Checking my NPR listener credentials

Okay, I know I’ve got a thing with book lists. But I can’t resist looking at a list compiled when other listeners of NPR (the station(s) on which my car radio is set 99 percent of the time) picked the 100 Best Summer Books Ever. I didn’t cast a vote in the poll but do have an observation below about who did.

As 100 is a lot of books, I’m just going to look at the top 50. The books I’ve read are in bold and those unread on my bookshelves are underlined.

1. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (How can a “series” hold one position? I’ve read the first three, or maybe four).
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg
10. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
11. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
13. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
18. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
20. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
22. The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
23. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
24. The World According to Garp, John Irving
25. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
26. The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy
27. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
28. The Princess Bride, William Goldman
29. The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler
30. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
31. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
32. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
33. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
34. Beach Music, Pat Conroy
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
36. Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
37. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
38. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
39. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
41. Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
42. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
43. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
44. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
45. Empire Falls, Richard Russo
46. Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes
47. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tom Robbins
49. I Know This Much Is True, Wally Lamb
50. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

My results for the second 50 are roughly the same, having read eight with another two on my shelves unread. So, I’ve read 20 percent of the list. I attribute my performance to a perhaps sexist observation that the books on the list indicate a majority of those casting votes were women. Part of that stems from the fact I think my wife would do far better than me on this list — and she doesn’t even listen to NPR.

The good of a book lies in its being read.

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

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