as chosen by the Guardian, can be found here.
It’s an interesting list. Ususally, on lists of fiction books, I’ve read at least half, more usually at least two thirds, of the list. In this case, nothing like it.
Here’s what I’ve read:
The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (1980)
The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich (1950)
Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972)
(i.e. all of the ‘art’ selection – and almost entirely due to my history of art studies at university)
From the biography section:
Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari (1550)
The Diaries of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys (1825)
None of the culture or environment section. And more alarmingly for a history graduate, none of the history section, apart from bits of the Hobsbawm. (But then, I was a medievalist, not a classical historian, nor a modern one, so not much of my period is covered. I do, however, now intend to read The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson.) Nothing in journalism, literature or mathematics, either.
In the memoir section, only The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947). I haven’t read the recommended music book, nor any of the philosophy.
I pick up a bit in politics:
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1532)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
I’ve also read bits of The Rights of Man and The Communist Manifesto.
From science, I’ve read Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pisan (1405)
Letters Concerning the English Nation by Voltaire (1734)
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)
And from travel: Venice by Jan Morris (1960)
So, in total, 15% of the books on the list (plus some selections from a few others).
Are there any books on the list you would recommend?
Are there any you would have added?
I would make a case for Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem in the mathematics section. I also think Cellini’s autobiography is worthy of a place (although it might be generous to describe it as ‘non fiction’).
In history, I’d nominate Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, and Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. In biography, I’d go for Claire Tomalin’s book on Pepys, The Unequalled Self. In journalism, I’d pick Hugo Young’s Supping with the Devils.
There are bound to be others that spring to mind – but that will do for now. What do you think?