great characters

Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)- because it questions the very nature of authorship and the relationship between an artistic work and the artist

Oops, that's sixwink

Gone with the wind

Jane eyre

Sense and sensibility

Great expectations

The tenant of wildfell hall

Bigbadgladioli Wed 20-Nov-13 20:40:55

Carter Beats the Devil because it champion's kindness and intelligence and is just a great read.

The Overcoat by Gogol because it's just so tragic, dark and true.

Three Men in a Boat - because it can be read over and over no matter one's mood and there's always something wonderful there.

An Inspector Calls, has stuck with me since school. Everyone must read this book because it shows all of us how our petty little egos and actions can destroy the lives of others.

Anything by PG Wodehouse to counteract angst. I think I'll go with "Very Good, Jeeves"

Excellent idea for a thread, thank you Hully. I'm going to look out my copy of Three Men in a Boat. Kept me going through a really shitty pregnancy.

PepeLePew Wed 20-Nov-13 20:46:33

Have been thinking about this all day, to the detriment of my work...

1984 - still relevant, still horrifying and a salutary warning to us all

A Town Like Alice - it's about war and love and redemption and guts and rebuilding your life, and it's beautiful

Hangover Square - I think this is one of the most overlooked books of all time. It's sensitive, heart wrenching and is awful and gentle and incredible. I love it so much I would never recommend it to anyone IRL. If they didn't like it I would have real doubts about them!

The Stand - it's such a well told story and you have no idea it is as long as it is. It shows what happens when good people stand up to evil.

Anne of Green Gables - I couldn't decide between this, What Katy Did and Little Women but I think Anne edges it by being slightly less goody goody and a slightly more endearing character. But I've read all of them to 9yo dd and have been struck by how much she has taken from them about what it means to grow up, take responsibility, love people and (sometimes) lose them.

Three men in a boat - I proper laughed out loud at some of that! Totally unexpected from such an 'old' novel . Classic humour

LifeHuh Wed 20-Nov-13 20:48:55

I'd decide who you want to read about, taffleee,and start from there...not the latest ones,and not the first few either IMO as it takes a while for Discworld to take off.(So not The Colour of Magic,The Light Fantastic,Sourcery...)

Maybe Guards,Guards (first book about the Watch) or Wyrd Sisters (first book about the witches).Or Pyramids - stand alone. Or Reaper Man (about Death - the character)
What do other people think??

GiraffesAndButterflies Wed 20-Nov-13 21:02:44

Perfect advice IMO Life!

IAlwaysThought Wed 20-Nov-13 21:04:44

The Lord of the Rings (the whole lot)
The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass
Nansens Furthest North A record of a voyage of exploration of the ship Fram, 1893-96, and of a fifteen months sleigh journey by Dr. Nansen and Lieut. Johansen
The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily - Dino Buzzati. I just don't understand why this book isn't more popular.
Illywhacker. Peter Carey

I tried to think of my books as quickly as possible, I would probably have 5 different books if you asked me in five minutes. I bet when I read everyone else's suggestions I will want to change my mind.

Inertia Wed 20-Nov-13 21:10:32

Only just spotted that this is in adult fiction as I joined from most active discussions

Think I may have broken the rules.

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 21:25:09

Life see!?? Its so difficult to know where to begin with Pratchett, what did you read first??

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 21:28:55

I am amazed at the inclusion of LOTR so many times, yes it's a great elfin romp with an incredibly long and boring war and a ring - but it doesn't lead us to peer into our souls and search the very depths now, does it?

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 21:29:40

Ialways I have to agree about lord of the rings. My Dad was bought the 'tape set, read' about 25 years ago, and I listened to all the books from the age of 7, before reading them for myself - amazing and brilliant

skaen Wed 20-Nov-13 21:41:15

Ovid - metamorphoses. At first glance it looks like a collection of myths arranged pretty haphazardly but is also political commentary, funny and very precisely written.

Austen- pride and prejudice: my favourite Austen book. Always cheers me ip and lightens the gloomy trudge through this dark world!

Robertson Davies - the Cornish trilogy. I chose this one to fit with the very precise requirements! It is examining how someone finds the meaning of his life.

Bulgakov - the master and margarita. It reads like a surreal fantasy novel but covers soviet politics, Christianity, mental health and naked flying witches!

MM Kaye- the Ordinary Princess. This is a children's book but is lovely to read - the descriptions are beautiful, the characters are funny and the princess disguises herself as a maid to avoid an arranged marriage.

MsUumellmahaye Wed 20-Nov-13 21:44:03

lord of the rings
to kill a mockingbird
mila 18
the god of small things
shindlers ark

taffleee Wed 20-Nov-13 21:45:15

skaen wow, never heard of the MM Kaye book, will read x

ommmward Wed 20-Nov-13 21:48:46

lambbone ha! I dithered, I tell you, dithered over which DWJ to choose. I met her once you know. I was completely star struck. I We talked at length about how crucial happy endings and moral clarity are in fiction in order for it to be worth investing hours of our time in reading it. God, that bit at the end of Fire and Hemlock is heart breaking, isn't it <happy sigh>

Do try the Steve Augarde books - trust me, it all comes out right in the end smile

I'm loving Freetchen's list - I was blown away by the Hunger Games trilogy. The Margaret Attwood ones are probably a bit dark though, aren't they? <runs away without reading them>

And yes yes yes to everyone who said The Book Thief. Devastating but also uplifting in a way that the sodding boy in the sodding striped pyjamas simply wasn't.

