My top six classic British novels

I was brought up in a house full of books and thought I’d share my list of the top six I was brought up with. Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

1.       J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord Of The Rings (1950s).

Hobbit and his batman carry magic ring to volcano and drop it in, all set in a world inspired by the Volsung saga and Norse mythology in general.

2.       J. R. R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937).

One of my favourite books of all time, ever. A Hobbit goes on a classic Hero Journey. Identical plot structure to Star Wars and Wizard of Oz.

Outside Bag End on the Hobbiton Movie set.

3.       The Harvard Lampoon – Bored of the Rings (1969).

Not actually a British novel, but it’s kind of one because it’s a parody of (1), and a brilliant comic novel in its own right. Some of the late-1960s pop-culture references are a bit obscure these days.

4.       A. A. Milne – Winnie The Pooh/The House at Pooh Corner (1920s).

A.A.Milne’s wonderful antidote to the First World War, a fantastic medicine for a shell-shocked Britain of the 1920s. Although portrayed as kids’ stories, naturally there is an adult level, one that speaks much of the context in which they were written and of the desperate need to explore and build a philosophy around the ordinariness of life, a need to exalt the everyday world, felt by a shattered nation struggling to come to grips with a ‘lost generation’.

5.       Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son, assembled into a 1908 novel about a pastoral riverside community of animals, each representing a British social class of the day. My favourite is Badger. What’s yours?

6.       Warren Chetham-Strode – Top Off The  Milk (1959).

A hilarious light comedy novel, semi-autobiographical, about a writer, his wife and their four Siamese cats. Kind of like A Month In The Country, only without the shell-shock, and with writing and cats.

7 thoughts on “My top six classic British novels

    1. It’s worth checking out. Chetham-Strode wrote a series of ‘cat’ books, at least one of them aimed at kids. This one is for adults and has very gentle English-style humour. It’s contemporary to when it was written, late 1950s, which gives it a kind of charm today.

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  1. Good choices! I’ve read them all except for Bored of the Rings (had a look at it once and decided it wasn’t for me) and Top Off the Milk, which sounds interesting. Cats, after all. Wind in the Willows is an old favourite, even after I realized the characters aren’t really animals. I still love the description of Badger’s house.

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  2. Although it feels like I know everything about Pooh and the Wind in the Willows creatures, I have never actually read the books. The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are favourite books of mine.


    1. Me too. I’m a colossal Tolkien fan. It’s worth reading both Pooh and WitW. I recall being first introduced to Wind in the Willows as a kid via an audio adaptation my parents had (a double album) featuring the British actor Norman Shelley as Toad. Oddly, he also narrated an audio edition of the Pooh stories – and, I gather was rather good at imitating Winston Churchill (although not, apparently, for the BBC as legend has it).

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      1. Norman Shelley sounds like a person worth researching. Interestingly the first copy of The Hobbit I obtained was from Auckland, many years before the movies were even planned!

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  3. Like Delano, I’m not sure if I actually read Pooh and Wind in the Willows. Probably, mom read them to me early on. No doubt Tolkien is epic, though not my favorite fantasy pieces. Two of my favorite books come from Alistair MacClean, Where Eagles Dare and Circus. These were the two books that seriously started me reading.

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