Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What to do about Shakespeare?

As you probably know, I have The List - a list of books that were voted as being particularly good by a bunch of people, and that I've been gradually reading through. The List is actually a composite of two "Top 100" lists, one each from the UK and the US. Once the overlap of the two was eliminated, this left about 150 entries to read through, of which I have 103 remaining.

Actually, I'm starting to think that the list may be unduly influenced by Oprah and/or Richard & Judy, both of whom have "book clubs" in which they recommend novels. (Feel free to insert a cynical rant here about whether they actually read and enjoy the novels themselves...) I just started to notice that WH Smiths periodically do sales of the "book club" novels, and the overlap is pretty obvious, at least as soon as you move beyond the obvious 'classics'.

But that's not actually all that important right now. One of the other issues with The List is the question of what to do about Shakespeare. See, both "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" and "Hamlet" appear on The List (actually, both appear on the BBC-compiled part of The List... I didn't make it up). However, it has long been my contention that Shakespeare's plays, being plays, are not really meant to be read; they're meant to be seen performed. And, actually, there's an argument that the sonnets shouldn't really be read, either, but rather that because much of their effect will come from hearing them (that same argument would apply to "Ulysses" too, of course).

Of course, the odds of being able to find performances of all of the plays, and especially finding performances using the entire and unedited text, are pretty slim. "Hamlet" is easy, of course, but the same is not true of the rest.

So, what to do?

(The answer, for now at least, is to leave Shakespeare for the time being. Lady Chocolat brought with her a copy of the Complete Works, so reading them is an option... but she also brought many other books with her that I can just as readily read first.)

Incidentally, for anyone who's interested, here's the rest of The List. Note that this includes only those entries that I have not already read. Note also that the numbers given here are not the same numbers from the two original lists; Jane Eyre, for example, was actually #3 on one of the lists, and much lower on the other.

  1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  2. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  3. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  4. Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery)
  5. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  6. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  7. Little Women (Louisa M Alcott)
  8. Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
  9. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  10. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  11. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  12. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  13. The Stand (Stephen King)
  14. Middlemarch (George Eliot)
  15. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald)
  16. Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
  17. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  18. Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh)
  19. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  20. Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  21. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  22. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
  23. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  24. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
  25. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  26. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
  27. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  28. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  29. Emma (Jane Austen)
  30. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
  31. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  32. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  33. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  34. Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Louis De Bernieres)
  35. I know this much is true (Wally Lamb)
  36. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  37. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  38. Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne)
  39. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M Auel)
  40. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  41. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  42. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
  43. Far From The Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
  44. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  45. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  46. Atonement (Ian McEwan)
  47. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  48. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  49. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)
  50. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  51. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
  52. A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth)
  53. The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
  54. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  55. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  56. Love In The Time Of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  57. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
  58. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  59. The Secret History (Donna Tartt)
  60. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  61. On The Road (Jack Kerouac)
  62. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
  63. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  64. Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
  65. Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie)
  66. Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
  67. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  68. Shogun (James Clavell)
  69. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  70. Notes From A Small Island (Bill Bryson)
  71. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  72. Ulysses (James Joyce)
  73. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
  74. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  75. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  76. Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)
  77. Germinal (Emile Zola)
  78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
  81. Possession (AS Byatt)
  82. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
  83. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  84. The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
  85. The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
  86. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
  87. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. The Faraway Tree Collection (Enid Blyton)
  92. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  93. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
  94. The Good Earth (Pearl S Buck)
  95. The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks)
  96. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  97. A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
  98. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  99. The Outsiders (SE Hinton)
  100. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  101. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  102. Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
  103. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)

1 comment:

Kezzie said...

I love the fact the Faraway tree books are on there- they're brilliant! I'm trying to get my Year 5 boys to read them (succeeded in 3 kids so far!) and the list looks great! I might pinch a few!
I've read a few Shakespeare plays because I wanted to- Comedy of errors is great! Read that, it's fun to read!