50 books

OK, this is less a jotting down of favourite books, than an exam! BBC Economics Correspondent, Paul Mason, has blogged that he has relaunched a mental exercise first started by Hollywood scriptwriter and columnist Ben Hecht in the 1930s. You have to make a list of the 50 books that you would have bound and put in a library if that was ALL you could have. Apparently, the key is to do it from memory. That's right - no google, no Amazon! I cheated and checked a few on Amazon. But then so did Paul Mason! So, here's my one and only library:

Bertrand Russell     History of Western Philosophy
Jean-Paul Sartre     Being & Nothingness
Nietzsche               Beyond Good and Evil
Kant                       The Critique of Practical Reason / Critique of Pure Reason / The Critique of Judgement

Spinoza                   Complete Works
Steven M. Nadler     Spinoza: A Life
Feurbach                 The Essence of Christianity
Schopenhauer          The World as Will and Representation

I haven't read all of these fully, except Bertrand Russell's amazing History of Western Philosophy. I have always discriminated against Kant for his maxim that one should only do something if one can imagine it then being a universal law that others were also free to do, which can be seen as a way of oppressing the individual resulting in a personal alienation – but I would make an effort to go through his works, not least because they form a solid foundation for everything that came afterwards. Alienation is also something that Feurbach was concern with, providing Marx with much material for his works. I've always wanted to read more of Spinoza, for the very simple reason being that he sounded like a very noble man who just kept going...

Various Ed. Nicholas Albery     Poem for the Day 1 / Poem for the Day 2
Seamus Heaney                               The Human Chain
W B Yeats                                           Selected works
Ted Hughes                                       Collected poems
Alice Oswald                                     The Thing in the Gap Stone Stile
Anna Akhmatova                           Poems of Akhmatova
Andrew Marvell                              The Complete Poems
Wordsworth/Coleridge                Lyrical Ballads
I have perhaps been a tad predictable in my choice of poetry, but there's much more to Andrew Marvell's work than meets the eye, it being metaphysical. I would also opt for Heaney's latest collection, which I could read over and over again and which involes an older man's confrontation with mortality and the deeply emotive undiminished pining and love for one's long-gone parents.

Shakespeare                                    Complete Works
Edward Bond                                  Saved
Harold Pinter                                  The Caretaker
Aphra Behn                                     Complete Works
Samuel Beckett                              Waiting for Godot

I loved Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, which some claim was England's earliest novel, and not the Romance that others have classified it as, inching in a good thirty-odd years before Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Given that she was an extraordinary character in her own time – labelled a slut because she dared to write for money – I would have to read through all her plays and hopefully also get a fuller picture of life in the 17th century.

Enid Blyton                                        Malory Towers series
James Joyce                                      Ulysses
Hans Christian Anderson Complete Tales
Daniel Defoe                                 Roxanne
Samuel Johnson                            The History of Rasselas – Prince of Abissinia
David Mitchell                               Cloud Atlas
Charlotte Bronte                           Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte                                 Wuthering Heights
                                                    The Icelandic Sagas
Steinbeck                                      The Grapes of Wrath
George Orwell                               1984 / Animal Farm /Keep the Aspadistra Flying /Down and Out in Paris and London
John McGahern                              The Barracks

The fiction section is the longest – many of these are 'classics' – and the often perplexing books such as Ulysses. I've always wanted to read through the Icelandic Sagas so this would be a treat – and a hoot, knowing how quirky the Icelandics can be. John McGahern's The Barracks is a poignant and sobering tale with no happy ending, rendering it most realistic of how merciless life can be. I would have to take the Malory Towers series for nostalgic reasons only and try and transport myself back to a younger age.

Foucault                                          The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge
Adorno                                            Dialectic of Enlightenment
Derrida                                            Writing and Difference
Kristeva                                           Revolution in Poetic Language
Malcolm Chase                                 Chartism
H. Gustav Klaus                                British Industrial Fiction

I have included key literary theorists, but also Klaus and Chase because I would always want to be reminded of the specifically working-class literature that is still neglected – and the Chartists to be reminded just how long and how hard these people fought to try and get the six points of the Charter – five of which we now take for granted.

Oxford English Dictionary
The Making of a Poem – A Norton anthology of poetic forms
Time Out 1000 Books to Change Your Life
David Crystal     The Cambridge Encyclopedia to the English Language

If this library meant having all the free time needed to read through it, there could be much fun to be had writing every conceivable poetic form, and subverting them, trying to use words not in everyday use.
The 1000 books to change your life would provide a synopsis for each book, which would make me feel as though I knew what I was missing even if I couldn't actually read them.

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