Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Australian Canon?

Book readers love nothing better than a list of books. What's in it? What's been left out? Have you read any? Have you read them all? Sadly not a position I've ever been in. Today has seen the birth of another list, this one focusing on the 15 books that Every Australian Should Read. Wow, no grandiose claims or hyperbole here. Just some gentle summer reading suggestions. But these aren't quite your typical beach reads.

 Lisa over at ANZLitLovers has provided us with the pared down list (although I've added in the other two Maloufs that were mentioned, it's hard to tell, but I presume if they're mentioned then they're recommended). I thought it would be fun to treat it like the BBC list meme that will not die. The ones I've read are in red, and the ones I've started and not been able to finish are in italics.


Eucalyptus- Murray Bail 1998
True History of the Kelly Gang- Peter Carey 2000
For the Term of His Natural Life- Marcus Clarke 1874
Our Sunshine - Robert Drewe 1991
Night Letters - Robert Dessaix 1996
Gould's Book of Fish- Richard Flanagan 2001
My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin 1901
The Children's Bach- Helen Garner 1984
Monkey Grip - Helen Garner 1984
The Getting of Wisdom - Henry Handel Richardson 1910
The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney - Henry Handel Richardson 1930
Capricornia - Xavier Herbert 1937
Johnno- David Malouf 1975
The Great World - David Malouf 1991
An Imaginary Life - David Malouf 1978
The Harp in the South- Ruth Park 1948
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead 1940
The Slap- Christos Tsiolkas 2008 (see my review)
Voss- Patrick White 1957
The Twyborn Affair - Patrick White 1979
The Tree of Man - Patrick White 1955
Cloudstreet - Tim Winton 1991
The Riders - Tim Winton 1995
Carpentaria - Alexis Wright 2006

Non Fiction

The Tyranny of Distance - Geoffrey Blainey 1966
The Australian Ugliness- Robin Boyd 1960
A Fortunate Life - A.B Facey 1981
The First Stone - Helen Garner 1995
The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer 1970
The Lucky Country - Donald Horne 1964
The Fatal Shore - Robert Hughes 1987 (4 pages counts right?)
Damned Whores and God's Police - Anne Summers 1975

Hmmm. I thought I'd done pretty well when I read the article, but now that I see it in black and white, and not too much red, it doesn't look that impressive. 8 finished. 3 not-finished. I've meant to read more. The only one I've never heard of is The Australian Ugliness.

It's a bit unfair though. I have slogged through one Patrick White (Fringe of Leaves), just not those 3. I'm not sure whether I'll get to Mr White again, or if he should be placed with Virginia Woolf in the read when I'm dead category.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Christmas Carol Read Along

Oh I had such grand plans for the reading of this book this year. I was going to read it aloud to my 10 year old son- we did start it together, and we got through about half of it aloud, which I think given the multiple demands clamouring for a modern 10 year old's attention is pretty good. I was going to blog Stave by Stave posts. Well, that didn't happen either, what with the multiple demands on a modern blogger's attention. But still I got there in the end. After Christmas it must be said. But I got there.  Sadly, not quite in time to blog for the read-a-long at Sheery's Place. I've never done a blog read-a-long before and am not sure how much of a transgression this is. Hopefully not too much.

I can't believe that I had never read a full Dickens before! Shhhhh. Although it seems I'm not alone in my Dickens deficit- Oprah hasn't read Dickens yet either, and she too is taking steps to remedy that.  So what if I read possibly his shortest complete story,  that can barely matter. I've still read Dickens. And a complete one -not just half of Bleak House (twice).

I loved the famous story of course. What I found most surprising was the level of humour within the book. The opening comments about door nails, and the relative deadness of ironmongery is rather funny, and serves to put the modern reader slightly off-balance I suspect. We have vague notions of Dickens being somewhat akin to drudgery, and we don't expect to be glancing sideways with surprise and sniggering within the first few paragraphs.

I think my favourite part is when Marley's ghost visits Scrooge. Scrooge tries to account for this strange apparition, and why he can not trust his senses:

"Because," said Scrooge," a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

There's more of gravy than of grave about you! That's gold.

