Have you ever wondered what Australia’s top 100 books might be? Not being Australian, living in Australia or, in fact, having ever been there, me neither. Even so, when Brigid Delaney, Guardian Australia’s features editor, wrote about Australia’s Better Readings’ list of Top 100 Books, I paid attention. From The Guardian Australia’s book blog:
They are not necessarily great books but they are good books, books that people read, enjoy, talk about, lend to others, escape into and re-read over the years.
There is nothing pretentious or highbrow about the Better Reading Top 100 list released on Tuesday. If you are a book snob – or lover of serious, high literature – then look away now. This list will have very little on it that will please you (apart from a couple of Austens, maybe). Where is James Joyce? Or Virginia Woolf? Or even Australia’s most exacting prose stylist, Helen Garner? Where are all the difficult books?
They are good stories, Delaney allows, “cracker yarns,” but being a good reader, she posits, might not be a skill Australians have mastered:
Perhaps instead of “best books”, the list should be re-packaged as “best stories”. There are some cracker yarns here, like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (20), or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (29). It’s not surprising that most of the books on the list have been made into films.
But where is William Faulkner? Or Nabokov’s Lolita? Or Australia’s own Patrick White? The pleasures of cracking a difficult book are deeper and more mysterious than the soporific delights of poolside page-turners such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (34).
One could argue, though, that in a world where reading for pleasure sometimes seems to be a dwindling art, to see as well rounded and diverse a list as this one is a delight.
Here’s the top ten:
1. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (1989)
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (2005)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
5. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton (1991)
6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
8. The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay (1995)
9. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (2000)
10. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (1954)
You can find the complete list here.