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In this wondrous age of the internet, we’re never more than a couple of clicks away from some form of ‘Best 100 books ever’ list (here’s a link to one produced by Time Magazine, back in January this year). 

These lists are usually chocked full of ‘classic’ literature like To Kill a Mockingbird, War and Peace or 1984.  Many of the novels listed are required reading in English classes, and (from a ‘classic’ literature point of view) rightly so, but I sometimes wonder whether there’s another test books should have to pass before they can truly be hailed as one of the best, and that’s the number of times folks come back to read them again.

Call me an uncultured numpty, but over the years I’ve read quite a lot of the books on those ‘Best 100…’ lists, and while I don’t doubt their (and their authors’) contribution to the world of literature, a major factor in deciding whether something went on my ‘best book’ list would be how many times I came back to read it again. 

With the exception of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, (both of which I’ve read at least twenty times), and the handful which I’ve read a couple of times in the last thirty years or so,  I don’t think I’ve seen any book mentioned in a top 100 list poll which I’ve wanted to read more than once.

On the other hand, novels like Terry Pratchett's Night Watch (along with many of his other Discworld books) have a permanent place in my tbr pile.

Of course, that’s just me. It’s possible everyone else has read most of those top 100s over and over. In any case, I’m not saying that makes them ‘bad’, I just don’t see how a book can be considered one of the best 100 books ever if folks don’t reread it time and time again.  If multi-reading were a factor, I suspect those lists would look dramatically different.

I’m sure Jane Austen fans re-read all her novels on a regular basis, but I do wonder how many other folks are like me and have only read most of these ‘best books ever’ once, and if they’d have read them at all if they hadn’t been required reading at some point in their academic lives.

How about you?

If you were compiling a 'Best ever' list, would you take into account the number of times folks reread the same book?  

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May. 10th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
I've always got a bone to pick with these kinds of lists. This one is especially Virginia Woolf, Faulkner, and John Cheever heavy. And seriously, I don't doubt the impact, but Jack Lewis's "Til We Have Faces" blows the doors off Narnia. And "Tropic of Cancer"? "Naked Lunch?" Really?

I was surprised to see Philip K. Dick, but I still think High Castle is a better book than UBIK. My personal fave of his is Valis, and Electric Sheep, fwiw.

And for Graphic Novels, The Crow didn't make the cut? Persepolis? Maus? 1602? And Watchmen is on the list for both graphic novels AND books?

For books, what about A Confederacy of Dunces? Black Sun? Age of Innocence? Heart of Darkness? The Good Earth? The Awakening!

And for re-readability, what about "The Shining"?
May. 10th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
On a slightly different tangent, what did you think of the movie version of The Crow?
May. 10th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'm a fan of the movie. It's full of neat visuals, the soundtrack was excellent, and it captured the _feel_ of the GN. It's that goofy Ling Bai "kill the crow and you will kill him!" stuff at the end that messes it up, but other than that, it's a great movie.

Some folks don't think it holds up, but really it's an interesting study in the 1990's and what we thought of the near future and violence in those days. Lots of memories associated with it, so it's hard for me to be entirely objective.

All that aside, I was the Crow for Halloween for two years in College. :)
May. 10th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
I liked it, but a lot of folks slagged it off, which I thought was a shame.

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No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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