I love Dickens's vocabulary and his turn of phrase.  Who can not rejoice in Dickens's wondrous use of words? How often do we get to read books that describe a nose not merely as large but as a pendulous excrescence? Or children's books that talk of disgorging cesspools? Or the apoplectic opulence of a basket of chestnuts? These gems are studded throughout the book and immeasurably add to the fun of reading.

I feel that I gained such a deeper understanding of the story by reading it than just merely watching a movie adaptation - no great surprises there of course. For instance, the form of the three ghosts makes an intrinsic sense to me now, that it never has before. The Ghost of Christmas Past is essentially a torch illuminating Ebeneezer's sad childhood story. The Ghost of Christmas Present is larger than life, jolly and full of joie de vie- perhaps as we all should be. Whilst the The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the Grim Reaper, as that is what awaits us all, and perhaps Scrooge sooner than others.

Even before I was finished reading I was making plans to try and re-read A Christmas Carol. I'm sure it's a book that would reward re-reading handsomely, both with mere reading pleasure, and also with a heightened understanding of the book, and of the times. It is interesting and moving to read that Dickens was inspired to write A Christmas Carol in part as a response to the dreadful situation with child labour in England at the time. Dickens had toured tin mines in Cornwall in early 1943, and it was whilst in Manchester a few months later  to address a charity serving the poor that he developed the story idea. Wiki also gives us the historical background that most of our strongest Christmas traditions began about that time- Christmas trees, cards and carol singing.

A Christmas Carol remains such a culturally important tale, and is still culturally relevant. This week, on our Australian Boxing Day (December 26th) we watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special for 2010- which naturally enough was called A Christmas Carol.

It was quite astonishing. We still have The Ghost of Christmas Past, as the good Doctor travels back and forth through time changing history, and taming the fish in the sky to stop a spaceship crashing (it is Doctor Who after all). I hadn't seen any of the modern Doctor Who episodes but this was an enjoyable introduction, and I just might start watching them again. And it was great to see Dickens reinterpreted for the modern age.

Happily this post qualifies me to enter The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge I believe (again a bit late, but this time within the set timeframe). I hope to squeeze in a few more Christmas reading posts- I've really enjoyed it this year, and it doesn't seem to matter too much that Christmas is somewhat technically over.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Foodies Reading Challenge

This just seems the perfect idea for me. I do love my food. After all, I do have two food blogs, even if one has sadly been a bit neglected of recent times.

And I love my reading of course. So, even though I'm already somewhat overstretched in the reading schedule (huge TBR looming as do we all), I'm going to sign up for Joyfully Retired's Foodies Reading Challenge. I'm going to read some of these books this year anyhow, now I'll have to blog them too. And who could resist this wonderful button? It just looks so fab.

As a relatively new regular-ish book blogger I haven't participated in a blog Reading Challenge like this before, so I'm not sure how I'll got with activity level. Certainly I'll be a Nibbler (1-3 books), but will I go any higher? Time will tell.

One of the massive pile of books I brought with me for my one (short) Christmas week break, will happily kick off my challenge reading. John Baxter's Immoveable Feast- A Paris Christmas. And I got a few cookbooks for Christmas presents, so I will blog those too to get me started. I have hundreds, ?thousands of cookbooks and food books at home so I'm sure more inspiration is around and about.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Late Seasonal Reading

Since my son was born 10 years ago I've read one book every year on the same day of the year. Not surprisingly it has been Twas the Night Before Christmas. For the past 9 years I've used a thick board book edition that I bought even before I had a child.

This year I bought a beautiful new version illustrated by Australian Robert Ingpen (that link shows most of the gorgeous images from the book at the moment, I hope it will stay that way).

This new version has a page at the beginning telling us about Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) who was one of early New York's wealthiest men. He was a professor of Greek and Oriental literature at Columbia College, and his proudest academic moment was writing the first American Hebrew dictionary. But it seems he is most remembered now for this wonderful poem written for his nine children.