And The Time TRaveller's wife - almost ruined by the movie, but one can imagine one hasn't watched it after all.

IAlwaysThought Wed 20-Nov-13 21:49:57

LOTR are brilliant, they are just so epic It was the first book(s) I thought of when I saw this thread. I have read them from cover to cover twice.

One of my other suggestions was for Nansens Farthest North which was a real life epic adventure. It is basically the log book of Nansens ill fated 3 year adventure into the Arctic in the 1890's. It's mesmerising.

I guess I like a bit of epic'ness

ommmward Wed 20-Nov-13 21:50:45

skaen - Oh I LOVE the Ordinary Princess. It comes around and around for me - I read it every few years. She was my idol (the princess) as a child - that's definitely the kind of princess I am going to be when I grow up <runs off into the woods and makes a hut to live in>

ommmward Wed 20-Nov-13 21:51:06

<off to look up the Dark Tower series>

You're in for a treat, Ommmm. smile

LEMisafucker Wed 20-Nov-13 22:05:50

Crime and punishment - blew me away, made me question my owm morality

The psammead series because it enchanted me and enchants my dd.

The lion the witch and the wardrobe - cs lewis was a genius

great expectations I loved/loathed all the characters equally

rebecca its about love, innit x

day of the triffids we all love to be scared out of our wits

LEMisafucker Wed 20-Nov-13 22:07:28

The story of o harrowing reality of 50 shades shite

LEMisafucker Wed 20-Nov-13 22:08:49

Wonders if I should read to kill a mockingbird?

LifeHuh Wed 20-Nov-13 22:10:29

taffleee, as far as I can remember I read them in order (sadly I am old enough to have read most of them as TP wrote them!)

But while I thought The Colour of Magic was great at the time,the later books are just so much more. At the mo DS and I are reading them,and I won't suggest the early ones til we are stuck for what to read next. We have read a random assortment -Guards,Guards,the first two witches books,Interesting Times,Soul Music,Pyramids,The Lost Continent...if I asked him he would say read The Lost Continent!

Sorry,bit of a diversion from the thread there.

Loved The Various and sequels,and I've not met anyone who has read them in RL.

I've found the books made an impact on me on the lonely dark trudge and solitary wrestling haven't always been classics or great books in themselves,but just had something relevant when I read them,so it is hard to choose books everyone should read.

pointyfangs Wed 20-Nov-13 22:11:57

Keith Roberts - Pavane - because it's beautiful, because it's a ground-breaking example of alternative reality fiction, because I will never stop re-reading it, because of its subtle Celtic mythology.

Diana Wynne Jones - The Homeward Bounders. Quite possibly her most underrated book. Beautiful use of mythology and human tragedy

Tim Powers - The Anubis Gates. Because I love the time travel aspect of it, because he really knows his fencing and because he interweaves poetry and Egyptian mythology.

<Interlude - yes, I have a thing about mythology>

L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt - The Roaring Trumpet. Yes, Norse mythology. It's also very witty and clever, and I just love the cockroach racing scene in the fire giants' jail between Heimdall and the protagonist. Cracks me up every time.

Terry Pratchett - Night Watch. The best Vimes book of the lot, although all the Vimes ones are stunning.

Hullygully Wed 20-Nov-13 22:12:25

They should be universal in the manner of FR Leavis' Great Tradition. They should speak to us all.

pointyfangs Wed 20-Nov-13 22:18:31

Crap. I haven't managed to fit any Louis de Bernieres in there.

Can I break the rules and add the entire Latin American Trilogy in as my sixth?

No, didn't think so...

<slinks off desolately>

Fabulous thread concept, by the way!

ASmittenKitten Wed 20-Nov-13 22:22:41

The Quincunx - Charles Palliser
The Shipping News - Annie Proulx
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
The Barsetshire Chronicles - Anthony Trollope
............... still honing.

Wallison Wed 20-Nov-13 22:28:06

Vanity Fair - a massive panorama of life lived in society.
When We Were Orphans - because when you work out just why he's using the 'unreliable narrator' device, you will weep for all that you've lost, just by being born at the time you were.
The Master and Margarita - big subjects in the hands of an, erm, master. It will draw you in, take up all of your imagination and spit you out again, and you'll love it for that.
Lights Out For The Capital - if you don't love London, you don't get it, and that makes you spiritually impoverished.
And echoing so many on here - To Kill A Mockingbird, because Atticus Finch is the father that we all should have had.

SamU2 Wed 20-Nov-13 22:29:54

The Stand
Pride and Prejudice
The Goldfinch

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 22:51:09

Come on Hully - we are all waiting for your five.

Especially as your ruddy thread has lead me to putting more books on my wish list than I am likely to be able to buy in the next 2 years.

AND East Sussex on line library service (may it live for ever) is down until at least 2/12/13 and possibly a bit longer.

(Bit longer is according to the lovely woman who runs my local library).

May libraries flourish for ever - please join yours & take out lots & lots of books. It doesn't matter if you don't read 'em - libraries are rated on their borrowing numbers.

ExcuseTypos Wed 20-Nov-13 22:54:15

Pride and Prejudice
The Grapes Of Wrath
A Fine Balance
The End Of The Affair

I hated To Kill A Mockingbird

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 22:56:13

Is that true magimedi?

