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Boeke | Books > Boekartikels | Articles on books > English

100 Best books – readers’ vote as reflected in Cape Librarian

Francois Verster - 2011-06-22

 I’ve just got hold of the provincial library services magazine Cape Librarian (March/April edition) – as usual very interesting reading. According to a poll (2 000 library users were asked) the top 100 books of the past decade were listed in this edition. Of these 100 books I have read only eight. That was my first surprise. Twelve of them I still want to read – too many books ...

And then I tried to recognise a pattern. No surprises there: there is no discernible pattern. What did come as a definite surprise was the fact that Dis ek, Anna (by Elbie Lotter, 2004), a non-fiction book, was number one! Deon Meyer slotted in at number two with 13 uur (2008) - to be expected, since Meyer is a favourite, but not that he would beat The girl with the dragon tattoo (Stieg Larsson, 2008), which was number 8, or Spud (26), The Da Vinci Code (33), Agaat (16) and Eilande (39), as well as a few Harry Potter books by JK Rowling - that rocked my boat for sure.

As Pieter Hugo, author of the corresponding article in CL concludes, this list reflects the variety of tastes among readers. What is really astounding is that the top six books are all Afrikaans titles, and another six among the top 20. Twelve out of 20 – well done, if one takes into account that most readers are supposedly English speaking and that most English speakers do not read Afrikaans books, while the converse is not necessarily true. Hugo also mentions that Harry Potter was pipped at the post by Larsson’s enigmatic pyromaniacal tattooed hornet-hating lady. Probably because Larsson’s books have appeared more recently; and one can actually apply that argument to ol’ Cluesdropper Dan (Brown), by now rather enmeshed in all his codes and symbols, as well – people remember better what they read last, obviously – until they become senile, of course!

What I found disappointing is that none of the Children of the Earth series got a mention. But I am not disappointed in the readers; I am disappointed in Jean Auel, the author, who wrote such a brilliant novel (Clan of the cave bear) in 1980. She has recently published the last of six novels in this series and this one I have not yet read, but the others were simply not in the same class as the first. And that is what I find very disappointing. Anyway, Auel made her bucketful of money and I hope that writing a good “bookend” to the series was also on her bucket list. Number five wasn’t that bad, but boy, the others were like a downhill race. This is what happens when an author signs a contract for a series before the series has even been planned. Imagine the pressure after the third book has been squeezed out and there is nothing more to say!

Stephenie Meyer did well with four books on the list, the best performer being Twilight at number 10. Although I have not read any of her books, the vampire mania of late leaves me cold, and not because I have been drained of my blood, so I will refrain from comment on this and just be happy for a writer who actually is successful. This is difficult enough under any circumstances.

The other Meyer, Deon, I have read, met in person and seen his work translated in both the book and film genres. Although I am a fan – I enjoy his short stories too – I have to say he has to be careful of not hopping on to the tramway to easier sales by just going for the same old formula every time. Many others have got stuck in the cracks between the tracks that way.

In conclusion: one hopes that the next list will include works in some more indigenous languages. Then we will be sure we are on the right track! In the meantime: may books rule forever!

PS: In the same edition of Cape Librarian it has been reported that e-books are steadily taking over the literary world. Well, I suppose the format is less important than the act of reading ...