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The London School of English Reading Challenge

I’ve loved reading ever since I learnt to read, and in this week’s post I’m going to set you an exciting reading challenge to complete by the end of 2013! Read on to find out more...

The Background

A couple of years ago I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the kind of structured reading list I used to get when I was studying English literature at university, so when I came across the Guardian newspaper’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time list, I decided to work my way through all of the books that I hadn’t yet read.  As a result, I’ve read many books that I wouldn’t normally have done, a few of which I hated or was indifferent to (Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady and Wilkie Collins' Woman in White respectively) but many of which have genuinely enriched my appreciation of literature and life (Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, and Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons).

Of course, any ‘Top 100’ style list is always going to be very subjective and my own list would be quite different to this one.  For a start, I would rename it ‘The 100 best novels in English’, as it only includes novels written in English and a few non-English classics which have been successful in translation. 

The Challenge

I’ve picked out 10 novels from the list which are relatively short with a strong storyline (you may know the stories from your own language).  Your challenge is simple: to read them in English!  There are three levels of challenge:

Basic Challenge: Read a graded (simplified for learners of English) version of all ten books, except Charlotte’s Web and The BFG - these are classic children's books!

Book-lover’s Challenge:  Read the original version of all ten books.

Total Bookworm Challenge:  Read the original version of all ten books, plus the original version of five others of your choice from the Top 100.

The List

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley:  A scientist manages to create a human being.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson: Classic morality tale of the scientist who discovers a medicine that turns him into an evil man.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan: A thrilling and amusing adventure story.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley: A nightmarish vision of the future.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell:  An extended plea for freedom.

Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger:  A teenage boy reflects on life.

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White:  poignant children’s story where a spider saves a pig's life!

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark:  About a teacher who has an unsuitable influence on her schoolgirls.  Perfectly written.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee:  A study of racism and community in the American Deep South, told by a young girl.

The BFG, Roald Dahl:  Story about the Big Friendly Giant by one of the UK's most popular children’s authors. Great illustrations too!

Happy reading; I hope you enjoy the reading challenge as much as I have. By the way, watching the film version doesn't count - no cheating!  Do let us know what you think of the books!

By Laura


indifferent to (adj.) - neither liking or disliking

enrich (v.) - improve an experience

plea (n.) - emotional request

poignant (adj.) - deeply sad or moving

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