I always thought the local library must curse me with the number of books I order and request on inter lending!

IAlwaysThought Wed 20-Nov-13 23:01:02

Louis De Bernières The Latin Trilogy are amazing books and should be in my top five too. I didn't like his later books half as much and I was positively confused about Captain Corellis Manderin.

I love Mario Vargas Llosa too. Aunt Julia and the Sciptwriter and The GreenHouse are my favourites and I would need these in my top 20 5 books.

...and then there is Gabriel García Márquez's books, I really enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude even if I did get a bit confused with all those names beginning with A

<sigh, this is difficult>

ExcuseTypos Wed 20-Nov-13 23:02:19

No very they will love you

parques Wed 20-Nov-13 23:04:54

First choice: The Five People You Meet in Heaven.... 4 more to go......

VerySmallSqueak Wed 20-Nov-13 23:05:45

Excellent! I must be giving it a go to single- handedly keep our library going!

IAlwaysThought Wed 20-Nov-13 23:06:02

Aghhh, I had forgotten about A Fine Balance . I love every one of Rohinton Mistrys books. They are so moving, sad but funny too. Absolutely brilliant.

My list is getting very long.

MegBusset Wed 20-Nov-13 23:06:31

Catch 22 - just the best, funniest and saddest book ever
If This Is A Man - heartbreaking
Of Mice And Men - small but perfectly formed
Nineteen Eighty-Four - gripping and terrifying
The Lord Of The Rings - for some classic escapism after all that lot!

I had to put aside loads of books that I love but know not everyone else would. Absolutely everyone should read these five.

notagiraffe Wed 20-Nov-13 23:07:18



King Lear

Pride & prejudice

Die Panne (The Breakdown)

Shallishanti Wed 20-Nov-13 23:09:17

heartichoke!! have not read the whole thread but thought I was the only person in the world who'd read archy and mehitabel grin

magimedi Wed 20-Nov-13 23:10:33

100% true, Very.

I choose my books &then always make a point of taking out at least 4 other random ones that I know I won't read, but that will bump up the figures for my lovely local library.

parques Wed 20-Nov-13 23:13:52

Second choice.... Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and third choice Perfume (crap film, fab book!)

IAlwaysThought Wed 20-Nov-13 23:17:25

Oh no, I can't stop...

Jonny Steinbergs THE NUMBER. It's about the gangs that operate in Cape Town prisons. It is an incredible book. I was literally shock shock shock the whole time I was reading it. His other books are v.v. interesting too.


The Good Surgeon of Crowthorne. It's another incredible book

Summary - Cut and pasted from Amazon
The making of the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental 50 year task requiring thousands of volunteers. One of the keenest volunteers was a W C Minor who astonished everyone by refusing to come to Oxford to receive his congratulations. In the end, James Murray, the OED's editor, went to Crowthorne in Berkshire to meet him. What he found was incredible - Minor was a millionaire American civil war surgeon turned lunatic, imprisoned in Broadmoor Asylum for murder and yet who dedicated his entire cell-bound life to work on the English language

I better stop now or I will be in trouble. grin

parques Wed 20-Nov-13 23:19:02

Fourth choice: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi and the fifth - I can't decide! I'll sleep on it!

VerySmallSqueak Thu 21-Nov-13 00:16:35

I don't need to take out random books magi ! I always have my maximum number out (I like non-fiction that I can dip in and out of a lot)

It's like a sweetie shop!

Hullygully Thu 21-Nov-13 08:55:58

<hones and hones>

Hullygully Thu 21-Nov-13 08:56:18

Gawd it's hard, innit??

pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 09:18:41

Drat again.

I forgot to mention John Steinbeck's 'The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights'. It's the best retelling of the Arthur myth ever and the only thing I don't like about it is that Steinbeck didn't finish it. It's a beautiful story about flawed human beings.
Can I swap it for Night Watch and have everyone take it as read that I really like Terry Pratchett?

SkullyAndBones Thu 21-Nov-13 10:11:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SkullyAndBones Thu 21-Nov-13 10:14:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SkullyAndBones Thu 21-Nov-13 10:15:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SolidGold Thu 21-Nov-13 10:28:44

I'm thinking ...

So many books, how can I pick only five?

Definitely got to have The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, because I hadn't read anything like it before and it shocked me, I was pregnant at the time, so it scared me, but I was also fascinated .

I loved, loved, loved The Magician's Nephew by C S Lewis, because it made everything in TLTWATW fall into place.

One of the Bill Bryson books - not sure which is my favourite ... probably Neither Here Nor There.

A Brave New World, I loved the concept of this book, we read it at school and I'd hated everything we'd been given up to that point, but this was completely different and the first scifi/futuristic thing I read.

Anne Frank's diary - my heart aches every time I read it.

MarysDressSways Thu 21-Nov-13 10:59:06

To Kill A Mockingbird (seems a given - for obvious reasons)

The Great Gatsby (I love a bit of tragic love, but it's a wonderfully written book.)

I Capture the Castle (because it made me understand unrequited love at a time I really needed to when growing up and introduced me to a heroine who I wanted to be.)

His Dark Materials (Just captivating and thought provoking and exciting and moving. Everything a book/s should be).

