Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Pretentious Books Meme

A meme going around has bloggers offering personal report cards on the "pretentious books" list The list is the 106 books most frequently listed at "unread" by people who catalog their books at LibraryThing. I first found this on Pharyngula. You can trace his links back if you wish.

The books I've finished are in green. Those I started and put down/was only assigned parts of/read the Cliff's Notes are in red.

* Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
* Anna Karenina
* Crime and Punishment
* Catch-22
* One Hundred Years of Solitude
* Wuthering Heights
* The Silmarillion (in a lifetime of Tolkien fandom, I've met exactly one person who has made it all the way through this one.)
* Life of Pi : a novel
* The Name of the Rose
* Don Quixote
* Moby Dick
* Ulysses
* Madame Bovary
* The Odyssey
* Pride and Prejudice
* Jane Eyre
* The Tale of Two Cities
* The Brothers Karamazov
* Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
* War and Peace
* Vanity Fair
* The Time Traveler’s Wife
* The Iliad
* Emma
* The Blind Assassin
* The Kite Runner
* Mrs. Dalloway (I wonder how many other people started it after reading The Hours, then said, "Nah."
* Great Expectations
* American Gods
* A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (This is one I'm genuinely proud of giving up on. A Grating Work of Facile Foster Wallace Imitation)
* Atlas Shrugged
* Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
* Memoirs of a Geisha
* Middlesex
* Quicksilver
* Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
* The Canterbury tales
* The Historian : a novel
* A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
* Love in the Time of Cholera
* Brave New world
* The Fountainhead
* Foucault’s Pendulum (If you are intrigued by some of the history mined by The DaVinci Code but cannot abide Dan Brown's hackery, this is the book for you)
* Middlemarch
* Frankenstein
* The Count of Monte Cristo
* Dracula
* A Clockwork Orange
* Anansi Boys
* The Once and Future King
* The Grapes of Wrath
* The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
* 1984
* Angels & Demons
* The Inferno
* The Satanic Verses
* Sense and Sensibility
* The Picture of Dorian Gray
* Mansfield Park
* One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
* To the Lighthouse
* Tess of the D’Urbervilles
* Oliver Twist
* Gulliver’s Travels
* Les Misérables
* The Corrections
* The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
* Dune
* The Prince
* The Sound and the Fury
* Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
* The God of Small Things
* A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
* Cryptonomicon
* Neverwhere
* A Confederacy of Dunces
* A Short History of Nearly Everything
* Dubliners
* The Unbearable Lightness of Being
* Beloved
* Slaughterhouse-five
* The Scarlet Letter (Every 11th grade in my high school was assigned it. Maybe ten finished it.)
* Eats, Shoots & Leaves
* The Mists of Avalon
* Oryx and Crake : a novel
* Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
* Cloud Atlas
* The Confusion
* Lolita
* Persuasion
* Northanger Abbey
* The Catcher in the Rye
* On the Road
* The Hunchback of Notre Dame
* Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
* Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
* The Aeneid
* Watership Down
* Gravity’s Rainbow
* The Hobbit
* In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
* White Teeth
* Treasure Island
* David Copperfield
* The Three Musketeers

Surprise number one is what's not here. I expected to see Infinite Jest, but no. Also no Don DiLillo or Leon Uris. And if this list was compiled twenty years ago, now doubt A Brief History of Time would rank high.

Personally, it's amazing how little red is on my personal list, given that I excel at starting but not finishing books.

This is being billed as a meme, but without tagging. I'll do the same.


Village Green said...

I don't see that a book left unread automatically makes it pretentious. But then again, I'm a confirmed bibliophile.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could have a burnt orange list for all those books that Naugle would want to burn...


Anonymous said...

Does my making a comment give you the opportunity to say you've met two people who've finished* the Silmarillion, Scott?

*(Not only finished it, but read it about five or six times all the way through.)

Pho said...


I suspect the meme got its name from the idea that some people buy pretentiously books and don't read them. Some books on the list fit that and some don't. I tried to trace the source of the meme to understand the title but didn't get there.


I'll take that. Having made the attempt I'm duly impressed.

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

My green list:
Wuthering Heights
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Tale of Two Cities
Great Expectations
Sense and Sensibility
Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
Oliver Twist
The Scarlet Letter
Northanger Abbey
The Hobbit
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

My red list:
The Silmarillion
Don Quixote
The Odyssey
The Brothers Karamazov
Vanity Fair
The Iliad
Les Miserables