Saturday, April 19, 2008

The imperfect library

This article in The Telegraph claims that one can build a "perfect" library out of a mere 110 books:

From classics and sci-fi to poetry, biographies and books that changed the world… we present the ultimate reading list.


I would agree that most of the listed books are must-haves. But one hundred and ten books is hardly a library, let alone a perfect library. It's only a start. Even in hardcover, that number of books would take up only about three shelves of the average bookcase.

I own only 42 of the books on the list. Which means, I suppose, that my library is not perfect. But I knew that already. The library of a booklover is always growing and evolving and proving there's no such thing as a complete or a perfect library.

But that's part of the fun, don't you think?

5 comments:

Neal said...

British media loves using these sort of lists for sparking debate, and of course, they always do. I think there must be a book somewhere that suggests it's an easy way to start controversy and ignite tempers ;-)

Anyway, I only have 35 of them, which I guess makes my library worse than yours. Plus, of course, some of those 35 I haven't read, and some I wouldn't personally include. (Harry Potter. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Meh.)

I'm surprised they include I Claudius in the list of romantic fiction: history, surely. I'm also surprised there's no Stephen King. In fact, no horror section at all. (Though kudos to them for including Frankenstein in its rightful place under Science Fiction, which of course it is.)

Then, of course, there are many that are must-haves. Tess of the D'Urbervilles. 1984.

Not the best such list I've seen, but not the worst either.

Brenda Coulter said...

I think there must be a book somewhere that suggests it's an easy way to start controversy and ignite tempers ;-)

No doubt.

Anyway, I only have 35 of them, which I guess makes my library worse than yours.

Hah. There were a few shockers on the list, yes. (Jonathan Livingston Seagull?) But there were also a handful of great books, like I, Claudius (Aak! Why don't I have a copy of Claudius?) and Le Morte D'Arthur that people don't talk about much anymore. Not here in the U.S., anyway.

I was surprised that the hefty, ten-book "Lives" section did not include Plutarch.

Ah, well. Like you, I've seen better lists and worse ones.

Julana said...

Take the books that "changed your world" out.

I got to hear Yann Martel (Life of Pi) speak at Calvin College's Faith and Writing Conference last week. Fantabulous, by the way. You should have been there.

He has a hilarious web site called "What is Stephen Harper Reading Now?" dedicated to the Canadian PM, who is not supporting the Arts as Martel wishes he would. So Martel is sending him a short classic every two weeks, explaining why Harper should take time out of his busy schedule to be still, and read it. Martel shares the letters on his site. It is a good list.

Brenda Coulter said...

He has a hilarious web site called "What is Stephen Harper Reading Now?" dedicated to the Canadian PM, who is not supporting the Arts as Martel wishes he would.

Sounds like a hoot, Julana. I'm going to Google it now....

Julana said...

Ha. He sent a new one by the Bush women this week--and asked what the men in the family are up to, while the women are educating. :-)