My One-Hundred-Book Library

We all love lists, don’t we. They’re  irresistible to bookish nosy-parkers like me and once we’ve seen one it’s hard not to start putting together our own version, perhaps first in our own heads but before long committing them to screen beckons. So it was with Paula’s My One-Hundred-Book-Library way back in May, then I noticed that Annabel had had a go. It seemed rude not to join in but I’ve taken my time putting mine together. Here are Paula’s rules:

a) You may add up to 100 books (fiction or non-fiction) to your figmental collection.

b) Titles may be added or removed at any point, but the number of individual books on your virtual shelf must never exceed 100, i.e. one in, one out. Alternatively, you may set the size of your library at (for instance) 50 or 30. The choice is entirely your own.

c) You can include an author’s collected works (or a series) on your shelf provided it has at some point genuinely been published in a single volume.

d) This isn’t meant to be a list of great titles or the most highbrow books you have read. Indeed, your choices don’t have to be particularly well-known. Please include only published works (it doesn’t matter if they are out of print) that have been significant to you in some way during your life. Books holding your most powerful memories.

e) Please include a link back to Paula’s post.

Cover imageI’ve stuck by them as best I can although I think I may have cheated with c). Here then, in no particular order, are my 100 books, some with links to reviews.

  1. Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson
  2. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  3. What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt
  4. Talking to the Dead – Helen Dunmore
  5. Plainsong – Kent Haruf
  6. A Whole Life – Robert Seethaler (transl. Charlotte Collins)
  7. The Dark Room – Rachel Sieffert
  8. Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
  9. Late Nights on Air – Elizabeth Hay
  10. The Bird Artist – Howard Norman
  11. U. S. A. – John Dos Passos
  12. Wise Children – Angela Carter
  13. The Next Step in the Dance – Tim Gautreaux
  14. Brooklyn – Colm Tóibín
  15. That They Might Face the Rising Sun – John McGahern
  16. Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
  17. Any Human Heart – William Boyd
  18. The Rotters’ Club – Jonathan Coe
  19. Mãn – Kim Thúy
  20. Under the Visible Life – Kim Echlin
  21. Before Everything – Victoria Redel
  22. Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
  23. Last Hundred Years trilogy – Jane Smiley
  24. The Cutting Room – Louise Welsh
  25. The Story of Lucy Gault – William Trevor
  26. Weathering – Lucy Wood
  27. The Crow Road – Iain Banks
  28. Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler
  29. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay – Michael Chabon
  30. Home at the End of the World – Michael Cunningham
  31. Virtual Light – William Gibson
  32. The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood
  33. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  34. Wait for Me, JackAddison Jones
  35. The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami (transl. Allison Markin Powell)
  36. Measuring the World – Daniel Kehlmann (transl. Carol Brown Janeway)
  37. The Vintner’s Luck – Elizabeth Knox
  38. Ingenious Pain – Andrew Miller
  39. The Story of My Teeth – Valeria Luiselli (transl. Christina MacSweeney)
  40. Charming Billy – Alice McDermott
  41. The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri
  42. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
  43. Tender – Belinda McKeon
  44. Brightness Falls – Jay McInerney
  45. Anatomy of a Soldier – Harry Parker
  46. Spill Simmer Falter WitherSara Baume
  47. A Manual for Cleaning WomenLucia Berlin
  48. White Houses – Amy Bloom
  49. The End of Days – Jenny Erpenbeck (transl. Susan Bernofsky)
  50. A Meal in Winter – Hubert Mingarelli (transl. Sam Taylor)
  51. Astrid and Veronika – Linda Olsson
  52. A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami (transl. Alan Birnbaum)
  53. White Hunger – Aki Ollikainen (transl. Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah)
  54. Monte Carlo – Peter Terrin (transl. David Doherty)
  55. Life a User’s Manual – Georges Perec (transl. David Bellos)
  56. Close Range – Annie Prolux
  57. The Book of Lights – Chaim Potok
  58. Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson
  59. The Submission  – Amy Waldman
  60. So Long, See You Tomorrow – William Maxwell
  61. Crossing to Safety  – Wallace Stegner
  62. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You  – Louisa Young
  63. The Book of Salt – Monique Truong
  64. Morality Play – Barry Unsworth
  65. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
  66. Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi
  67. Our Magic Hour – Jennifer Down
  68. Strandloper – Alan Garner
  69. Monsieur Linh and His Child – Philippe Claudel (trans. Euan Cameron)
  70. Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
  71. From a Low and Quiet Sea – Donal Ryan
  72. The Trick is to Keep Breathing – Janice Galloway
  73. A Fine Balance– Rohinton Mistry
  74. Mrs Bridge – Evan S. Connell
  75. One Clear Ice-cold Morning at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century – Roland Schimmelpfennig (transl. Jamie Bulloch)
  76. El Hacho – Luis Carrasco
  77. The End We Start From  – Megan Hunter
  78. Moonstone – Sjón (transl. Victoria Cribb)
  79. The Fatal Tree – Jake Arnott
  80. The Refugees  – Viet Thanh Nguyen
  81. The Nix – Nathan Hill
  82. Commmonwealth  – Ann Patchett
  83. The Lauras – Sara Taylor
  84. The Republic of Love – Carol Shields
  85. Back to Moscow – Guillermo Erades
  86. The Power of the Dog  – Thomas Savage
  87. 10:04 – Ben Lerner
  88. Sworn Virgin  – Elvira Dones (transl. Clarissa Botsford)
  89. Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany
  90. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber


