1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

July 10, 2014 at 1:15 am 1 comment

I was recently bopping around Iris on Books and discovered her post on the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” I’ve seen lists like this before (everywhere!), but hadn’t paid them much attention since they seemed needlessly prescriptive. Pippi Longstocking, but not Anne of Green Gables? He Knew He Was Right, but not The Eustace Diamonds? Oscar and Lucinda, but not Arthur and George? Harrumph, I thought to myself. I’ll read whatever I like, thank you very much!

However, Iris’ take on the list changed the way I thought about it. She wrote,

I have no definite plan to read all of these book, but I would like to read a more substantial amount [of them]. My aim is to read most of the 1800′s classics, and to look through the list from 1900 onwards for inspiration, since I know far too little about literature from that period.

For whatever reason, it had never occurred to me to use such lists as a starting point, rather than a mandatory reading list. (Perhaps because of the name: “you must read before you die”! Read them now or be judged!) During my quest for contemporary classics, surely such a list would have come in handy. Whenever I’ve craving a classic, this list could helpfully guide my choices. And if I’ve read and liked something by an author, the chronological clustering of the list could point me in the right direction for something similar.

Since I’m newly seeing the light when it comes to these lists, I thought I’d turn to our readers and ask if you have similar lists that you use to guide you reading. Or, if not, why you don’t!


Entry filed under: Collections and Lists, Musings and Essays. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Lisa Hill  |  July 10, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I’ve been dipping into 1001 Books for a while now, at last count LOL I had about 680 to go and will be about 135 years old before I finish.
    I have no intention of taking any notice of its more recent suggestions, but as a guide to ‘must-read’ classics I’ve found it valuable for discovering books I might never otherwise have read. (I thought I had a good grounding in the classics, but there were many from Europe I had missed).
    And since 1001 Books has neglected Australian writing so shamefully I have compiled my own Australian canon as a guide for anyone wanting to explore Australian writing. See http://anzlitlovers.com/the-anzlitlovers-list-of-books-you-must-read/
    where there is a list of indigenous authors to explore too.
    Vishy the Knight also has a splendid list of Indian books not to be missed, and I am dabbling in that as well, see http://vishytheknight.wordpress.com/category/book-recommendations/


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