1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I don't get this. Why is this a book for women? It's not about sex or chocolate. And it's all about spaceships and aliens, which are boy stuff. Oh well, let's see if it gets any better...
2. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Yes. The horror! The horror! Bloody brilliant.
3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Ah, that's more like it. Vicious political satire and sex and shopping. And dark, brooding, stupid men. Good old Miss Austen! (With apologies to Brigid Brophy.)
4. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
No, annoyingly, I still haven't got round to reading this. It's on my Pile. Honest. As is How to be alone, by the same author, which actually looks more interesting (and is non-fiction so will make me feel all smugly intellectual and virtuous).
5. The Rainbow, DH Lawrence
You must be joking.
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Yeah... I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd be able to say much more intelligent about it than that. It was like going on a journey which was interesting and entertaining but when I arrived at the end I couldn't quite remember why I'd started out in the first place, let alone whether I'd got where I was aiming for.
7. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
Yes, yes yes. Yes. (Again, though, why is this a book For Wimmin? I don't get it!)
8. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
Nope. Any good?
9. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Bleh. Yes. JUST DIE ALREADY. Oops, spoiler.
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
This is a funny one (see, that's what an Oxford English degree teaches you). In fact, it's rather like the latest James Bond; the first section is dark and interesting, and the second half is mad women and explosions and telepathy and miracles and invisible cars. I much preferred Villette, anyway, if only for the fantastic ending. You have to go read it now, see.
11. Middlemarch, George Eliot
Once. In a day and a half. I still have the scars.
12. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
Yeah... I really enjoyed this, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the same joke. Lots of times. And-yes-I-know-that's-part-of-the-point.
13. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The only reason this wouldn't be the one book I'd take to a desert island is that I already more or less know it off by heart.
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
No. Keep meaning to. Honest.
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
I certainly started it. I can't remember if I finished it. Does she marry him in the end?
16. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson
This is about the only Winterson I haven't read. Out of sheer anti-hype perversity. And because Loughborough Library didn't have a copy when I was desperately hunting down anything that might have Actual Real Live Lesbians in it. (The Well of Loneliness kind of put me off that, though.)
17. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Can't remember. Probably. I may be confusing it with The Colour Purple, though.
18. Villette, Charlotte Brontë
Yes! See above.
19. The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
Hahahahahaha. No. No George Eliot, again, ever.
20. The Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
21. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
Never heard of it.
22. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Frankly, life's too short.
23. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
No. Any good?
24. The Passion, Jeanette Winterson
I don't remember anything about it, but I know I've read it.
25. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
I read this as an impressionable teenager, and it completely blew me away, and I haven't dared re-read it since in case it wasn't as good. If you see what I mean. I should, though. Must get round to watching the film version, which I taped about 10 years ago.
26. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
You know, I really wanted to totally fall in love with this book, because the whole "It's me, Cathy!" running-barefoot-across-the-moors thing appealed to me, but I found myself really preferring Charlotte Brontë despite myself.
27. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
Don't remember much about it, I read it at about 14 and probably didn't understand it.
28. Ulysses, James Joyce
Grrrrrrrr. This is my bête noir. No I haven't bloody read it. Only the first 2 chapters, lots of times, and then I get bogged down. Oh, and the Circe chapter. And the last chapter. So, actually, quite a bit of it, but in pieces. Next year, really, I will take Bloomsday off work and read it in a day. 24-hour Joyce-a-thon.
29. The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing
Never heard of it.
30. Beloved, Toni Morrison
Yes, yes yes yes. We 'did' this for A-level, and even that couldn't stop me loving it, and I cried at the end even when we read it out in class, though by that time everybody thought I was a freak anyway.
31. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
Yeah. Once. I was 12 or so. It kept me busy for longer than the other stuff I read at 12. I haven't ever felt the urge to re-read it.
32. The PowerBook, Jeanette Winterson
Sorry, I think you mean "The.PowerBook", with a dot. She might as well have called it "The.e-PowerBook@crap-cybercliché.com". FOR FUCK'S SAKE. And it is completely and utterly Winterson-by-numbers, to the extent that she even steals the best line from Art and Lies, presumably banking on the fact that it's the one nobody read, but not only that, she gets it wrong so that it's not as good any more.
33. Persuasion, Jane Austen
Another A-level text that I loved. Far and away the best Austen. Salient plot points were abused by Fielding in Bridget Jones II: never say diet or whatever the fuck it was called.
34. The Stranger, Albert Camus
Actually, I've only read L'Etranger. (Smug smug smug.) La Peste was better, even if it did take me about A MILLION YEARS to read. But The Cure didn't write a song about that.
35. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
36. Trumpet, Jackie Kay
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
Yes. It was ace. And it didn't brainwash me. I didn't even notice the allegory. So screw you, Philip oh-I'm-so-clever Pullman.
38. Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
One day, one day. Now, where did I put that biscuit?
39. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
No. I think I managed about 20 pages of War and Peace before giving up.
40. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
No. The only Woolf I've read is Orlando, which was good, but didn't inspire me to read more Woolf.
23/40... Must try harder. Or something.