The 50 Books You Don’t Need to Read Before You Die

Last week, Michael Gove (the Education Secretary) made a statement that children should be reading 50 books a year. In response, Iain Hollingshead (a columnist for The Telegraph) gives his advice on the fifty books adults should not have to read. Some of this is pretty funny. Here’s a few of the books he commented on.

The Outsider by Albert Camus

Read by generations of schoolchildren in the original French, this slim volume is solely to blame for the ability of thousands of A-level students to regurgitate rote-learnt essays on existentialism – and their inability to ask the way to the Louvre.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Its set-up is almost as protracted as the dull protagonist’s endless cups of coffee. Then it suddenly descends into graphic sexual violence. Sweden’s most overrated export since Ikea.

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

A defining moment in Jewish American literature now most famous for a masturbation scene featuring a piece of liver. Disappointingly, this is not as interesting as it sounds.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

More readable than Hawking, but looks a lot less impressive on your bookshelves. Bryson’s notion of “short” can be defined as twice as long as Hawking’s “brief”.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Even more depressing than the Bible, although it made its author more money.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray

No, they are not. And Gray is from Texas, which tells you all you need to know.

4 thoughts on “The 50 Books You Don’t Need to Read Before You Die

  1. Cyberkitten March 29, 2011 / 3:59 pm

    I have ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ and have read ‘The God Delusion’ which was actually quite dull…. [grin]

  2. Hannah March 29, 2011 / 5:32 pm

    I have ‘The God Delusion’ on the List, but I have yet to get to it. Same with the other two titles you mention. What I got a kick out of though, is that of the entire list, quite a few are books that I’ve had to read in school.

    And then there’s Pride and Prejudice, which is one of my absolute favorites…

  3. Cyberkitten March 29, 2011 / 5:44 pm

    I checked out the full list. I’d read 7 of them.

    I find it hard to believe that P&P was on the list. It’s one of the best (and funniest) books I’ve read! Oh, and 1984 is brilliant too, though I wouldn’t recommend anyone who’s in the *least* bit depressed read it….

    • Hannah March 29, 2011 / 5:59 pm

      I remember when I read ‘1984’ in eighth grade, I really liked it. I have a general appreciation for Orwell though. I don’t think ‘The Great Gatsby’ ought to be on the list either, but that’s just me.

      I agree entirely with ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Metamorphosis’ though, and if it were up to me, Steinbeck would have definitely made the list. But I’m way biased against Steinbeck.

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