Book List…..

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6. The King James Bible

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10.   Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12.   Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21.   Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22.   The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

23.   Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26.   Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29.   Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31.   Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32.   David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34. Emma -Jane Austen

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44.   A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45.   The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46.   Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47.   Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48.   The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52.   Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55.   A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57.   A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66.   On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67.   Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70.   Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71.   Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74.   Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce

76.   The Inferno – Dante

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal – Emile Zola

79.   Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80.   Possession – AS Byatt

81.   Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83.   The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85.   Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86.   A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89.   Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91.   Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93.   The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94.   Watership Down – Richard Adams

95.   A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97.   The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100.    Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

That the BBC expects ‘most people’ to have read just 6 books out of this list astounds me – how, exactly, did they determine that? I would love to know.

I am also perplexed that collections of books are counted as one entry. It doesn’t seem quite fair to me.

Some of the books on this list are books I will never read, others are on my ‘to be read’ list and still others are of no interest.

Years ago, I realised that there is no moral or intellectual superiority in finishing a book merely because one has started it – hence the number of italicised books on the list. If a book is not engaging me, I will put it down in favour of something I will enjoy.

Now – have  a bit of fun of your own; Copy the list into your own blog and see how many of the 100 books on the list you have read!


92 Million Girls Miss School Every Day

The next time you’re in a large bookstore or newsagents, pick up a copy of a newspaper or a book in a language you do not understand, written in a script you cannot read. Look at something in Arabic, or Hindi or Russian. You can’t make head nor tail of it, can you?

That’s what being illiterate feels like.

Nelson Mandela told us that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.  Both sexes share this world, so the responsibility and the right to change it rests with both sexes. Change cannot come about if only women in developed countries have equal access to education. 70% of the world’s out-of-school children are girls. That is more than 91 million girls around the globe who are not in receipt of formal education.

The fundamental building block of education is, in my belief, literacy. (I know numeracy is vital, also, but I believe that words pip numbers to the post by the narrowest of margins because you need the words to explain the numbers!).

A world where all women and girls could read would be an amazing place to live.

Imagine what a literate girl could do. Apart from being able to read and write her way through primary, secondary and even tertiary education, she would also be able to read the literature which shapes her life: The terms and conditions of employment, of bank loans, of marriage agreements and of the holy books that may be misrepresented to her by men with an interest in such misrepresentation.

A literate woman can make informed decisions regarding her fertility and her own care during pregnancy and birth – and does not have to simply ‘do as she’s told’.

A literate mother can make informed decisions on the health and welfare of herself and her children.  A literate mother can easily follow the instructions on medication for her sick child. She can monitor her children’s progress in school and exchange notes with their teachers.

A literate woman can acquaint herself with her rights and the rights of her children and other family members. She can challenge institutions that do not respect their rights.

A literate woman can access information that will make her own life, and the lives of her family members, better.

Literate girls and women can read books just for the pleasure of it; books detailing the dreams of others who have come true, and be inspired to keep dreaming their own dreams.  Literate women soon realise that they are not alone. They can draw hope from the tales written down by others. They can form networks across the globe.

An educated woman is an empowered woman – a woman capable of making change. Of course, educated women are less likely to be compliant. They are less likely to do what they are told. They are more likely to question. They are more likely to want more for themselves and their families and their societies. Would that be such a bad thing?


Great Expectations

‘And what does she do?’ I was once asked, by a middle-class Indian mother, as we waited to see our paediatrician at Jehangir Hospital in Pune.  I knew the type – competitive mothers keen to display how ‘advanced’ their children were because they could do all sorts of things yours could not. I refused to engage in the competition.

‘She breathes,’ I answered with a smile. ‘And that’s enough.’

Because, really and truly, it was. My daughter, then aged 6 months, had been born 10 weeks early, and had not been expected to survive. All I wanted was for her to breathe and to keep breathing.

Since then, I have been acutely aware of the expectations parents have for their children.  I have always maintained that I have no expectations for my children – and have been happy to tell myself exactly that. Until this week.