  1. Stet – Diana AthillCover image
  2. Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
  3. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – Lewis Buzbee
  4. Quiet – Susan Cain
  5. The Novel Cure  – Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
  6. The Thoughtful Dresser – Linda Grant
  7. Names for the Sea – Sarah Moss
  8. Motherless Daughters – Hope Edelman
  9. The Spirit Level – Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson
  10. Land’s Edge– Tim Winton

Some of the above are so important to me that they’ll remain a constant on my list but others I consider essential today may well end up at the charity shop in a couple of years which probably reflects my background working with the shiny and new. Perhaps I’ll come back to it in a year or two and see what’s changed.

How about your library? Which books do you feel particularly attached to?

39 thoughts on “My One-Hundred-Book Library”

  1. Oh, you are brave, I do’t think I could attempt such a list… There are perhaps 10-20 favourites that have travelled with me across many countries, but after that it gets very competitive.

    1. I didn’t think I would do this when I first saw Paula’s post but it kept niggling at the back of my head when ever I passed the bookshelves, a fairly frequent occurence! I’d be very interested to see what you come up with should you decide to take the plunge, Marina.

  2. Your choice is sublime, Susan. I would love to spend time mooching in your library. I have read a few titles on the list but there are many yet to be discovered. Thank you so much for the link and, of course, for taking part.

    1. You’re very welcome, Paula, and thank you, not least for coming up with the idea. It was such an enjoyable post to put together. Hoping that a few others will join in.

  3. I enjoyed reading your post & the list. Some of he older titles I’ve read, but the bulk of them: not. A 100-title booklist is pretty daunting – maybe I’ll tackle a much shorter list on our next rainy day. .

  4. Ooh, fun! I’ve got a shelf (physical and on Goodreads) which is labeled “books to save from fire”, but there’s only about twenty on that; after that, as Marina Sofia says, it gets very competitive…

  5. What a wonderful idea, I must have missed those earlier posts. I love lists, so many of your list are completely unknown to me. That’s why lists are so great though. I would have to do a lot of thinking to come up with a list myself. But you have got me thinking.

    1. Delighted to hear that, Ali. It’s great, isn’t it, and you’re absolutely right: the joy of these lists is all the new discoveries to be made. I hope you decide to take the plunge.

  6. Yay for 5.5 Canadians on your list! (I’m not obsessed… really I’m not.)
    So many great books on this list! I’m not sure how good I would be at making a list like this. I’m so indecisive, I would constantly be fiddling with it. But I love reading other people’s lists!

    1. Ha! I’m sure there would have been more if British publishers would pay more attention to what you’re coming out with over there. I did have to exercise a bit of uncharacteristic self-restraint to stick to Paula’s rules.

  7. A challenging exercise! I have thought about whether I could strim my library down to 50 books and I think I would struggle, but 100 might actually be manageable (I’m fooling myself, I think 150 at bare minimum!). Fascinating list. Nice to see Weathering on there. When I read it I was a little underwhelmed and yet I’ve found myself thinking about it often since, almost as though it seeped into my skin like all that water from the book. When I’ve finished with my buying / borrowing ban I might yet allow myself to acquire that one.

  8. There’s such overlap in our reading taste, that I thought I’d’ve read more of your choices, but I’ve only read about 15 (including, of course, all the Canadians that Naomi has already counted!) although I’ve read others by the authors you’ve listed in several cases and, in even more cases, have been longing aiming to read the titles you’ve selected. I was thinking that the dos Passos sequence might make for an interesting year-long project before long. I like the idea of your returning to the list periodically to see how your tastes have and haven’t changed, if you’re game.

    1. I’m going to try to revisit – I think the difficulty will be choosing what to drop rather than what to add. I’ve long thought about rereading the dos Passos which made a very deep impression on me decades ago now but it does require a good deal of time.

  9. Love this. Lots on your list that would also make my list. Lots on your list that are on my TBR list (you probably put them there!). I might start working on my own 100…

  10. I’ve seen this fab meme twice now and it’s so tempting to do my own list! This is such a good list too – really interesting and nice to see a few books on there that are currently on my TBR. I’m guessing their inclusion here is a big thumbs up! And it made me do a little happy dance to see both Stet and Weathering on your list. Love those so much.

  11. Rachel Moffitt

    What, no Margaret Atwood? We might have to stop being friends! Change ‘What I Loved’ for Cat’s Eye! I would have a different Strout and a different Jon McGregor. And a different Dunmore. Will have to do my own list now. Just read Heat Wave by Penelope Lively and that will have to go on. What a good writer. And it has a lovely cover which is why I bought it.

    1. I think we need a free and frank discussion over lunch! I plan to revisit the library next year but What I Loved is a fixture, I’m afraid. I loved Heat Wave too.

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