Happily my son is still young enough to enjoy, nay, be excited by this shared ritual reading with his mother, and he bounded along to bed on Christmas Eve buoyed at the prospect of continuing our Christmas reading tradition. 

I was quite surprised on reading this newly illustrated version of a familiar tale to stumble on a few words:

On, Comet! On, Cupid!
     On, Donder and Blitzen!

Donder? Who is Donder? I have been more used to Donner in previous versions. A quick Google and it seems that the original version my have been

On, Dunder and Blixen!

Which further muddies the waters in my view. That site makes reference to the authorship controversy. I guess if Shakespeare can have an authorship controversy, so can Clement C. Moore.

One book that I read for the first time this year was J.R.R. Tolkein's The Father Christmas Letters.

I'm not the biggest fan of Tolkien (ssssshhhh), only having read some of The Hobbit, and never even starting The Lord of the Rings (even the movie versions are a bit much for me), and so I only came to hear of this book this year as I was casting about looking for some new Christmas Reading.

This lovely book from the 1970s reproduces most of the letters and drawings that Tolkein (as Father Christmas) wrote to his young children over a period of over 20 years, from 1920 to 1940, in response to their letters to Santa. Sometimes these letters were found in the Tolkein house on Christmas morning- dusted with snow and bearing stamps from the North Pole, sometimes the postman brought them.

They form a remarkable record- of fatherly devotion, of an inventive mind, and also of the times. The Noth Polar Bear contracts Whooping Cough in 1930. In 1931 Father Christmas is busy collecting food, clothes and some toys for the children of those effected by The Great Depression, and he reminds the Tolkein children of the terrible number of poor and starving people. The last letter, in 1940, has Father Christmas saddened that the number of children able to write to him is dwindling due to the "horrible war".

I think I like the idea of this book more so than the actual book. Perhaps because not all the letters are here, it seemed confusing at times, and I found myself rereading sections or thumbing back trying to work out what Father Christmas was referring to. But I can't help thinking how astonishing and wonderful it must have been for those four lucky children to get their own letter and drawings from Father Christmas each year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

More Seasonal Reading

I can't believe that it took me sooo long to get around to reading this book. I have always loved Dr Seuss, and this is one of his most famous works. I don't remember it at all from my own childhood, although it was released in 1957 so it is possible that I could have read it, but somehow it seems I didn't. I've never seen a movie version either I believe.

But I've been won over by it's considerable charms. It is of course a rather engaging book. Dr Seuss rarely writes a dud. Ok, there are a few. But he was a rhyming genius. And The Grinch is a great creation. I wasn't all that fond of Horton Hears a Who, and the whole Who-ville thing, but it works much better here.

The Grinch is a grumpy old curmudgeon who lives just north of Who-ville. The Grinch quite naturally hates Christmas, the whole Christmas season!

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. 
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was too sizes too small. 

The Grinch of course does his darnedest to stop Christmas from coming, to ruin it for everyone, and along the way he bring some great Seuss tongue-twisting rhymes. My favourite line by far is

And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore. 

Great stuff. 

A near complete change of style is David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice. This is one of the many purchases that I made at the fabulous $5 book sale in town. Oh, I wonder if I can sneak in another visit before Christmas? I've made 4 major hits so far..... and there's new books each time. This is the first of the bargain books that I've read. 

I've admired David Sedaris from a distance for a while. I've long to read Me Talk Pretty One Day for some time. My sister gave me When You are Engulfed in Flames for Christmas a few years ago, and to my shame I haven't finished it yet! I think I've half read it, and enjoyed it. So Holidays on Ice was too good to pass up for 5 bucks. 

An interesting compilation of 6 short stories in a lovely little coaster sized book. The first SantaLand Diaries recounts Davids time working as an Elf at Macy's in New York, before his considerable fame presumably. It is a depressing account of how people behave in crowds, and it's not a pleasing view of humanity:

All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are uinque, but I'm afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints. 

In a little known but quite interesting fact (and one that I learnt on QI, and is not covered in SantaLand Diaries) koalas have fingerprints that distinguish individuals, just like humans do.

