I've just read the Times Educational Supplement's 'Top 20 Interesting Reads' list.
It makes interesting reading in itself.
Five hundred teachers were asked to list their favourite titles in an online survey. According to TES editor Gerard Kelly, the list 'is a masterpiece of erudition and entertainment'.
Of the twenty books chosen, I have read six and really enjoyed them (my personal all-time favourite read is there), tried another four and failed to become immersed enough to finish them, and have four more on my 'must read at some time' list.
Needless to say I have read all the children's books listed.
On digging out my Chronicles of Narnia, I was distraught to find (or not to find) that The Silver Chair and The Horse and his Boy are missing. Own up - who did I lend them to?
The list got me thinking - when asked the question 'What's your favourite book?', do we really give a true answer or do we sometimes opt for stating a title that we feel will make us look well read and 'erudite'?
I only wonder this, because a couple of the titles on the TES list strike me as ones that we might feel we are 'supposed' to read and, actually, are not all they're cracked up to be. I'm not saying this is my own opinion, I might just be playing Devil's advocate, but I have heard several fellow readers/writers/friends say that 'such and such a book is only read by so many people because of the hype/because it won a prize/because it's on the school curriculum. I read it and it's not all that good.'
Which brings me round to the point of my musings, I suppose. Who's to say what's a good read? We're all different, thank goodness, and therefore likely to enjoy differing styles of writing. Isn't the main thing to enjoy what you are reading and not worry about whether or not it's perceived as 'a top read'.
Just how useful are these lists? Well, this one has reminded me I still haven't got round to reading 'The Time Traveller's Wife' or 'The Book Thief' and that I really didn't get on with 'The Hobbit' or 'The Great Gatsby'.
It's made me recall books I loved and might saunter through again - the likes of 'Agnes Grey', 'My Family and Other Animals' and 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'.
I'm not sure it serves any other purpose, other than to make me feel a little as though some of the books I read are maybe not 'high-brow' enough. (Should I, at this point, own up to adoring several Agatha Christie mysteries?)
To finish, I'll return to an earlier post of mine (March 7th) about the importance of reading for pleasure - if it brings the success, comfort and satisfaction in later life that studies seem to suggest, then I'm happy just to read for enjoyment, whatever books that might mean.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on book lists and what they mean to you, plus - what are your favourite reads?
(Not that I'm going to compile my own list, of course!)