11 February 2009

66 out of 149 out of 1000

I missed blogging about it at the time, but a few weeks ago The Guardian, ever hungry to add value to their news coverage, started publishing a series of supplements which between them make up a list of recommendations for 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.

Inevitably the category of this list which most interests me is the rather impressive Science Fiction and Fantasy section. The whole thing's online:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Sidebar: The Best Dystopias
Sidebar: Radical Reading
Sidebar: Imagined Worlds
Sidebar: The Best Gothic Novels
Sidebar: The Best of JG Ballard
Sidebar: Novels that Predicted the Future
The Full List of 1000
As those sidebar headings make clear, the net's cast fairly wide here, which I approve of -- it's far better that the Guardian's readership be educated to see the continuity between Asimov and Heinlein on the one hand and Rushdie and Self on the other, than that they be encouraged to believe in S.F. as a ghetto literature. It's lovely to see the fantastical and science-fictional elements in such non-genre novels as Cloud Atlas, Ada or Ardor and The Handmaid's Tale embraced in the mainstream press rather than explained away.

Admittedly there are one or two occasions when I think they've been too inclusive -- the authors' other work notwithstanding, it's difficult to see The Wasp Factory or Kavalier and Clay, for example, as fantasy or S.F. -- but I'd far rather that than the alternative. Similarly, I don't agree with all the choices -- in Banks's case again, Consider Phlebas is probably his least good S.F. I'd have preferred a Philip K. Dick Top 3 to a Ballard one and in particular I don't think Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is Dick's best, rather than his best-known, work. (The Man in the High Castle's an excellent choice, mind you.)

Nevertheless, many of the right books and nearly all the right authors are listed, and the selection as a whole gives an excellent overview of the history of the novel in these genres -- in English, at least -- from their origins to the present day. The people who put the list together are literate, knowledgeable, intensely well-read and deeply respectful towards the genres they're writing on. Which of course is entirely as it should be, but still, it isn't altogether the sort of thing we S.F. readers have come to expect.

However, this is the internet, so let's skip over the detailed analytical discussion and dive straight for the tickable booklist. (I presume there are people on the web memeing up the entire list of 1000, but frankly I have too much lust for life.)

I've separated out the sidebar entries and stuck them on at the end (except for the "Novels that Predicted the Future" list, which doesn't seem to count). Books I've read are in bold, books I own are underlined, books I want to get around to reading are italicised and books I have no interest in whatsoever are struckthrough. Is that reductionist enough?
1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
2. Brian W. Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
7. Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
11. Greg Bear: Darwin's Radio (1999)
12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
13. Poppy Z. Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
15. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
25. Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
26. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
28. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
29. G.K. Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
30. Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood's End (1953)
31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
32. Michael G. Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
33. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
36. Samuel R. Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
37. Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
38. Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
39. Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum (1988)
40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
41. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
48. M. John Harrison: Light (2002)
49. Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
58. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
59. P.D. James: The Children of Men (1992)
60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966) [I own and have read the short story, but this is a list of novels.]
64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-Longue (1953)
66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
80. Walter M. Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
81. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
84. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)
88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970) [Not entirely sure I own this one -- if I do, it's in the loft.]
89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
90. Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
91. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932) [I sincerely tried -- it's just so huge...]
96. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) [My wife owns this one, but I disown it.]
102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
110. Robert Louis Stevenson: Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
113. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)
114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
118. H.G. Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
119. H.G. Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)
120. T.H. White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

125. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) [Yes, they did get the title right.]
126. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
127. Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
128. Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
129. Thomas M. Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)
130. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
131. Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)

132. Virginia Woolf: Orlando (1928)
133. Angela Carter: The Passion of New Eve (1977)
134. Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
135. Geoff Ryman: Air (2005)

136. C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56)
137. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937)
138. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
139. Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials (1995-2000)
140. Terry Pratchett: The Discworld series (1983- ) [Well, nearly all of them.]
141. Ursula K. Le Guin: The Earthsea series (1968-1990) [Edit to add: I've just realised that I've only read the first trilogy, not the more recent supplemental volumes, so this one might strictly be a "no".]

142. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)
143. William Beckford: Vathek (1786)
144. M.G. Lewis: The Monk (1796)
145. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
146. Charles Brockden Brown: Wieland (1798)

147. J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World (1962)
148. J.G. Ballard: Crash (1973)
149. J.G. Ballard: Millennium People (2003)
Why they stop at 149, I've no idea. (Or maybe I've left one off -- do feel freel to check.) Never mind.

By my count I've read 66, which comes to a moderately respectable 45%. What about you?

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