1st anniversary of 'The List'

Posted by Bel. The time is 4:13pm here in Wellington, NZ.

For one whole year now I have read nothing but books from 'The List'.

Okay, there have been a few exceptions, but probably less than five! And two of them were for work. Almost everything I have read has been reviewed on this site (label: 'The List'), but I thought today was a good day to go over it as a whole...

'The List' came from this article on Jezebel entitled 75 Books Every Woman Should Read: The Complete List. It was a collective response, compiled by the blog editors from commentors' suggestions, after Esquire magazine had released a list of '75 Books Every Man Should Read' that they felt was "myopic" due to its old white dude predominance (in fact, one female author, four non-white authors *shudder*).

This list is not without its biases too. Obviously, it tends towards female authors and themes, but more unintentionally many of the authors are from the United States. I think this is one of those unfortunate stereotypes where Americans just don't think far enough outside the square. Part of this is because they have a fantastic education system that focusses on their own history and own literary successes - but it does mean that other cultures get left out in the cold.

There were quite a few seemingly obvious ones that got missed as well. There's no Margaret Atwood on 'The List'. The Vagina Monologues isn't there. Katherine Mansfield doesn't get a mention, despite the fact she's probably more well-regarded overseas than she is here.

But all in all, it's a solid effort. I'd only read 7 of the books when I started. Now, with a recount to sort out various mix-ups, I am up to 42. That means 26 to go! Yes, I did abandon Middlemarch and A Vindication of the Rights of Women, but I am planning to make another attempt - on Middlemarch, at least. So really only 25. Assuming all of the rest are readable. And something has to be pretty awful for me to give it up, I'm dogged like that with books, though who knows why.


I've been able to find every book so far at the Wellington Central Library, bless! However I am now hitting a few dead end. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home has been out each and every time I have looked on the library catelogue. FOR A YEAR. I am quite keen to read this graphic novel, having enjoyed her other work and being a fan of applying 'The Bechdel Rule' to films.

I'm also having to read around Martha Gellhorn. They don't have her collection of war journalism, The Face of War, but do have collections of letters and travel memoirs, as well as some novels in stack, so I figure this will have to do as a way of getting to know her writing.


Below is the complete 'The List' for your perusal - let me know if you would like it as a handy one page Word doc, perfect for keeping handy in your wallet:

  • The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  • The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
  • Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • Like Life, Lorrie Moore
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
  • The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
  • You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  • Earthly Paradise, Colette
  • Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Property, Valerie Martin
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  • Runaway, Alice Munro
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
  • The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  • Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  • The Group, Mary McCarthy
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
  • Three Junes, Julia Glass
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Sophie's Choice, William Styron
  • Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  • Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
  • Spending, Mary Gordon
  • The Lover, Marguerite Duras
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
  • Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  • Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
  • Possession, A.S. Byatt

9 thoughts on “1st anniversary of 'The List'”

  1. Yes yes yes! I need a print out of that list ASAP. i can't tell you how many times my trips to the library end up with me picking at random from the Librarian's Choice section. Dicey.
    Also you must reserve Fun Home it is so moving and excellent. Really an amazing work. I <3 Bechdel.

    xx Kathy
    Ps. you are excellent, as is your blog.

  2. In case you care, of those I have read 11:

    - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
    - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    - Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë --> probably my fave book ever
    - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    - Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
    - Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
    - Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
    - Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
    - The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
    - The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
    - Possession, A.S. Byatt

    Plus have Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse half-read in my bookcase. I think I started it about 18 months ago...

  3. My theory is that someone has flogged the Bechdel. WAS IT YOU, KATHY?!?!!
    Get Spending by Mary Gordon nxt time you're at the library - I think you'll enjoy it!

    Lou - I'm dragging myself through Little Women now... yes gods... Having just finished The Bell Jar it's just not cutting the mustard!

  4. Oohh finally the whole list. I've read 24 - feeling quite pleased with that really.

    There are two copies of the Bechdel - one is issued until next year (could be in mending maybe) and the other is due back on the 15th of October - no reserves on it. My professional opinion you cough up the $2 reserve fee - but in the name of customer service I shall investigate what's happend to the other copy.

  5. A solid 1/3! I would expect nothing less, Meg.

    I've never used the Reserves system in my life.
    I don't know whether it's an overinvestment in serendipity and believing that the right book will just be waiting there on the shelf when it is it's time to be read; or whether I'm just a stinge who is affronted by the thought of having to shell out $2 bucks for my usually free service...

    Little column A, little column B..??

  6. I'd wondered why you hadn't tried reserving it... it's okay to do as your $2 is going towards a worthy cause (the library). For all you know it might help them restore/ source a book you really, really want to see one day.

  7. (or it'll be siphoned off by Wellington council and be used to destroy some more areas of old-Wellies or cut down some more trees)

  8. Nah Bel, I say you reserve away. I highly doubt the Council will be able to get their mucky little paws on your $2 as the library hides it under their pillow as fast as it comes in. Think of yourself as like the toothfairy of reservations.

    That being said, I've read a few of the books on the list. Would like to read more, any chance of a handy wallet sized copy please? :-)

    PS - Just tried reading Chicken with Plums by my much revered Marjane Satrapi, it was kind of rubbish. V disappointed. Either of youse read that one??? If not, stick to Persepolis I'd say.