Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 10, 2014

Amazon’s 100-Book Bucket List: Where You At?

The list includes children's literature and nonfiction as well. This picture from the adult nonfiction documentary: 'Wild Things of the Amazon  Jungle" (not really...)

The list includes children’s literature and nonfiction as well. This picture is from the adult nonfiction documentary: ‘Wild Things of the AmazonJungle” (not really…)

I expect that the new Amazon “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” list (see below) will generate some discussion, heat, or controversy… but only over the next few days, after which we ‘mericans will move on to other “news”. [As if it is even NEWS that Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut or Great Expectations are good books… d’uh…]

But in my opinion, the inclusion of many books from the past ten or so years may be the biggest difference between this Amazon list and other such past lists, like that of famous curmudgeon and brilliant blowhard Allan Bloom (he of “The Closing of the American Mind” and the whole cultural literacy debate). Amazon’s list is, if nothing else, a bit more trendy or forward-looking than those generated by people one would call academics, or (God forbid) intellectuals.

Okay. You caught me. Maybe I am an intellectual… i.e. a snob. But at least I feel guilty about it.

And yes, the Life List is to a large extent a tricky marketing ploy on Amazon’s part. As in, “Let’s have a team curate and publicize such a list AS NEWS –and then we can let that free-advertising-news-story boost sales of these same 100 books through our OWN website! Cool! ”  (Reader’s zomboid response when at the Amazon site: “Oh look, an easy click-thru hyperlink for Fahrenheit 451, which I think I have up in an attic box somewhere and know I can get at the library– but this will be so much easier– a cheap and satisfying impulse buy, brought right to my door…”).

From what I read at about the process of creating the list, and the team that did so, I don’t think the Amazon list is such a bad thing. And take note: this is coming from a former high school English teacher– one who left public education partly because the line between education and inherently-biased cultural indoctrination, or between enlightenment for its own sake and equipping cookie-cutter students for better jobs, or between teaching and MARKETING, gets blurrier every year. (Full disclosure: I also left because even as a grown-up, I hated doing my own “homework” at 7pm to prep for the next day. Yet that’s the industry standard in that field… But we won’t talk about labor issues, political rhetoric or social psychology here, we’ll save those for another day… hee hee).

So anyway, if nothing else, I post this here so that you as a reader can take a fun personal inventory of how many of these books you have read. If you want to. And if you do want to, you can also comment below… and/or keep the discussion going by sharing this around.

However, even if you have only read three of these, remember:  there are no winners and losers here. Discussing the cultural history and literary gifts from our human family over the past 200 years should not result in arguments. Not about which are the most important or don’t belong (i.e. the inclusion/exclusion of certain titles), nor about who is smarter than a fifth grader (“here is how many books Big Important ME has read”), nor debates about whether one book is bad, or boring, or “better than Book X, and here’s why.”

In my case, the books that I have read here are in RED. I’ve read 39 of them. Not bragging, just informing Marking Time readers, or else reminding my future senile self which books I read and then forgot ALL about. Ha. (Plus there are a couple of others below I only read in-part, or else perhaps I read another equally good book by the same author. The Amazon list curators even said that they intentionally did not list any author twice, so my having read three other Salman Rushdie books ought to count for something, right? Half a point? Come on, Teacher, give me my extra credit!)

So… what is YOUR number? And how many of your titles are written by women… or, God forbid, by foreigners! And remember, it’s not a competition, just a curiosity question. If all you ever read are trashy crime thrillers, then by all means, go right ahead. I like ’em, too.

Below is the list. Note that it is in ALPHA order, not in order of importance (plus the list is not even in true library-style alpha order, or else the first “A” book would be Alice in Wonderland… which is not a bad place to start, by the way, and a quick read to boot.)

But get Alice and the Cheshire Cat at the LIBRARY!!! Stop cluttering up your house, and consuming without thinking, and doing what they tell you to do, in the exact WAY that they tell you to do it…  You’re better than that, my friend.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


  1. I’m not a big reader so I’m thrilled to have even more than ten on this list. I even up at 13 books here. Some big surprises for me are Omnivores Dilemma and Daring Greatly. Both books have strong impacts on my beliefs, opinions and world view.

    I would like to hear how they included Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I’m on the 3rd book now (good bed time reading for my son). There’s some thoughtful content in there, but it just seems a little pedestrian to me. Is this the Catcher in the Rye of today?

    I’ve tried Midnight’s Children a couple times and just can’t get through it. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Mr. Rushdie is just a little heavy for this minor leaguer. Now if I had access to a solid book club, I think I could tackle some of the books on my bucket list.

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