#24 – Read the BBC Top 100 books: Progress Update

This is one of those ongoing challenges that is probably going to take me most of the 4 years to complete.  Fortunately I don’t have to read all 100 books in that time because when the BBC published the list (in 2003), I had already read about half of them.  At that point in time, I said to myself that I would read the whole list ‘one day’.  ‘One day’ now has a definite deadline!

I chose to put this challenge on The List because in the 10 years from the BBC’s Big Read, which launched their Top 100 I have managed to read about 10 more of the books, taking me to a total of 63.  So basically I’ve read about one a year since 2003.  It was going to take a while to complete the century unless I put my mind to it.  The ones I’ve read in the last 10 years I’ve had mixed responses to.  I only read Jean M Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear because it was on the BBC list but I loved it and have now devoured the whole series.  Others I found so dire they put me off returning to the list for a while (step forward Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Catch 22).

As for the task in hand, I have just finished reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Technically that is the first of the remaining 37 books.  It’s taken a while (I’ve had had it on loan from the library since January via several renewals) and I have to say that it may be a classic but it isn’t going to make it onto my list of  favourite reads.  Having visited Russia and seen the legacy of Communism, it was vaguely interesting to read about Russian society before all that and perhaps there is a level of political commentary in the book which has gone straight over my head but as a story it didn’t work for me.  I didn’t find Tolstoy’s characters engaging and was largely uninterested in what happened to them and unsympathetic to their fate.  The eponymous ‘heroine’ I found simply irritating.  This was not a book that I couldn’t put down and, in fact, if it hadn’t been for this challenge I probably wouldn’t have got to the end of it.

Clearly I’m not going to make it to the hundred if I take that length of time to read each of the remaining 36, but measuring at two and a half inches thick, Anna Karenina is considerably longer than the majority of other titles on the list.  I am hopeful that others will take less time and effort to read.  This certainly should be the case with the children’s books, whether those which somehow missed me in my childhood; Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty and The BFG, and those published when I was no longer a child (several of Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracey Beaker series).  Some of the ones I still have to read may be surprising.  Surely everyone read Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men at school?  Nope, not me.  Some of those left, I’m dreading.  Tolstoy’s War and Peace is sure to be another test of library policy on how many times you can renew the same book, and as for James Joyce’s Ulysses…  It’s simply massive and I don’t get on with stream of consciousness writing at the best of times.  Maybe I’ll leave that one ’til last.

If you fancy checking out the BBC’s Top 100 books, you can find the full list here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml

How many have you read?

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