Are You Well-Read?

Thanks to Sarah for blogging about the Well-Read List from Book Riot! I knew I’d have to peruse the list myself. (Who doesn’t love a list of books?)

Jeff, from Book Riot, recently wondered what it means to be well-read.

“Isn’t it strange that we have the term “well-read” but absolutely no one can come close to defining it? And isn’t it also strange that other art forms don’t have equivalent terms for a vague sense of someone’s total experience of that form (well-seen for movies? well-heard for music? Absurd).

Thinking about this recently sucked me into a little thought-experiment: say someone had never read any literature and wanted to be well-read. What should they read? And how many books would it take them to get close?”

Below is the list that Jeff came up with. I’ve struck out the books I’ve read:

  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 Diaz
  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
  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
  25. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
  26. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor 
  27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  28. Crime & 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 & 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-Exepury
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  67. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  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 & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  79. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  80. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  81. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Slaughterhouse-5 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 Bronte
  99. 1984 by George Orwell
  100. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
There are a few that I can’t remember if I’ve read or not. I’m fairly certain that I read Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet in high school. I have vague memories of reading Their Eyes Were Watching God and a few others but if I couldn’t remember for sure I left them alone. 

There are also a few that I have no interest in reading. (50 Shades of Grey? No.) 

Then there are the books that I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read. 1984, Catch-22, etc.

Well-read. What does that mean? That’s what really interested me about this piece. I’m guessing that each reader would have their own definition for that term.


What do you think of this list?
What do you consider well-read? 
I’m very curious.

Be sure to check out Sarah’s post on this topic. There’s a great conversation going on over there!

59 thoughts on “Are You Well-Read?

  1. I haven't looked at the comments on the Book Riot post but I'm wondering if he picked that because it's so well known? As in, you should be able to converse about it because it made such a splash in the book world? I don't know. I can talk about it, but only to say NO THANKS 😉

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  2. This is an interesting question! This list seems to suggest that being well read means having read the classics, some modern books possibly on their way to being classics (Murakami for example), as well as a bit of what's popular (50 Shades). I think being well read can mean a lot of things to different people, but personally I go for variety and then doing lots of reading in the categories I figure out that I like 🙂

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  3. That's what I gather from the list as well, a bit of this and that 🙂 I'm the same, I need variety! There are a few genres that I really really enjoy but I can't read the same stuff ALL of the time. That would be boring. And it certainly wouldn't help me to become well-read!

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  4. I read 50 Shades of Grey and it should NOT be on the well reads list! But it is all subjective anyway. I mean if someone reads 100 books a year, does it really matter what books they are? I'd think reading on the regular makes you well read.

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  5. I was following the debate on the original post pretty closely (I'm a BookRiot fangirl) and found it really frustrating that people were so up in arms about 50 Shades of Grey being on the list. Though many of us might not like the fact that Twilight and 50 Shades are popular, they are…and they tend to come up in bookish conversations, regardless of what we think. I haven't read 50 Shades, but I know there's been times I've been happy I've read the Twilight series so I can explain to people why I think it's not great, at least.I've read 33 from the list and (as predicted, my head is hanging in shame) my classics are severely lacking. *whispers* Get on Kavalier & Clay quick, fast and in a hurry.

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  6. I was thinking the reason those were on the list is because they ARE popular and they WILL come up in conversation. Having a broad knowledge of books (even the not so great books) are part of being well-read, in my opinion. So no, I won't be reading 50 Shades but I can understand why it's on the list. Hey, are you part of the Classics Club? Hmm? It's a good way to inspire yourself to get to those books that you've always meant to get to 🙂

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  7. I get so bored by these lists. It's not that they aren't good lists, or don't have exceptional books on them – and at least this one has some variety – but they're so full of \”dead white guys\” that I start to tune out after a while. This one is better than the 1000 books to read before you die which must be like 2% female and 1% non-European or American (I'm making those numbers up obviously, but you know what I mean). It's a good way to divide people isn't it, because there's so much superiority going in this kind of thing: people who read these kinds of books vs. people who read popular fiction, and who is the smarter for it.I have a fairly bland and vague idea of what \”well read\” means: variety. Reading books from other countries, different cultures, different eras, male and female, and being open to it all. I don't think that having covered all the \”dead white guys\” and worked your way through the usual suspects makes you at all well-read, so it's good to see some popular fiction like Fifty Shades of Grey and Harry Potter on this list. It's a start. 🙂

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  8. I know what you mean about the lack of females on the usual lists. I agree, I don't think that reading every single dead white guy makes you well-read 😉 I don't find your definition of well-read to be bland or vague. It makes perfect sense to me 🙂 Variety is the key! In my opinion anyway!

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