|No doubt this badge does not refer to British
fiction writers. Until now.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love a list. While poking around on the Googles looking for interesting bits about Anita Brookner I came across this list from The Sunday Times published in 2008. Naturally AB makes the cut. I have noted the ones that I have read.
The Sunday Times 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945
1. Philip Larkin
2. George Orwell read
3. William Golding read
4. Ted Hughes
5. Doris Lessing read
6. J. R. R. Tolkien
7. V. S. Naipaul read
8. Muriel Spark read
9. Kingsley Amis almost read
10. Angela Carter
11. C. S. Lewis read
12. Iris Murdoch read
13. Salman Rushdie mean to read
14. Ian Fleming
15. Jan Morris
16. Roald Dahl
17. Anthony Burgess
18. Mervyn Peake
19. Martin Amis read
20. Anthony Powell will read
21. Alan Sillitoe
22. John Le Carré tried to read
23. Penelope Fitzgerald read
24. Philippa Pearce
25. Barbara Pym read
26. Beryl Bainbridge tried to and still mean to read
27. J. G. Ballard
28. Alan Garner
29. Alasdair Gray
30. John Fowles
31. Derek Walcott
32. Kazuo Ishiguro read
33. Anita Brookner read
34. A. S. Byatt
35. Ian McEwan read
36. Geoffrey Hill
37. Hanif Kureishi
38. Iain Banks read
39. George Mackay Brown
40. A. J. P. Taylor read
41. Isaiah Berlin read
42. J. K. Rowling read
43. Philip Pullman
44. Julian Barnes read
45. Colin Thubron
46. Bruce Chatwin read
47. Alice Oswald
48. Benjamin Zephaniah
49. Rosemary Sutcliff
50. Michael Moorcock
Of the ones I haven’t already read, which authors do I really need to read?
Philip Pullman, but perhaps only if you're open to reading young adult fantasy. I consider The Golden Compass as one of the best books I've ever read, but it can be somewhat divisive. I don't really have much experience with the other authors but I for childish humour, I'd definitely go for Dahl – fun books that can be read at any age.
Thanks for fulfilling my OCD today – I do like a list!! Hmmm – you've read so many….I have memories of Alan Garner's The Owl Service from my youth as being fabulous – so why not try that?
J G Ballard's Empire of the Sun.
Jan Morris – sparkling travel/culture writing.
Derek Walcott Omeros.
A. S. Byatt (I'm neutral on The Children's Book but other early stuff fabulous; great short(ish) stories).
Ted Hughes – the early stuff.
Angela Carter – Nights at the Circus. Astonishing.
I think you might enjoy Rosemary Sutcliffe – historical children's novels. See if you can get hold of The eagle of the ninth
Surprised you didn’t do Larkin and Hughes at school. I’m a huge Larkin fan. Readers on my own blog will be quite fed up by me going on about his poem ‘Mr Bleaney’ but the fact is I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without his influence and that poem started the whole thing off for me. It was poetry stripped bare of heightened language. It read like prose – all the rhymes were in the ‘wrong’ places – and it didn’t harp on about babbling brooks or fields of daffodils. And, perhaps most importantly, it didn’t pretend to have the answer: no nice, fluffy moral to take away with me. That was a revelation. Hughes was okay – his nature wasn’t quite so Romantic – but I never really connected with him. Perhaps his later stuff might be better but I’ve never cared for any of his early work and so never given his mature work a chance.
Larkin definitely and John Fowles! Great list, I am going to have a look at it and check out books by the authors that I haven't read anything from yet.
Surely AS Byatt for a start. Also, you must read something by Dahl … he's written short stories for adults but I reckon adults can love his kids novels like, say, Matilda, or even the classic Charlie and the chocolate factory.
BTW I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one who hasn't read The lord of the rings and doesn't mean to. (Though I will admit to having read and enjoyed The hobbit).
I think you'd enjoy The french Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles & Possession by A S Byatt.
@whisperinggums – I've also not read, nor do I intend to ever read, The Lord of the Rings. I did, when I was young, read The Hobbit and once I had finished it started to write a sequel. It came to naught. Later I learned there already was one.
Well, after my omission-confession a while ago, I have to say I'm a bit shocked by yours, Thomas! If you haven't read Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce by the end of the year, I will be very disappointed.
But interesting list, and one that seems fairly reasonable, even if I don't like all the authors they've selected.
Ack ack! Tolkien!! And Roald Dahl. Start with the Hobbit for Tolkien of course (easier, more charming, more accessible than the trilogy – either a good way to know you're not interested, or a great intro to the main event). For Dahl, I love so many, but I think I'd send you to the BFG for starters.
