There are only a few weeks left until the UKSG Forum 2016, and to get into the spirit, we’re reflecting fondly on the UKSG conference that took place in Bournemouth earlier this year, and the OUP prize draw that had everyone talking.
We asked our librarian delegates to help us build the perfect library by answering one simple question: which one book couldn’t you live without?
Whilst the instructions were straightforward – write your chosen title on one of our book stickers and stick it on the bookshelf – the question itself proved challenging for the majority of our exceptionally well-read participants. Reactions ranged from pondering for a few minutes, and ‘going away to think about it’, to attempting to sneak more than one title into the library. One passer-by observed that the competition was a trickier, literary version of ‘Desert Island Discs’.
Over the two days of the conference, we saw our library grow to incorporate fact and fiction, brand new titles, and the classics, across a full range of genres.
What do librarians like to read?
Of a grand total of ninety entries, seven titles appeared twice in our perfect library, including The Master and Margarita, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the Norwegian classic Hunger (Sult).
We were pleased to see many librarians keeping in touch with their inner child, with the kids’ classics of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, and The Magic Faraway Tree each occurring twice. Speaking to the participants, we learnt that many felt compelled to choose a title that had made an impression on them in childhood.
Our competition also paid testament to the enduring popularity of the classics. Indeed, a mighty seventeen Oxford World’s Classics appeared on our shelves, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (added by a participant who had visited Shelley’s grave at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth earlier that very day), Pride and Prejudice (added by an enthusiastic Colin Firth fan), Middlemarch, Little Women, and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Though no single author dominated the bookshelf, we did see some authors cropping up more than once. Popular novelists included J. K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf, and John Williams, each with two different titles in our perfect library.
So, here it is, our ultimate reading list as chosen by some of the most qualified and enthusiastic bibliophiles we know. How many have you read?
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
Dune by Frank Herbert
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Flambards by K. M. Peyton
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Hunger (Sult) by Knut Hamsun
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
It by Stephen King
Juniper by Monica Furlong
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Orange (author unknown)
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
Room by Emma Donoghue
Stoner by John Williams
Tess of D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bees by Laline Paull
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint-U
The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction by David M. Gwynn
The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Tiden Second Hand by Svetlana Aleksijevitj
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Veden Peili by Joseph Brodsky
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Watership Down by Richard Adams
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Featured image credit: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.