Of course there are wry and witty observations along the way: Standing in a two-hour line makes people worry that they're not living in a democratic nation. 

Season's Greetings is a fictional end-of-year Christmas letter written by Mrs Dunbar and detailing all the happenings with her family over the last year. It has that train wreck fell about it from early on, and this feeling only amplifies along the way despite Mrs Dunbars optimistic and upbeat turn of phrase. I didn't particularly find it funny. Sadly, the tragic events in the fake Christmas letter have become all too real in recent years to be even slightly funny and it just seems to be in bad taste to me. There is a certain irony to the character named Khe Sanh for any Australian reader of a certain age- of course it was a famous battle in Vietnam, but perhaps even more famously a song by an iconic Aussie band, Cold Chisel, often the last song of the night played in a pub, and the beer ravaged hordes would sing loudly. I'm sure that Mr Sedaris wasn't aware of these associations at the time, but it's still an "oh" sort of moment. There are still the occasional funny, snarky moment. 

Most of the rest of the stories I found more bizarre than evocative of Christmas. The promising title of Dinah The Christmas Whore didn't bear all that much fruit I thought. Front Row Centre is odd. So a gay adult man with no children goes to Christmas plays at primary schools  is bored and astonished at the poor level of acting? No great surprise there. Whilst I must agree with the opening sentence:

The approach of Christmas signifies three things: bad movies, unforgivable television and even worse theatre. 

He puts his derision across in a funny way, and as a parent who has sat through a school concert quite recently I certainly understand some of his points about the validity of such a theatre experience. Some of it is cringeworthy indeed, but it's our little darlings, or our friends little darlings up there on stage, and we parents need to be supportive. 

I did take great exception when he started taking a swipe at Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Sure, a version acted out by preteens may not have quite the dramatic impact that Dickens imagined, but to call this well-loved, classic tale (that I'm reading right now) a "Dickensian stinker"  and rail against it's "dime store mentality" is taking things a bit far I suspect.

Based Upon a True Story is a really interesting piece. A TV producer is delivering a sermon in a small town back water church trying to get access to a parishioner to get her "story". It has a lot of interesting things to say about modern media, what constitutes "entertainment", and the ongoing role of class in our society. It's possibly my favourite piece in the book. 

Christmas Means Giving is a farcical story depicting ridiculous levels of neighbourly rivalry. It is trying to make a point I'm sure, but I found it just silly. 

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I came across this meme just a few days ago, and it seemed perfect for me. I'm becoming more and more intrigued by new and unusual words. I still remember finding amanuensis in Dickens's Bleak House a few years ago. I'm rather thrilled that not only have I remembered the word, but I've also remembered the meaning and even used it in conversation more than once.

What new words have I found recently? My favourite new word of the last week was barbotage. It came up in conversation at work, not in reading, but it's still a great word. It's always vaguely embarrassing to find a new medical word that I don't know, and I particularly like that it's from the French.

bar·bo·tage (bärb-täzh)

The production of spinal anesthesia in which a portion of the anesthetic solution is injected into the cerebral spinal fluid, which is then aspirated into the syringe and a second portion of the contents of the syringe is injected. The partial reinjections and aspirations are repeated until the contents of the syringe are used.

The New York Times has weighed in on what it sees as the most important new words of 2010. New words are usually disappointing and puerile. Star whacker and robo-signer being typical examples. Although vuvuzela is a fun word, but of course the sound of one is abysmal. And I must say I hadn't heard belieber, but I think that's funny. Shellacking I see as non-noteworthy, I presume that it must be of rarer usage in America. 

Friday, 17 December 2010

Seasonal Reading

My recent post on Top Ten Christmas reading that I had (largely) done, inspired me to do some seasonal reading this year. A chance to catch up with some old favourites- interesting how I can enjoy rereading things now- re-reading is only something that I've come to very recently.

The first book that I was keen to re-read was John Julius Norwich's perfect The Twelve Days of Christmas [Correspondence]. This little gem of a book can be read in mere minutes but stays with you much longer. A wonderful example of the Christmas espistolary form in response to stalking. A series of letters written by Emily to her beau Edward as he showers the gifts from The Twelve Days of Christmas upon her. Emily becomes increasingly frantic when the unrequested bounty arrives at her door. Until I read this book I don't know that I actually appreciated exactly how many birds her true love bestows on her during the song.

