January 22, 2004

tell me what to read

Idea swiped from Vulgarweed, with a slight twist. The BBC has posted the results of "The Big Read"--the U.K.'s 200 best-loved books. I've read some, haven't read others, and have never even heard of a bunch. The ones below are the ones that are totally alien to me. If there's one I should read, please tell me which one and why.

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson (and a bunch of other books by her)
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
105. Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
107. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
127. Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
156. The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
160. Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
163. Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
172. They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
183. The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay

Posted by Douglas at January 22, 2004 11:44 PM

While I haven't read the Alchemist myself I have several friends who have referred me to it. All the sort of friends from whom I wouldn't normally ignore recommendations. Also, neither here nor there, Laurence Fishburne is taking it upon himself to adapt, produce, direct (?) and star in a movie version of it.

Posted by: Brian on January 23, 2004 6:06 PM

Definitely read I Capture the Castle: it's sweet, it's funny, it occasionally looks like an update on Jane Austen's Emma, it describes a bizarre family without ending up either diagnostic-horrifying or cloying, it deserves its popular acclaim, it has nothing in common with 101 Dalmatians except its author, and it will take you, probably, less than two hours.

Posted by: steve on January 25, 2004 10:27 AM

"Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging" is a young-adult novel marketed to teenage girls. As such, it might not be up your alley, but I have heard the series (which also includes "Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas" and "Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants," thanks Amazon) receive its share of high acclaim.

Posted by: Jeremy on January 26, 2004 6:23 AM

Pointbreak and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz are both YA novels, which is probably why they are off your radar. Short synopsis: 13 year old James Bond, very sharply written. If you'd like copies, shoot me a note.

Posted by: tanya on January 27, 2004 12:37 PM

Swallows and Amazons is also a YA novel. It's from the 1920s, which is probably why you've never heard of it. Describing it as a book about the adventures in England's Lake District of two families of children, both without fathers, does not adequately express its appeal. Swallows and Amazons is about boats the same way that Harriet the Spy is about journal-keeping, and I love it to desperation. Unfortunately, I cannot loan you my copy because I've already given it to my little sister.

Artemis Fowl is also an okay YA book. My little sister liked it. It's not nearly as good as Swallows and Amazons, though. And it feels very post-Potter, if you know what I mean. Anyone grownup looking for a wacky modern British take on criminals and fantasy would be far better served by The Eyre Affair.

A Town Like Alice is about post WWII Australia. It is soppy and melodramatic and should be read in the bathtub. I read it when I was 15 and cried and cried and cried. Then I cried some more. However, I can no longer remember quite what I was crying about.

Posted by: Liz on January 28, 2004 2:07 PM

59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer

I agree with Liz that this is not at all worth your time, although at least a dozen angry posters to my review blog have taken exception with me. Not really suitable for adults, unlike a lot of better kidlit.

142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson

This, on the other hand, I remember enjoying quite a lot. It's the story of a girl growing up lower-middle class in 1950s York. Quite funny, more than a little cracked -- the initial conceit, if I remember correctly, is that Ruby (who starts the narration from the womb) is an omniscient narrator who doesn't quite understand what she's seeing; there are extended third-person interludes about her ancestors which (except for the story of her parents) I recall not being quite as enjoyable, but the voice of Ruby is just great.

Posted by: Steve on January 30, 2004 1:48 PM
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