I must comment on the dearth of women writers. I believe that of the list of 50, 37 are men. I think that really shows the influence of men in deciding what is considered “good” literature. I have a list from Random House and Time magazine both with 100 names and the balance of men to women is even worse. I know that you read many books by women and that is heartening but I wish that more men would.
I have to second Simon's recommendation of Tom's Midnight Garden by P. Pearce – a family favorite that you could probably read in a sitting. Not necessarily a recommendation, but surprised that you hadn't ever read a Dahl? It seemed like either James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was always required reading back in my elementary days. Ah, but maybe it was “recommended” vs. “required.” At any rate, I remember Dahl being all over the little Scholastic fliers. :)
A.S. Byatt's Possession is a terrific read and a virtuoso piece of writing. Tolkien was marvelous, at least when I read him as a kid. AMong the listed ports, I'd highlight Hughes, Larkin, and Hill.
Ian Fleming's Bond novels are deeply campy and can be consumed like bonbons (delicious, but too many too quickly may give you a stomach ache). “Possession” by Byatt is as bookish a novel as they come. Hanif Kureishi wrote the screenplay for the film “My Beautiful Laundrette” – great to see back to back with “A Room with a View” just to watch Daniel Day Lewis act such different roles. I deeply dislike John Fowles, although I do own a copy of his lovely little history book about Lyme Regis. But his novel “The Magus” – ugh. I too intend to read Powell. Land sakes, there are several people on this list I've never even heard of…
I can't believe you've never read anything by Roald Dahl! He was my favorite childhood author and his adult short stories are wickedly funny. I've only read the first of the Phillip Pullman trilogy but I really liked it.
However, I admit I've never even heard of Philip Larkin. I think I've read about 14 of those authors altogether. And I love your notation of “almost read.”
I recently started The French Lieutanant's Woman by Fowles and liked it, but got distracted by too many other books. I'll get back to it someday.
Ballard, Garner, Pullman, Peake, Fleming, Burgess – all favourites of mine. You should persevere to read Dame Beryl Bainbridge – her books are short too.
Biblibio: I am not really open to young adult fantasy, but I acan appreciate good writing, so maybe I should reconsider given Pullman's place on the list.
Luuvie: We must all like lists. Anytime I post about a list I get lots of comments.
Call Me Madam: Was that also a film?
Skiourophile: Byatt I will definitely read. And your use of the word “sparkling” has me interested in Jan Morris.
Verity: The bigger question is whether I can get a hold of any Sutcliffe this side of the ocean.
Jim, Jim, Jim: I chuckle at your notion that Americans would learn Larkin and Hughes at school. I would bet you that 90% of American school teachers couldn't even tell you who Larkin and Hughes are. I know I didn't even know who Larkin was until I started reading Pym in my 40s. And the only thing I think I know about Hughes is that he was married to someone famous, no?
Willa: Fowles has been on my radar to read.
Whispering Gums: I might be persuaded to read the Hobbit (although highly unlikely) but I have less than no interest in Lord of the Rings.
Lyn: I defnitely intend to read both of those titles.
Simon T: Let's see if I can find Tom's Midnight Garden by the end of the year.
Julia: I will definitely check out Dahl. But I am afraid Tolkein is unlikely to happen.
Kay: You are right. Only 14 by my count. Most of my women writer loves are either pre-war or not English, so I am not sure I could come up with other names to add to the list.
Susan: I probably did read some of the Peach and/or Chocolate Factory. I have a vague recollection of that, but I also recall I wasn't thrilled by either.
Steve: I am surprised that I have yet to read any Byatt. Not sure why that is.
Sarah: I haven't seen My Beautiful Landrette for about 20 years. I need to rent that. I remember seeing A Room With a View literally five times before I realized it was DDL who played Cecil. Talk about a transformation.
Karen K: Almost read were those books that I attempted but didn't give enough effort to.
Gaskella: I think the cover of the copy of the only Bainbridge I won (weekend something or other) is keeping me from getting into the book. I hate the picture on it. Stupid I know.
Well if it comes to that I didn't do Whitman and Dickinson at school either. Should've double-checked where you were from. Like most of us I tend to forget that there are other countries out there.
I've read nineteen of the fifty. Ah, it would've been nice to make it a round twenty.
You have to, have to, have to read Angela Carter. I read her for the first time two years ago, and her first book decided that I need to read all her books!
Philip Pullman is also very very good, so try the His Dark Materials trilogy.
I highly recommend Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I haven't read the books in a while, but I remember being quite gripped by them when I read them during a college break. The books are set in alterna-Oxford (and regular Oxford too at one point, IIRC).
I read all of Roald Dahl's books as a kid. The BFG and James and the Giant Peach stand out in my mind.
I see LOTR is a no-go for you from the comments, so I'll leave off recommending them then.