Harry Potter (Because yes, they got swathes of children reading and are just wonderful, immersive and exciting reads, even if technically not great, but who cares?)

ps, everyone should read Jilly Cooper because she's amazerous.

Cheboludo Thu 21-Nov-13 15:15:09

The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
Sublime writing, wonderful images and strong female characters. Fairy tales rewritten for today, just fantastic.

The world according to Garp - John Irving because it's hilarious and touching and eccentric.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen No explanation or justification required.

Maus - Art Spiegelman Devastating, unforgettable, immense. This is one of the books I urge everyone I know to read.

How to be a woman - Caitlin Moran This takes my closely-fought last spot simply because it's a funny, chatty reminder that feminism is important. It's not perfect but it's a much easier read for my nieces (& nephews) and children than a more academic study of feminism.

stillstandingatthebusstop Thu 21-Nov-13 15:59:17

Hmmm . . . . I have been thinking and thinking about this.

Pride and Prejudice - because it's funny and clever and the characters are written so convincingly. And I have read it over and over again.

Witch Light by Susan Fletcher. A story that sucks you in and so beautifully written.

Then I'm less sure.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy because I got sucked into that story?
Something by Sue Townsend because she makes me laugh?
A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving because the characters felt like my friends?
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud?
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I loved it but I'm not sure I totally got it?
Kipper's Beach Ball by Mick Inkpen for the language in a kids book?

I dunno grin

Doublemuvver Thu 21-Nov-13 16:08:19

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - such a marvellous tragicomedy
news from Tartary by Peter Fleming - one of the first travelogues, great stuff
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - just tragic
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - the novel they has it all
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg - wonderful characterisation and brilliant story.

I would recommend any John Irving novels to the unitiated

The Snow Child

I am so glad someone else loves this.

ProfPlumSpeaking Thu 21-Nov-13 16:13:08

Wild Swans
The Good Earth
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Thousand Splendid Suns

Together they embrace the latest era around the globe. All are beautifully written and say something important about humanity. It suddenly occurs to me that 4 of them are woman centric, so that must be my taste.

Great thread.

ProfPlumSpeaking Thu 21-Nov-13 16:13:47

Can I have more, please?

ShriekingGnawer Thu 21-Nov-13 16:33:15

The Fifth Childis wonderful.

Hullygully Thu 21-Nov-13 17:31:00

So far, after terrific amounts of honing:

Blindness by Jose Saramago - for stripping away the veil and laying bare the truly terrifying black heart of humanity.

Blood Meridien by Cormac McCarthy for the blood. I spit on your nimby pimby The Road

Creation (and everything else he wrote <breaks own rules in a devilish fashion>) by Gore Vidal for the sheer genius and damn good story encasing Buddha, Confuscius and er I 've forgotten the others

The Vivisector by Patrick White for the ASTONISHING writing and capturing of the essence of artistry

I would have Such a Long Journey but we've had that a lot, so I'll have The Cider House Rules (which kicks stupid Owen Meany's arse), for the wisdom and humanity.

Hullygully Thu 21-Nov-13 17:32:56



And it's my thread so I can so ner

valiumredhead Thu 21-Nov-13 17:41:59

Rebecca-fantastic twist, dark,I can read and re read it and never tire of it.

*The Poisonwood Bible*-just wonderful, reads like a film the writing conjures up such amazing imagery.

*An Inspector Calls*-read it at school and stayed with me.

*Sleeping Beauty*-yes reallyblush grin

Bit stumped for number 5, The Cider house Rules possibly, The Bell Jar...

definitely NOT The Secret History, good Lord that's an overrated book imo

valiumredhead Thu 21-Nov-13 17:42:41

Oh fucked up my boldhmm

ThenSheSaid Thu 21-Nov-13 17:57:58

The Cider House Rules is great, Blindness is great, Owan Meany is great, a Thousand Splendid Suns is great, the Fifth Child is great.


This is making my brain hurt.

Hullygully Thu 21-Nov-13 18:05:54

Owan Meany is great, a Thousand Splendid Suns is great


LEMisafucker Thu 21-Nov-13 18:17:30

WHY can't i download To kill a mockingbird on my kindle???? <wails>

valiumredhead Thu 21-Nov-13 18:29:12

No they are bloody not hully I agree.

valiumredhead Thu 21-Nov-13 18:30:44

Oh The Fifth Child, not read that in years!

mmack Thu 21-Nov-13 18:42:29

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Because it makes you think about the effects that technology and science might have on humanity.
East of Eden. Biblical, most evil character ever written but in the end a celebration of humanity.
Sophie's Choice by William Styron. The most haunting, harrowing story of war.
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. The best book ever written about growing up.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
These are the 5 that made me think the most and I think everyone should read but not necessarily my 5 favourite desert island books.

Dededum Thu 21-Nov-13 18:53:11

Hullygully - which was my choice that you honed out?

Haven't read any of your choices, though have read Gore Vidal before.

GiraffesAndButterflies Thu 21-Nov-13 18:56:24

First they must be read, then we must provide justifications as to why, then they must bring something to humanity's dark and weary trudge etc, then They should be universal in the manner of FR Leavis' Great Tradition. They should speak to us all.

^Gawd it's hard, innit??^

Yes Hully. Yes it is. When someone keeps CHANGING THE SODDING RULES.

But no matter. I am still having Lord of the Rings.

Owen Meany - too long, too silly, too predictable. Would have made a good short story.