Actually, I'm just beginning to discover how many versions of The Twelve Days exist out there. Classy ones like Frederica and Kathleen. Bob and Doug Mckenzies's Canadian Hoser versions (oh the memories!). Farting Elves. And the religious significance. And that it is used as an economic indicator- the Christmas Price Indicator.

My second book was Lemony Snicket's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. A Christmas Story. I'm not Jewish, and haven't had much exposure to Jewish culture and traditions. I have vague notions of what latkes may be, but have never knowingly eaten one. I have had the occasional potato cake, and even one entitled rosti, but never a latke.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this book, or how to take it. It's subtitled A Christmas Story but is more about Hanukkah, and how that isn't the same as Christmas. In my ignorance I didn't know a lot about Hanukkah either. I knew about the Mennorah, and that a candle was lit each night, but not what this symbolised. Now I do.

The book does a rather annoying thing a few times. It uses a word that is so clearly above the level of it's intended readership that it has to directly define it in the text. I've never quite understood this as a writing technique.

.....but instead they heard a terrible noise from a certain cottage in the neighbouring arrondissement, a word which here means "place where something was  being born."

Which isn't at all what arrondissement means at all as far as I know. Arrondissement is of course inextricably linked with Paris. And so it's one of my favourite words, but if the kids who read the book aren't going to know what an arrondisement is, then don't use the word. And don't use it, and then define it, wrongly. I have moderately strong mixed feelings about this book.

Kipper's Christmas Eve

A cute Christmas story for the younger set, or a Kipper fan. Kipper is a lovely dog by English author illustrator Mick Inkpen (which is really a great name for his profession I should think). The original book is very clever, wonderful illustrations, who would have thought that a cartoon dog could express wry amusement and other non-traditional dog emotions? But it can. 

I didn't find Kipper's Christmas Eve quite as successful. Although it does have a great start with Kipper wondering if Christmas Eve is better than Christmas. Are presents better? Or the expectation of presents? It's an interesting question to ponder. Certainly planning and expectation are half the fun of lots of things. Presents. Holidays. A lunch out. I think I probably prefer the expectation too. 

The rest of the story is ok, and I'm sure Kipper fans would like it. I'm not sure why he is a dog named after a fish, but he is. I suspect it's not one of the better Kipper books. 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A modern epistolary tale, or lazy journalism?

The tale of a modern life. Shana Greatman Swers  a modern woman, lives out her life on facebook, possibly a little more than most, but it's not all that unusual after all. What is unusual is this Washington Post story. I wonder is this article a modern take on the epistolary tale?

Or is it just lazy journalism? A journalist who decides to sling together facebook updates, because the updates are the story, and call that a story?  I'm not sure. It is an interesting article. A gripping, yet ultimately tragic tale. That I don't think suffers from the facebook update presentation. But then I use facebook regularly. I wonder if it makes as much intuitive sense to those four people left who aren't on facebook yet? Would they even bother to read the article?

I do love the epistolary novel. Done well, they're one of my favourite styles. I think it works well in the standard, classic format (although I did only manage to get about 5 pages into Clarissa, I think that will have to be something for when I retire). I've read modern ones that consist merely of post-it notes on the fridge door (which I loved). I have drawn the line thus far in reading novels written in texts- I think they're for young people, much like doof-doof music. Is this article the next stage? A natural progression? I really don't know. The format made me very uneasy for some reason, even though I really enjoyed reading the article, and was incredibly moved by Shana's story. 

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Kensuke's Kingdom

November was a big Morpurgo month for me. I got to reread Private Peaceful (my favourite Morpurgo so far), and also read a new to me Morpurgo book Kensuke's Kingdom. The back cover proclaims it a modern day Robinson Crusoe, and that it is.

