So many books in the world – so sometimes it’s useful to have a reading list, to concentrate your efforts on a set of particularly rewarding recommended titles.
Here’s our list of recommendations. Of course there’s no such thing as the definitive listing of all-time great novels. Any list is likely to be either the result of arbitrary selection, like this, or perhaps a chart compiled from some kind of public vote. The selection criteria for this list were fairly simple:
- No more than two titles per author
- Books have to be available in print in the UK
- I needed to have read all the books chosen, so no unread ‘usual suspects’ simply because they tend to get on lists like this (I’ve never managed Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past, for instance, so it’s not here even though I suspect it ought to be)
- The books needed to be ones that made a significant impression on me at the time of reading. Clearly that doesn’t make them the best books ever written – and I’m not even sure I could read some of them again now without a twinge of embarrassment – but they made a difference to my life at one point or another
We’d love you to read some of these books – particularly if they’re new to you – so to incentivise you to do so there’s a ‘buy one, get one half price’ offer across all the books on the list.
There’s generally a single paperback edition available of most of the modern books here. Many of the older titles are ‘classics’ now out of copyright and readily available in several different editions. The editions chosen are sometimes here because they’re cheap (the Wordsworth Classics range at £1.99 is good value, even if the text is sometimes a little small) or because they’re in attractive editions (the Penguin English Library titles, for instance, are generally beautifully bound). You don’t need to feel restricted to these editions, of course.
You almost certainly won’t want to read them all – or at any rate not now: some books need to be read at a particular time in your life, so Steppenwolf and Catcher in the Rye, for instance, are probably going to appeal more to teenagers than War And Peace. But whatever your age and reading tastes we’re convinced you’ll find something wonderful somewhere on this list. If you do we’d love to hear about it. And if you have alternative suggestions for the greatest books of all time we’d love to hear them. If enough people give us their suggestions we might just take a vote on the subject…
Jarrold Book Buyer