Charlotte Delbo "Auschwitz and After" - because it is the most hauntingly beautiful holocaust memoir, written in poetry and prose, and I defy you to read it and not be changed by doing so.

Shakespeare's "Othello" because it is his best work ever, is still relevant and I gain something new every time I read it.

I'm still honing my other choices

MadeOfStarDust Thu 21-Nov-13 20:23:00

Wild Swans - Jung Chang - an extraordinary life story and defining an era told in such an engaging way- amazed me and made me and cry in equal measure.

The Stand - King - A deeply moving horror story about the depravity man will sink to and the winning over of evil by good - well told and engaging, you can't put it down.

Fahrenheit 451 - Bradbury a scary vision of the future... no more books as they cause angst.... and the struggle against this...

Little Women - Alcottt shows the strength of women and family, both made me cry and lifted my heart ...

Clan of the Cave Bear - Auel Such an epic tale - unique telling of a time long past with a strong women - such rich detail, well written and with a huge depth of research of the time...

Philip Pullman "Northern Lights" because it has everything. It's commentary on religion is second to none and it examines the torment of being a young adolescent beautifully.

Ninni Holmqvist "The Unit" because it makes you really think about the future of the world and what it means to be "needed", and about human worth.

pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 20:36:52

If we're going to have a John Irving, why can't it be The Hotel New Hampshire? It's my favourite one of his, am I weird?

Doublemuvver Thu 21-Nov-13 20:48:46

Every John Irving novel is fab, each for different reasons. I like Hotel New Hampshire too for its pure eccentricity. You are not weird!

Dededum Thu 21-Nov-13 21:06:54

I found Pullman so boring, I skipped through them. They are so not a classic.

pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 21:27:48

Now I want Peter Hoeg's 'Smilla's Sense of Snow' (that translation, not the one called 'Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow' which is quite different. But I don't know which one of the others to swap it for.


pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 21:28:16

And it strikes me that we may be a nest of vipers but by gum we are well-read and literate vipers!

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Thu 21-Nov-13 21:31:21

pointyfangs you are right. A lot of us seemingly spend out time reading good literature instead of messing about on the internet.

This thread has added far too many books to my to-read list. And to my re-read list.

<plans to drop huge hint to brother that what I'd like most for my birthday and for Christmas would be book tokens>

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Thu 21-Nov-13 21:31:43

our not out, obviously

MerylStrop Thu 21-Nov-13 21:42:24

If This Is A Man
Tender Is the Night
The Corrections
The Grass Is Singing
Oryx and Crake

Some of the worst most tawdry and illconceived books I've ever read are on this list - namely Time Traveller's Wife, Cloud Atlas, and The Book Thief.

Is there a clever spreadsheet person who could do a count up and find out which five are the most chosen so far? Eg P&P would be there, I think - and possibly Mockingbird.

juneau Thu 21-Nov-13 21:56:08

Wild Swans
A Fine Balance
I Capture the Castle
The Grapes of Wrath
Goodbye to All That (or maybe Testament of Youth)

Gah! Only five (or six?)

juneau Thu 21-Nov-13 21:57:16

Oh and I forgot:

South: Ernest Shackleton


GiraffesAndButterflies Thu 21-Nov-13 22:00:29

I've been pondering Fahrenheit 451 for a while. The number of lists it's on I think I'll go ahead and buy it...

It's excellent, Giraffe's.

Just thought, Hully - we should have a separate non-fiction list.

LifeofPo Thu 21-Nov-13 22:06:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

darwiniandreams Thu 21-Nov-13 22:11:53

Ive been lurking for a while and decided to join you <waves shyly>

The Voyage of the Beagle - Charles Darwin - I could so see myself doing that journey but maybe not being able to see the world through his colourful eyes though.

Pride and Predjudice - Jane Austen - Thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was also the first classic I had read since school.

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway - He captured the mans pride and stubborness so well that I cried blush

Scarpetta Series - Patricia Cornwell - I loved these and couldnt put them down.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - These gave me a taste of conspiracy theories which led to me reading............

smeakily adding one more to the list......

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail - Michael Baigent et al - Fascinating!

<quickily runs out of the firing line>

ExitPursuedByWho Thu 21-Nov-13 22:12:41

Five schmive.

No way could I choose. Though I see neither can you!

darwiniandreams Thu 21-Nov-13 22:14:39

oooo oooo one more

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - A fab psychological Thriller which had me hanging on to the edge of my seat.

I think I may be done now grin

Umicar Thu 21-Nov-13 22:16:31

His Dark Materials Trilogy

Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy trilogy

Notes from a small Island (can substitute almost any Bill Bryson book here)



ThenSheSaid Thu 21-Nov-13 22:17:59

juneau South is an incredible book. If you enjoyed it then I would recommend Nansens Farthest North . I listed it as one of my top five books earlier in this thread.
I think its as spellbinding and South .
If you read it make sure you get a copy which includes the maps and photos.

Agh - how did I forget King Wilkie? I'd go with 'Man and Wife' or 'No Name' I think - because he loves women and anybody who thinks that Dickens could write, should read Wilkie to realise that Dickens is a boring and misogynistic knob in comparison.

