Stuck for your next great read? Look no further than this inspirational list of our award-winning critic’s 100 favourites – including one epic he still hasn’t nished nearly half a century after he picked it up... Craig’sadventures in wonderland
This is not one of those pompous lists of the 100 Greatest Books Of All Time. Nor is it a list of books You Ought To Read In Order To Appear Sophisticated, or Books To Feel Guilty For Not Having Read.
Instead, these are 100 books I have particularly enjoyed, at one time or another: books that have excited me, moved me, fascinated me, made me laugh. The perfect book would do all these, and much else besides. My key criterion has been simple: would I give this book to a friend?
Looking at my list, I notice a bias towards the comical and the catastrophic. I also favour precision, wit and originality. I find the distinction between highbrow and lowbrow – or ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ – largely bogus. Books are either well written or not. To my mind, Elmore Leonard and P G Wodehouse were greater writers than most of the grandees awarded the Booker or the Nobel Prize. Nor do I find posterity as trustworthy a judge as others seem to do: quite a few of these books are in danger of extinction.
We change with time, and so does our taste. There were books I loved in my youth – Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night is one, Patrick White’s The Vivisector another – that now, at the age of 60, I’m less convinced by. Was I right then, and not now? Perhaps. Will I have changed my mind in a few years? Quite possibly. But this is my list for now.
Above, from left: Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska and Anne Hathaway in Alice In Wonderland, 2010. Right: Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, 2013