Young Michael is an average English working class soccer-mad lad at the end of the 20th century. He lives with his parents, and his dog Stella ( as in Artois- best name for a dog ever? S-t-e-l-l-a! I may well name my next girlie dog Stella). His parents are reeling after being laid off from their jobs at the local brick factory. Michael's father goes off and buys a boat without consulting the family and makes preparations to sail around the world. Normal laid off from work behaviour. Sure we all say we want to do it, but who actually does?

The book has a great first sentence
       "I disappeared on the night before my twelfth birthday."

We're instantly drawn in, wanting to know what happens. Given the whole Robinson Crusoe vibe it's no great surprise that Michael is soon washed overboard, and eventually finds his way to an island, an island where he isn't alone- he finds the reclusive Kensuke. An ageing Japanese man with limited English. The majority of the story is Michael and Kensuke's relationship on Kensuke's Kingdom.

One thing that annoyed me greatly about this book (and I realise that this is a ridiculously small point, but still, it annoyed me, and once a reader is annoyed by something like this, then your annoyance can only grow. And perhaps only an Australian could become annoyed by this?). On a map in the book Michael is washed overboard somewhere off the north-east corner of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef. That's fine. My problem is that Kensuke's Kingdom is inhabited by orangutans and gibbons. Which is just impossible. Everyone knows orangutans only live on Borneo and Sumatra. Which is well and good. All he had to do was set the story up so that they travel up the north west coast of Australia and maybe he could find an orangutan studded island, and I wouldn't have been bovvered, but don't put him off the boat near Cairns.

One thing I loved, is that Kensuke spoke of honour, and acted based on honour. Which seems a quintessentially Japanese, and perhaps a forgotten virtue in the west. Kensuke does not want to take a particular course of action because it's "Not honourable thing to do." I think it's great to have a popular mainstream book raising honour as an issue for modern kids. It is a concept sorely lacking in our world.

Another thing that I loved was the cover art. I noticed the obvious Japanese design aesthetic, although unlike Mr Odle, I think that there is much more than a "very slight" resemblance to Hokusai’s eighteenth-century painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa". I was just too lazy to check out the famous painting that it brought to mind. I think Michael Foreman is more than tipping his hat to Japanese traditional art iconography. 

I do wonder about the ongoing legacy of Robinson Crusoe. I'm not sure if I ever read a version of it as a child or not. I don't remember that I did. But somehow I know the basic elements of the story. I think most people would, wouldn't they? Robinson Crusoe is a castaway on an island, where he meets Man Friday. Robinson Crusoe is another fabulous book, that like Kensuke's Kingdom, I will read as part of my 1001 quest.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The BBC list

This list has been doing the rounds for a while. I first saw it on facebook I think, and it's going around for the second time just recently. And now it's now doing the rounds of the blogosphere.  The BBC believe most people would have read 6 of these.  I've put the ones I've read in red and the ones I've partially read in italics

I've got 32 in red. And 11 in italics. Pretty good. Last time I did this about 18 months or so ago, I think I had about 35 in total. I'm not frightfully well red, but am working towards it. 

So how many have you read?
 1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling  
 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
 7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell 
 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
 10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (OMG incomprehensible)
14 The Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
 19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
 20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
 27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
 28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 
 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 
 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (gave up after 600 of the 800 pages)
 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens 
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis 
 34 Emma -Jane Austen
 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
 36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis 
 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
 40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell 
 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
 44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins 
 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
 48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood 
 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (see my review)
 *50 Atonement - Ian McEwan (never got past 30 pages)
 51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
 52 Dune - Frank Herbert
 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons 
 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 
 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon  
 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 
 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
 69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie 
 70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 
 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
 72 Dracula - Bram Stoker 
 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
 75 Ulysses - James Joyce 
 76 The Inferno - Dante  
 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
 78 Germinal - Emile Zola
 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
 80 Possession - AS Byatt
 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens 
 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
 83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
 87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (on the plan for next year)
 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (I really, really want to read this)
 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas 
 98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl 
 100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Update March 2013, I now have 35 in red, 10 in italics. I'm planning on reading Les Miserable in the next few months.

Nov 2013. 36 in red, 10 in italics.