I know I have a tendency to sneer at those quizzes one finds on Facebook, like the Travel List Challenge and so on, but only this morning I tried another one: Amazon's 100 Books to Read In a Lifetime. The average score is, apparently, 23. My score: 9 - and most of those were children's books like Alice in Wonderland. I had never even heard of about half of the authors in the list!
Then I tried a different list of a hundred books, one produced by the BBC who claim that most people have read only six of those. This time I managed to tick 24!
But these things are so subjective. Why, for instance, does Captain Corelli’s Mandolin feature in so many of the lists? I did try reading it, but gave up after a couple of chapters. So did the Old Bat - and half the people we know who had tried it! On the other hand, some books I think particularly good aren't on any of the lists.
I do like a book that is well written, in good English and with correct punctuation. That sounds like a "given" but so often I find that the author has been let down by the copy editor and there is incorrect punctuation, or the author has let himself down with a poorly constructed sentence that I have to read at least twice in order to understand it. But above all, a book must interest me. I suppose what I most want is "a good yarn".
Maybe one day I'll put together my own list of the top 100 or 50 - or maybe just 10 - books. But rest assured, Salman Rushdie, John Steinbeck and the Bronte sisters won't feature in it. Certain to be included are John Masters's Loss of Eden trilogy of Now God Be Thanked, Heart of War, and In The Green Of The Spring; Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree; Alastair MacLean's HMS Ulysses and several others I can't think of right now.