Book suggestions

Have you ever found yourself in a library, knowing that there was a book you wanted to check out but unable to remember what it was? If you have a smartphone of any kind, there’s really no excuse for that sort of lapse. As far as I know, every kind of smartphone has one or more convenient ways to take and save notes to yourself, so it’s easy to jot down or dictate the name of an interesting book (or album or movie) when you come across it. I don’t know which apps to use on Android, but on the iPhone you can use Reminders, Notes, Notesy, Drafts, Elements, WriteRoom, etc.

It’s easy to give this kind of advice, harder to follow it. Personally, I’m terrible at making and maintaining these kinds of lists. Luckily for me, several years ago, The Guardian newspaper made a bunch of book lists and they’re still up at its website. The original list is the pretentiously named “Top 100 books of all time.” As you might expect, this list is heavily weighted toward the classics and is pretty much devoid of genre fiction and other light reading. To correct this deficiency, The Guardian later came up with a set of themed lists with the even more over-the-top name of “1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list.” Despite its name, this list includes lots of comedy, mystery, and science fiction titles.

The lists are in HTML, but with a little regex searching and replacing in BBEdit—using techniques very similar to those Brett Kelly used recently—I stripped out all the tags and other unnecessary cruft, leaving plain text that’s easily read on my phone. Here’s a chunk from the comedy list:

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Brewster’s Millions by Richard Greaves (George Barr McCutcheon)

Squire Haggard’s Journal by Michael Green

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith

The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgkins

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I first made the lists without the blank line between each entry but soon found that the line wrapping done on the narrow screen of my iPhone made it harder to read that way. Adding the blank lines made for more scrolling, but the overall experience was better.

So now I have a Dropbox folder called Guardian Books with the following structure

Guardian Books
 |--Family and Self.txt
 |--Science Fiction and Fantasy.txt
 |--State of the Nation.txt
 |--War and Travel.txt

which I can access on my phone through Notesy. The 100.txt file is the original list, and the others compose the categories of the 1000-book list.

Regular readers will be shocked to hear that I’m not going to bother telling you exactly how I stripped the HTML from the book lists. I’m just going to give you a zipped archive of all the files. Use it as you see fit.