And for the 'South' and 'Nansen' lovers, don't forget, 'The Worst Journey In The World' which is the main reason why I want a non-fiction list too.

mmack Thu 21-Nov-13 22:19:16

My v. quick and unscientific count of this thread says that mumsnetters top 5 to read are: 1. To Kill a Mockingbird 2. Pride and Prejudice 3. Jane Eyre 4. Lord of the Ring 5. The Grapes of Wrath.

ThenSheSaid Thu 21-Nov-13 22:24:11

Ohh, I have read The Worst Journey in the World Its un-put-downable.

Cheboludo Thu 21-Nov-13 22:27:58

Pointyfangs - I loved The Hotel New Hampshire too, more than The Cider House Rules. But Garp was my first Irving and it remains my favourite. But I don't understand the widespread love for Owen Meany. I hated it and it's one of the reasons I stopped reading him - do I need to re-read it?

parques Thu 21-Nov-13 22:31:28

Final choice- numerous John Irving novels mentioned already..... so I'll go with Far From the Madding Crowd - a true classic.

darwiniandreams Thu 21-Nov-13 22:37:50

I keep meaning to read Lord of the Rings. Is it like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings?

snowsjoke Thu 21-Nov-13 22:42:37

Vanity Fair - Dickens.
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver

valiumredhead Thu 21-Nov-13 22:48:43

I love The Hotel New Hampshire!

I'm never sure how anyone can like Little Women-yawnsvillegrin <runs for cover>

ExitPursuedByWho Thu 21-Nov-13 22:56:08

Garp for me too

Couldn't we do 5 authors instead of books?

ThenSheSaid Thu 21-Nov-13 23:01:51

...and if you like the arctic/Antarctic expeditions try Skeletons of the Zahara which is a true story about a shipwreck that occurred in 1815. The survivors had to trek across the Sahara and survive getting captured by local slave traders. It's a fantastic read.

I could go on in this vein,
The Calaban Shore ,
In The Heart of The Sea ,
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano ,
Fatal Passage

...I could go on. confused

and on,

and on.

darwiniandreams Thu 21-Nov-13 23:44:34

Excuse my earlier mistake that was supposed to read Lord of the Flies blushblushblush
To answer my own question I have just read the blurb on goodreads. I judged a book by its title for some reason and thought it was a fantasy type book .........oooh dear!

<quickly running off to bed>

AmyTanFan Thu 21-Nov-13 23:59:30

Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan
Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld
A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler
Diary of a Provincial Lady, E M Delafield

DrankSangriaInThePark Fri 22-Nov-13 06:26:52

The Great Gatsby (and I've never seen any of the films so have not only just discovered it)
Testament of Youth- Vera Brittain
The Blood of Others- Simone de Beauvoir
Requiem por un campesino Espanol-JR Sender
The L Shaped Room trilogy

AgathaPinchBottom Fri 22-Nov-13 07:31:41

I would say:

Sherlock Holmes - I read this instead of revising for my finals and consider it time well spent.

Iris murdoch's 'the bell' - the first novel of hers that I read; I fell in love with her funny and compassionate perspective on the human condition.

The Magus - it's so wonderfully peculiar and plays with your mind.

King Lear - because it is the best play ever written IMO.

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks - as it was so thought provoking and paradigm shifting .... Though can't decide on this or Jane Eyre, which was the first proper novel I read and always has me weeping every time I reread it.

Hullygully Fri 22-Nov-13 09:55:35

I am going to have to ban the name of Sebastian Faulkes.


bibliomania Fri 22-Nov-13 10:07:48

My desert island choices. I don't think they MUST be read, simply that they are the books I would cheerfully face shipwreck with.

Something by Barbara Pym. Today I'll go for Less than Angels, but I'd take pretty much any of hers. Funny and plangent.

The Debt to Pleasure, by John Lanchester for sheer good fun.


The Young Romantics, Daisy Hay. Haven't stopped thinking about this since I read it last year, particularly Claire Clairmont and how Byron took her little girl away.

The Lost Ark of the Covenant, by Tudor Parfitt. Invariably compared to Indiana Jones. Rattling good fund, a real-life quest through fascinating locations, not entirely without academic merit.

In Ruins, Christopher Woodward. If I say it's a kind of meditation on art history it makes it sound incredibly precious, but it's really accessible and eye-opening.

bibliomania Fri 22-Nov-13 10:09:27

"read" not "fund".

heartichoke Fri 22-Nov-13 10:23:24

shallishanti - Apparently there are two of us smile

bibliomania Fri 22-Nov-13 10:24:29

Have now scrolled back and the rules.

"what does it bring to humankind's lonely dark trudge and solitary wrestling with this thing we call life en route to the yawning grave?"

Pleasure, that's what my choices bring. While we're on the lonely dark trudge, we might as well do our best to derive a little amusement along the way.

MillyMollyMandy78 Fri 22-Nov-13 10:34:29

I have no idea what my five would be but I'm so glad that Mockingbird is on so many of your lists. It is my all time favourite and could quote most of it. I have reread it countless times

valiumredhead Fri 22-Nov-13 11:54:55

Oh YY The Magus!!

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 22-Nov-13 12:49:01

The Magus is wonderful. I haven't read it for ages, so it will have to go on my re-reading list. Can I just spend the whole winter in bed reading, please?

juneau Fri 22-Nov-13 16:18:27

ThenSheSaid - Oooh thank you! I'll put it on my wish list. I'm currently reading 'The Worst Journey in the World', which is really good, but because he quotes at length from others' journals it's slightly disjointed, whereas 'South' is just incredible, both as a narrative and a tale of human endeavour. I am in awe of those men. Actually, I'm in awe of all that generation of polar explorers - the suffering they endured is unimaginable to me.

juneau Fri 22-Nov-13 16:19:50

'In the Heart of the Sea' is amazing too. As is 'This Thing of Darkness'.

