It being World Book Day, I felt like sharing a nice reading list of 20th Century English literature that publisher and friend Mike Timperley wrote for me years ago. Book lists are subjective. Newspapers and colour supplements publish them periodically. They are only someone's opinion, and they don't matter in the scheme. But why not.
I have a shred of newsprint stuck to my office wall entitled 'The Johnson Top Twenty'. Whoever Johnson is, he/she puts Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' at number one, which is good, because I've got my dad's old hardback copy from school. There are a few others in there that tally with Mike's selection; and others, like Anthony Trollope, that I'm afraid I can't bear.
Anyway, for the record, here are Mike's. I agree with all of them, except for the absence of Leslie Poles Hartley's 'The Go-Between'. The novel has haunted me for years, not only because of its arresting opening line: 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.' An ageing man looking back on shocking things that happened during his childhood unearths painful memories that have been 'buried for all these years, but they were there, I knew, the more complete, the more unforgettable, for being carefully embalmed ...'
The faithful 1971 screen adaptation, with its stark screenplay by Harold Pinter, starred Julie Christie and Alan Bates in one of the most erotic pairings ever committed to film. Fifty thousand shades, so little grey.
Lucky Jim    Kinglsey Amis
Earthly Powers    Anthony Burgess
The Naked Lunch    William Burroughs
As I Lay Dying    William Faulkner
The Great Gatsby    F. Scott Fitzgerald
The French Lieutenant's Woman    John Fowles
Cold Comfort Farm    Stella Gibbon
A Burnt-Out Case    Graham Greene
Catch 22    Joseph Heller
A Farewell to Arms    Ernest Hemingway
Brave New World    Aldous Huxley
On the Road    Jack Kerouac
Sons and Lovers    D.H. Lawrence
The Golden Notebook    Doris Lessing
The Naked and the Dead    Norman Mailer
Of Human Bondage    W. Somerset Maugham
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter    Carson McCullers
The Pursuit of Love    Nancy Mitford
The Poor Mouth    Flann O'Brien
1984    George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye    J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath    John Steinbeck
Slaughterhouse Five    Kurt Vonnegut Jr
Brideshead Revisited    Evelyn Waugh
To the Lighthouse    Virginia Woolf

He didn't choose John Kennedy Toole's 'A Confederacy of Dunces'. A tragic novel. Unable to get it published, the author took his own life. His mother refused to give up on it. It became a best-seller, a classic. Gustave Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' is missing too, but he is forgiven that one. It was written in French.