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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The ultimate reading list, created by librarians

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.

#shelfies from the OUP stand at the UKSG conference. Photos taken by Alice Graves.
#shelfies from the OUP stand at the UKSG conference. Photos taken by Sally Bittiner.

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 Bible

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.

Recent Comments

  1. Sandi Dunn

    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressel should be on this list.

  2. Danni Mason

    One of my favorite OUP posts so far! But what is this “Orange (author unknown)” ?

  3. andy

    We [folks at my local bookstore] found a “[The] Orange” by William Andrew Spaulding, a supposedly important history of the orange in Cali. circa 1884. John McFee has “Oranges”. The rest were mostly all children’s books.

  4. Judith Quinney

    Orange? Maybe the person meant Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson? It’s a very good book . . .

  5. Fleur

    Or Clockwork Orange?

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