42. No, it's not the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. (Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")
42 is the number of books I've currently read on the Modern Library's Top 100 Best Novels written in the English Language since 1900.
On December 24, 2002, I printed out The List to check off the books and I've been working through it since. My general reading philosophy is to alternate "literature" and "not literature" in my daily bus commute reading. I won't comment on the number one book, "Ulysses", except to write that it took a very, very long time to get through. I noticed that it aptly made an appearance on the most recent episode of Lost (Ben was reading it on the plane).
I have experienced other wonderful, couldn't-put-down books that I'm certain I would have never read had I not been working through The List. A few of my favorites so far:
- "Henderson The Rain King" by Saul Bellow,
- "Under The Volcano" by Malcolm Lowry,
- And forget what you think you know about "Lolita" if you haven't read Vladimir Nabokov's novel.
Despite the criticism The List received when published back in 1998 due to its lack of diversity in books by women and people of color (and also setting aside the fact that many of the books listed were published by the Modern Library. . .), it certainly served a useful purpose in introducing me to (mostly) enjoyable and interesting books written throughout recent history.
I've made it my goal to complete the list by December 24, 2012, only 48 more to go!
(There are two Lists - one put together by "The Board" and the other voted on by "The Reader". Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" didn't make The Board, but it did make The Reader.)