Reading from the perfect library (or not)

I noted yesterday The Telegraph‘s list of the 110 books it considers “the perfect library.” Perhaps further proving I am an illiterati, I evidently have not spent enough time in that library.

I’ve read only 17 of the books on the list — and more than a third were SF novels. I’m not going to repeat the full list here because it’s worth spending some time perusing and critiquing (or nit picking). Here’s how I fared in the 11 categories:

CLASSICS: 0/10. Looking at the list, I speculate any I may have read were in the Classics Illustrated series.

POETRY: 0/10. Not surprising at all as I would be the first to admit I’ve never really developed an appreciation for poetry.

LITERARY FICTION: 0/10. I would have thought I’d read at least one book in this category. I think the problem is there’s several that have been on my “I should read that someday” list far too long.

ROMANTIC FICTION: 1/10. I finally read something on the list and it’s in Romantic Fiction???? Equally surprising to me is that the book is I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I guess thinking I was reading a novel about Roman history, not a romance novel, shows the depth of my lit crit illiteracy.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS: 2/10. Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings saved me here. Again, I wonder about the categorization since Tolkien’s work isn’t one that would come to mind if I were asked to identify a classic children’s book.

SCI-FI: 6/10. Not surprisingly, this is my strongest category. Guess I’m just a genre fiction kind of reader, having read Frankenstein, Brave New World, 1984, the Foundation trilogy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Neuromancer.

CRIME: 2/10. Okay, so not all genre fiction is my cup of tea. I may be doubling my actual count here since one of the works is The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I’m taking credit for having read several of the Holmes mysteries but doubt I’ve read the complete works.

BOOKS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: 2/10. I may be underestimating here since there’s a couple I might have read in a poli sci class or two. To be safe, I’m only counting Democracy in America and The Prince.

BOOKS THAT CHANGED YOUR WORLD: 3/10. “Your world” must be the key here as most of the books are relatively contemporary. My reads out of this section: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

HISTORY: 1/10. I’d find this a bit more surprising if it weren’t for a seeming focus on ancient and European history. That may seem contradictory when the only one on the list I’ve read is Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

LIVES: 0/10. Striking out in the biography/autobiography/memoirs section I will simply attribute to a somewhat of a British emphasis.

So, perhaps I’m not well versed in this particular perfect library. For my tastes, my home library is perfect as far as I’m concerned.

It is the interest one takes in books that makes a library.

Carolyn Wells, The Rest of My Life

2 comments to Reading from the perfect library (or not)

  • j

    I can’t help but think you’re selling yourself a little short–surely you had to read the Illiad and the Oddysey in high school, and Winnie the Pooh at some time. It is a very English list though (despite the odd absence of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass). The classics section could have been picked by WS Maugham (very similar to a series he edited, but dear lord–George Elliot instead of Moby Dick, and Trollope instead of the Brothers Karamazow?), and only a Brit would have picked something by Wyndham instead of something by Heinlein. I loved the pick of JL Seagull, mainly because I loved the book when I was 11 (I’d be afraid to read it today though)
    Out of curiousity, how many of the movies have you seen?