The Caliban Shore is v good.

BananaNotPeelingWell Fri 22-Nov-13 17:02:31

I'm not a big re-reader of books. This sounds ridiculous written down, but I always worry that if I re-read something I thought was amazing I might not enjoy it so much and be disappointed. This particularly applies to The Magus which I especially think of as a young persons story. I loved the Magus, it blew me away. I read it when I was much younger than I am now when I was in my 20's. I have heard people say re-reading the Magus from a different point in your life (ie older) spoiled itconfused

BananaNotPeelingWell Fri 22-Nov-13 17:11:17

I do of course exempt Just William from the re-readinggrin

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach- just beautiful.

Mists of Avalon by Marian Bradley - the best telling of the Arthurian legends IMO.

Strangers by Dean Koontz - the first really long book I never wanted to end.

The Girl of the Sea of Cortez by Peter Benchley - please read this book, it's magnificent.

Spanish Steps, Travels with my Donkey by Tim Moore - a true story of a man's 500 mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with a (very reluctant and stubborn) donkey called Shinto. Amazing, hilarious, inspirational and deeply heart-warming.

Dededum Mon 25-Nov-13 21:32:36

Oh yes - Jonathan Livingstone Bach by Richard Bach, loved it in my 20's. Must read it again.

Tallaween Fri 29-Nov-13 00:28:03

Mort - because death scares me, but not if he likes cats.

Othello - because Shakespeare, and I adore Iago, he is the best worst.

Billy - I cried, it was just so fucking awful and sad

We Need to Talk About Kevin - because I love an unreliable protagonist, I have read this again and again.

Gobbolino the Witches Cat - A kids book, I know, but it was my favourite as a very little girl. We should all strive for the life we want rather than accepting the life we're born in to.

AnneWentworth Fri 29-Nov-13 11:41:16

This is so hard. I had five planned and then I read the thread.

As my name suggests, I must have Persuasion by Austen. Because when you have a down day, doubting the power of love, or just craving escape you can open chapter 23 and the words "you pierce my soul" make you exclaim out loud and positivity is restored.

Goodnight Mister Tom, again because it restores your faith in humankind and introduces mental illness, grief etc to a young audience in a beautiful way.

So glad Louis de Bernieres was mentioned by at least one person. I saw that they picked the trilogy but if pushed to pick just one I would pick Señor Vivo and the Coco Lord. It shows determination and courage in the face of some of the most awful events and still manages to be funny.

The English German Girl - I am going out on a limb and saying I prefer this to The Book Thief (Holocaust) theme. It is beautiful, devastating and well researched. I read a lot of Holocaust related literature both fiction and non fiction and this is just amazing. Every single person should read this.

Around the World in Eighty Days - fantastic writing, a great yarn and bringing the world to people in 1872. For all of Fogg's flaws I find it an inspiring read to get up and do something.

I could easily add Wuthering Heights (my favourite - but following the rules), Frankenstein and To the Lighthouse (I struggle with Woolf until I just get to a point where she has written a sentence that just turns it all upside down).

Lucelulu Fri 29-Nov-13 23:54:07

Madame Bovary
Because whenever I fret about my lot I remember Emma on her taxi ride and how it all went

Rabbit, run (and subsequent books) Richard Ford
Beautiful language, reflective and not so reflective life

The Master and Marguerita, Bulgakov
Biting, extraordinary grim scary transcendent

Franny and Zooey J D Salinger
No idea why it's stayed with me for years and years after a single reading but it has

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S Thompson
A reminder not to be so reductive

God that was hard - down from 12

MrFranklyShankly Sat 30-Nov-13 23:23:32

1) Catcher in the rye - JD Salinger

2) Angela's ashes - Frank McCourt

3) The Wasp Factory - Ian Banks

4) Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

5) The Butcher Boy - Patrick McCabe

FuckyNell Sat 30-Nov-13 23:35:10

The green mile - Stephen king

All quiet western front

Grapes of wrath

Wild swans

The tiger who came to tea

highlandcoo Sun 01-Dec-13 00:45:41

OK, so obviously picking only five is very hard! I've gone for books that I love, and would read time and again, and I think that's because I find myself feeling really involved with one or more of the central characters.

Espedair Street - Iain Banks

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

The Observations - Jane Harris

The Old Wives' Tale - Arnold Bennett

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

drudgetrudy Tue 10-Dec-13 20:20:07

The children's Book AS Byatt
A whistling Woman- AS Byatt
Pride and Prejudice
Wuthering Heights

The Women's Room Marilyn French
+ lots more
Honorable mention to Easr Riding. Winifred Holtby

bimblebee Wed 11-Dec-13 10:01:24

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Wasp Factory - Ian Banks
The Collector - John Fowles
1984 - George Orwell

drudgetrudy Wed 11-Dec-13 20:10:51

Ooops SOUTH Riding

ZombiePenguin Wed 11-Dec-13 20:33:29

Of Mice and Men
The Handmaid's Tale
Thirteen Reasons Why
Behind The Scenes At The Museum

Smilla's sense of snow

Der Plan von der Abschaffung des Dunkels (I don't think it's been translated into English, same author, Peter Høeg)

The picture of Dorian Gray

One hundred years of solitude

High Fidelity

maybe I throw the Handmaid's Tale in instead of Der Plan von der Abschaffung...

