Librarians have last word on millennial reads

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The Independent Culture

Like many lists, it is an arbitrary selection. But the books chosen by Britain's chief librarians to take into the next millennium reveal a more eclectic choice than one might expect.

Like many lists, it is an arbitrary selection. But the books chosen by Britain's chief librarians to take into the next millennium reveal a more eclectic choice than one might expect.

It ranges from Marx's Communist Manifesto to Tara Road by Maeve Binchy and, although it includes a smattering of Dickens and George Eliot, some of the books, such as Happy As Dead Cat by Jan Miller and Wendy Perriam's Born of Woman are certainly unexpected. The list was compiled at the recent Public Library Authorities Conference in Torquay when librarians were asked for their choice of book.

Pat Beech, acting chief librarian in Shropshire, who helped compile the list, said she was surprised by some of the books but it showed the choices of widely read people. "It's not like a Waterstone's list, which might include more classics or bestsellers. This is people who read very widely and also they were asked to make a quick decision. Many of the choices were simple gut instinct, which can be more revealing that weighing up the literary merit of one book versus another for ages."

She chose The Reader, by Bernard Schlink, because "it is about illiteracy and, as a librarian, I couldn't imagine not being able to read every day. This book made a huge emotional impact on me and it is also beautifully written. Everyone should read it."

Sherry Jespersen, of the Libraries Association, said the list was compiled informally.

"Only a handful of the delegates took part but because they are all bookish people their choices are interesting. There is a current mania for lists and everybody loves to read them but the breadth of this list, however informal, shows the depth to which librarians are involved with books and literature."

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