This week, thanks to Tara Sophia Mohr, I encountered the Girl Effect for the first time and I realised that I actually have a lot of expectations for my girls.

I expect them to stay in school until they are at least 18. I expect them to choose some form of tertiary education. I expect them to continue travelling and exploring new countries and cultures. I expect them to always have enough to eat. I expect them to always have enough weather-appropriate clothes. I expect them to always have a roof over their heads. I expect them to express their opinions and to be heard expressing those opinions. I expect them to choose when – and if, and whom – they marry.  In their relationships, I expect them to be treated as equals. I expect them to do their best to be fair to themselves, to each other and to everyone they meet. I expect them to decide whether or not they want children. I expect them to choose when and where and with whom they birth those children. I expect my daughters to choose careers that satisfy them on many levels; whether that’s working in a shop or finding a cure for AIDS.

I expect them not to have to even think about these decisions when they are 12. In global terms, that already marks my children out as ‘privileged’ and among the minority of 12 year old girl-children. Yes, that’s right – the minority.

In global terms, I expect a lot for my daughters. In global terms, more mothers should be in a position to have the same expectations. Together, let’s work to make that happen.


‘They Died For All Free Men’

In 2001, I had the honour to hold the office of President of the St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore. It was in that capacity that I received an invitation, from the British High Commission, to attend that year’s Remembrance Day memorial service and lay a wreath.

I assumed that the event would be full of British pomp and colonial ideation.  This notion was re-enforced when I received the agenda for the day. With no allowances for a loose attitude to time, this document was prepared with military attention to detail. Seeing as it had been prepared by the British military, that should have been no surprise.  I did gulp slightly, however, when I realised that I was expected to arrive at 0713h!

My companion on the morning was my Vice-President, a wonderful woman from Ballymena called Mary Fynes.  Mary picked me up at 0630h, and we drove to Kranji War Memorial, which is located on the north of the island. Kranji War Memorial is in the War Cemetery in Singapore. It is the final resting place of 4,458 allied servicemen in marked graves laid out in rows on maintained and manicured lawns. Over 850 of these graves are unidentified.

I was wrong in my assumptions regarding the ‘Britishness’ of the occasion. The service was conducted with the utmost dignity, reverence and sombreness. There was no sense of British ‘ownership’ and there was a distinct lack of a ‘colonial’ attitude. The British High Commission may have organised the event, but it belonged to all of us.

As we drove through the gates, we were directed by a young man in military uniform to our designated parking spot.  We presented ourselves at the wall in plenty of time for the ceremony, greeting those we knew who were also in attendance.

At 0730h, the ceremony commenced. The British High Commissioner welcomed us all and prayers were offered by representatives of various religions; Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, and Jewish as well as various Christian denominations.

Then, the memories of those who had laid down their lives during armed conflict were invoked. The tones of the bugle added to the solemnity of the occasion and coaxed tears from practically every assembled eye.

Afterwards, those of us who were laying wreaths were invited to do so.  When I stepped forward to lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish people, I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity; I also felt grateful to be alive and humbled by the enormity of the sacrifice that so many thousands of young men and women had made in order that the rest of us might live free from oppression.

The ceremony was closed with a rendition of ‘Morning Has Broken’, sung by an Englishwoman in possession of a pure soprano voice.  In a scene that could not be invented, just as she reached the end of the first line, the clouds parted and a shaft of light reached down and caressed the wreaths we had just placed.

Before turning away, I read the inscription on the memorial, which reads:

On the walls of this memorial are recorded the names of twenty-four thousand soldiers and airmen of many races united in service to the British crown who gave their lives in Malaya and neighbouring lands and seas and in the air over southern and eastern Asia and the Pacific but to whom the fortune of war denied the customary rites accorded to their comrades in death


I couldn’t help but notice that many of those names were Irish and many of those ‘men’ were still teenagers, or in their early twenties. Sometimes we forget that thousands of Irishmen united with men of many other nationalities and marched towards the common goal of freedom for all men and women. Sometimes we forget the thousands who gave their lives for the cause of our freedom. We should never forget. We should never, ever forget.