World Unread Book Day

Interesting survey of 2000 people’s Top Ten Books – and maybe a bit unbelievable.  I’ve managed three of them – the Bible, Nineteen Eighty Four and Pride and Prejudice.  I have a long list of books I ought to have read but never will.  James Joyce’s Ulysses will always head that list – has anyone ever managed to read it? – closely followed by War and Peace.  My own best books?  Well – anything by William Trevor, particularly the Short Stories which are near-perfect in their economy and agonising in their content.  Of everyday reading, I think Ian McEwan is very good, particularly the opening pages of Enduring Love, and Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong is extraordinary.  I have a growing affection for more modern classics – books like the Catcher in the Rye [which I gather Bill Clinton re-reads any time he doesn’t have anything more pressing on hand] and the Riddle of the Sands.  I don’t possess a copy of the Father Ted scripts – after all they are oral tradition.  And, of course, Arthur Ransome and Biggles continue to occupy their own unassailable position in my heart.


  1. I have actually read the entire Bible (OT & NT canon sans the duetrocanocial books) from Genesis to Revelation. Someday I might attempt Uylsses. Lately, other than text books, I have found myself reading a lot of novels by Andrew+ Greeley. There is one of his Nula Anne series (I don’t recall the title), set mostly around the time of Bloomsday in Dublin, that has lots of James Joyce mentions.

    At least my reading taste has progressed from my teenage years when I mostly read the works of a very prolific, but now deceased, English writer – Dame Barbara Cartland.

  2. I admit to having moved sideways [he would have kicked the left rudder bar and called it ‘sideslip’] from Biggles to read the biography of Douglas Bader. It’s a mindset which I find it almost impossible to relate to. I found my time with the pilots at Leuchars fascinating – intelligent, mild-mannered young people with soft handshakes. Not at all what I expected. Sitting in a Tornado even on the ground was an alarming experience.

  3. I have just finished Ian McEwans “Saturday” it was very good.I read Birdsong this summer and couldnt put it down. My generation were not taught world war I or II Hx. I have been so touched in my adult life as family members have told me their war experiences. Learning the nature of their loved ones deaths is simply the price of our Freedom and still we fight.. Hence I am half way through “The Big Show” by Pierre Clostermann one of the RAF’s top-scoring aces during WW II. My father had known his Commanding Officer Commandant (Squadron Leader)another French ace when he was exacuated to Angelsey as child, his name was Rene Mouchotte Dad was very fond of him as he was very kind to him and his brother while Stationed at RAF Valley. He gave him a little wooden spitfirea very treasured thing.An unmarried Aunt ( my great Aunt Ethel) had befriended a fellow pilot on a train and as he didnt have any family asked if she could write to him. She did and sent cake when he was killed his Officer in charge wrote to Ethel and asked what he should do with the last cake she had sent, she asked that it be given to the most in need in the Sqadron that was Rene.When Dad read Clostermans obituary in the Telegraph a year ago he at last found out what had happened to Rene. His cards and letters had stoped and they did not have his home address. This book is amazing and I am now going to try and find the letters/dairies that Rene’s mother published after his death,they will need to be translated no doubt but I know they will fill in a piece of Hx that Dad was missing and that rovided the insight into the suffering of this man.
    My favourite book..???? not just one, the many that teach me about personal courage and survival, unsung personalities of everyday life who are full of goodness and love and tell excellent stories.

  4. Glad to hear that I am not the only unreconstructed Biggles aficionado in the Diocese. Agree about the Riddle of the Sands. Sadly John Buchan in his various modes didn’t figure.

  5. I read Ulysses as a student — didn’t understand all of it, but thought it was wonderful. Many difficult authors become easier if you stick with them — you begin to catch their voice. William Faulkner is like that. He is one of my favourites, especially Light in August

  6. I agree about War and Peace being good. Better than Anna Karenina I think. The Bible is the only one of the top ten I haven’t read in total. Maybe I should as the other top 10 ones aren’t bad, though I think Villette is better than Jane Eyre and ‘A tale of two Cities’ better than ‘Great Expectations’. I’ve never attempted Ulysses – it always sounds like such hard work.

  7. I read all 933 pages of ‘Ulysses’ in the summer of 2003. When opining that I thought much of it was drivel, I was told that I lacked the intelligence to discern its sublime qualities. Sebastian Faulks is truly a polymath – Charlotte Gray and Human Traces are as excellent as ‘Birdsong.’

  8. War and Peace in unputdownable. When I got to the end I didn’t want it to finish as I had grown to know the characters so well. But I haven’t managed Ulysses.

  9. I read Riddle of the Sands whilst staying by the sea in Northumberland. It was v good and atmospheric.

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