HowGoodIsThat Wed 11-Dec-13 20:56:01

I Capture The Castle - everything you need to know about love in all its guises - the good bits and the bad.

In This House of Brede - meditations on why life need to be rigorously examined and tested, and a masterly insight into women

Slaughterhouse 5 - war, what is it good for.....

The Summer Book - beautiful writing, the link across generations - the particular relationship between those at the end of life and those at the beginning

Albert Speer: His Battle with the Truth - masterly dissection of the time but more so the man - if you want to talk of the human condition both the subject and the author will teach you a great deal.

<bows out.

AphraBane Wed 11-Dec-13 20:56:25

Pride and Prejudice (Austen) and
Rape of the Fair Country (Alexander Cordell) contrast and complement each other rather well, showing opposite ends of 19th century society - the harsh, deadly reality of industrialisation without which the refined world of manners would not have been able to exist.

Into the Silence (Wade Davies) - a non-fiction account of the impact of World War One and the subsequent attempts to climb Everest in the early 1920s. A beautifully drawn essay (OK, a very long essay) on the long-term tragedy of war, with amazingly thorough research.

Ulysses (Joyce) - that would be my Desert Island book. You can open it at any point and start reading (preferably out loud) and just delight in the sheer pleasure of language.

Buddenbrooks (Thomas Mann). An amazing study of decline and fall at the family level - but also ultimately the end of empire.

ZombiePenguin Wed 11-Dec-13 21:34:47


I love The Summer Book. I didn't like Tove Jannson's children books but that book was very clever and interesting.

Allalonenow Wed 11-Dec-13 22:19:31

Some wonderful books mentioned on this thread, here are some of my favourites:
This Thing of Darkness ~ Harry Thompson
A Suitable Boy ~ Vikram Seth
An Instance of the Fingerpost ~ Iain Pears
Clara ~ Janice Galloway
Suite Francaise ~ Irene Nemirovsky

All grab the reader by the throat and pull them into an alternative world, often harrowing or heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, always thought provoking.

JennyOfOldstones Fri 20-Dec-13 16:02:44

Been working on my top five for years.....

To Kill a Mockingbird (popular for a reason)
Martin Chuzzlewit (for Mr Pecksniff)
Lord of the Flies (horrible and wonderful)
The Blind Assassin (beautiful writing)
Midnights Children (fantastic idea, well executed)

<changes name to post another five>

JennyOfOldstones Fri 20-Dec-13 16:18:06

Posted then went back to check if anyone had the same five as me, if they had I would have proposed marriage. Although one other person likes Martin Chuzzlewit, worth exchanging emails for, I think....

revivingsnowshower Tue 24-Dec-13 17:32:32

I'm just going to post some of my 5 favourites
The Charioteer by Mary Renault beautifully written and very romantic love story that happens to be about 2 gay men. I read this as a teenager and it changed the way I think about gay people.
The Godfather captures the fear and awe inspired by the Don. He is one of the great characters in modern fiction. It depicts that world so clearly.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian can I have this whole series? The sea, the sky, the sea, the sky etc
Venetia by Georgette Heyer ok not world changing, but it is a really good historical romance with wonderful period detail
The no 1 ladies detective agency by Alexander Macall Smith its lighthearted but he is writing something about human decency and the good side of Africa, so often forgotten when we see tragedies in the news.
I had to leave out PG Wodehouse and Neville Shute and Tony Hillerman and Terry Pratchatt but anyway I couldn't decide which of their books I liked best x

Louise1956 Tue 24-Dec-13 18:46:33

I don't think any books MUST be read. And people's tastes are so different I couldn't list 5 books I think everyone else must read. but five books I really love are:

pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I love the characters and the humour
An Autobiography by Agatha Christie - fascinating, especially about her childhood and youth
three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - funniest book ever
Our Village by Mary Russell Mitford - fascinating essays about country life 200 years ago - a portrait of a vanished world
1066 And All That by W.R. Seller and R.J. yeatman - best history book ever.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Tue 24-Dec-13 21:23:48

Couldn't whittle it down, books are so personal. But, the 5 books I love and read again and again are...

the Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontes

The Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Tue 24-Dec-13 21:31:32

Forgot to add reasons. Dorothy Dunnett is amazing! her books sing. Go read her. Now.

Chocolat always evokes a certain feeling, I read it coming up to Easter most years. It's like an old friend.

Sherlock Holmes, the short stories are great, I was given this book when I was 18 odd teenager and have been reading it for years

Wuthering Heights. A book about complete assholes being assholes, but beautifully bleak and perfect for January.

The Goblet of Fire because I bloody love the Harry Potter Books and this is when they started to get really good.

bishbashboosh Tue 24-Dec-13 21:56:46

I've read 100s this year and 376 yet to go on my kindle

I loved perfect by Rachel Joyce. It was good when I wAs reading it but haunted me for days afterwards

The vanishing act of Esme Lennox

Shutter island

The handmaids take

If nice and men

I also loved small island and all of Victoria hislops books

But I'm in love with lots of books

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