"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
- Groucho Marx


The Western Canon

I have read widely and constantly since grade one, but since about 1996, I've had a number of major reading projects underway. I got interested in the book The Western Canon by Harold Bloom, and decided to read the major works that are the subjects of each of his chapters.

I started with the complete works of Shakespeare, which took me about three years to read.

The other major works I read after that are listed here.


Canadian Literature

Then I decided to catch up on my Canadian literature. Obviously, I've read Canadian literature all my life, but in the appendix of Bloom's book there was a short list of Canadian works, and that identified some gaps. So I read them. The list is here.

Then one day I was talking to a friend whose rich and varied cultural heritage includes a significant connection to Quebec culture. I was talking about Robertson Davies and the various novels that I had enjoyed so much. She had not heard of him, but then said, "But I've read Kamouraska and some of the works of Michel Tremblay, and most English Canadians have not." I realized she was right, and that I had read little of the literature of French Canada other than Maria Chapdelaine and The Tin Flute. I didn't even know enough about French Canadian literature to identify the major works.

I thought I might just find some websites out there that would give various opinions on what the French Canadian literary canon ought to include, but actually I didn't. I got books out of the library and poked around in the reference section for other lists, and eventually put together a list of my own. I've shown it to some French Canadians, and others educated in Quebec, and it seems to meet with reasonable approval, at least as a starting point. The list is here.


Third World Literature

A number of years ago, in 1989, New Internationalist magazine published a list of novels from countries that were then called "Third World." I read them at the time and thought most of them were outstanding. That list is here.


More Great Stuff to Read

So what's next after I finish that? Well, I do have a longer list of "great works," but I'm not intending to diligently read through all of them. Just pick and choose from it when I feel like it. I do find, often, that the works that have stood the test of time and ended up on these lists of "greats" usually do have something of value in them. It's less hit-and-miss than reading the latest bestsellers. Anyway, the big list is here.


The "BBC" 100 Books List

Ok, this isn't really the BBC 100 Books list, but it's the one that's been circulating on Facebook. Here it is. I've read all of them and I am writing little blurbs on them.

I have also now posted the real BBC 100 Books list. I haven't yet read all of those.

The Norwegian Book Club 100 Books List

This list was put together by a book club in Norway, who polled 100 authors from around the world, asked them each for 10 recommendations of important books, and compiled a list of 100 from the results. It's more international than either the "BBC" list or the real BBC list, so it seems like it might be interesting to explore. The Norwegian Book Club list is posted here.

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Last Updated: 23 Oct 2022
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