are you well read?


My turn! The fine folks at Book Riot have compiled a list that supposedly defines being well-read, From zero to well-read in 100 books, where they pose the question: what exactly is “well-read”? I’m in the camp that feels as long as you read across a few genres, step out of your comfort zone once in a while, have a passable knowledge of the classics, and read regularly, you are well-read. Book Riot has a great, lively argument and discussion on its original post (I especially like the well-heard and well-seen retort for music and movies. Right on!)

Below is Book Riot’s list. I’ve crossed off the ones I’ve read for sure, and made some other miscellaneous notes in bold.

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon
  6. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  11. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  12. Beowulf
  13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  14. Brave New World by Alduos Huxley
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  16. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  17. Candide by Voltaire
  18. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  19. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller [DNF]
  21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  22. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  23. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  24. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson [some]
  25. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe [some]
  26. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor 
  27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  28. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  29. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  30. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  32. Dream of Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
  33. Dune by Frank Herbert
  34. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  35. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  36. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  37. Faust by Goethe
  38. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  39. Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  40. The Golden Bowl by Henry James
  41. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  42. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  43. The Gospels
  44. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  45. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  46. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  49. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  50. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  51. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  52. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  53. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  54. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  55. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  56. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  57. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
  58. The Iliad by Homer
  59. The Inferno by Dante
  60. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  61. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  62. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  63. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  64. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  65. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  67. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  68. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  69. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  71. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  72. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  73. The Odyssey by Homer
  74. Oedipus, King by Sophocles
  75. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  76. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  77. The Pentateuch
  78. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  79. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  80. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  81. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  84. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  85. The Stand by Stephen King
  86. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  87. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  90. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  91. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  92. Ulysses by James Joyce
  93. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  94. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  95. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  96. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  98. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  99. 1984 by George Orwell
  100. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I’m at 35 read, a few in there I’m unsure about whether I’ve read or not (less than five), and quite a few here that are on my TBR. What about the countless books I’ve read that aren’t on this list? What about authors: I’ve read books by King, Hemingway, Steinbeck, for example, but not the specific ones listed here. Could those count in the place of these listed ones? and I definitely don’t feel like this is an end-all-be-all list—there is PLENTY on here I have absolutely zero interest in reading and do not feel badly in the slightest.

The most important thing above all (in my opinion) is to read what you like, what will make you think, and what you’ll enjoy. Ultimately I read to learn and keep my mind active, to escape and have an experience, and to have fun. I think if you get all that from books, you’re doing all right.

What do you think of the list and the term “well-read”?

8 thoughts on “are you well read?

  1. I had quite a few conversations about this post and it’s contents (at work) and it generated quite a bit of discussion on my library’s Facebook page (we might even do a “well-read Lawrencian” list). I appreciate how they were mindful of genre, of a balance of male and female authors, and even featured several YA and children’s novels. I counted 52 that I’ve read, but I’m only interested in reading half of the others. I think it’s completely reasonable to substitute out Faulkner or Hemingway titles and still count them. I agree that people should read what they like, but also venture outside their comfort zone. This list and the way the term is used seems to mean able to discuss literature in terms of culture, both in a historical context and in popular culture.

    • Lawrencian… as in Kansan? I’m in KC! Small world 🙂 I agree that this is a very diverse list—some others I’ve seen like this are very classics-heavy, and honestly I have a lot of trouble getting into the classics, but still feel like I’m well-read! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I’ve read 32 and have another on my bookshelf. It’s an interesting list, I’ve seen similar lists over the years and I think that’s the most updated of them.

    • Yes, it is interesting and diverse. I don’t even have a problem with 50 Shades of Grey on there. I’m not personally interested in that one, but it’s popularity does warrant some acknowledgement, I think.

  3. Awesome. I totally wanted to substitute OTHER books I’d read by authors listed, too! I mean, dude. I’ve read Virginia Woolf. It’s just that I read To the Lighthouse instead of Mrs. Dalloway. I want credit for it! LOL

  4. I want to make my own list darn it 😉

    “Ultimately I read to learn and keep my mind active, to escape and have an experience, and to have fun. I think if you get all that from books, you’re doing all right.” YES, this!

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