1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die


Over at 1% Well-Read Challenge they have set up a reading dare that I found very enticing.  It is built around the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which I ran out and bought and highly recommend to anyone who loves to read widely.  It’s richly illustrated and gives fascinating tidbits and short plot synopsis for 1001 books.  Oh sure, if you read the reviews on Amazon and other places on the net you’ll see a lot of grumbling that they didn’t include this book or that, but ignore such whining because overall, editor Peter Boxall included an amazing line-up of stories to get to know.  I’m now reading through this rather massive volume trying to select the perfect 10 books I’d like to read for the challenge.  The challenge is rather simple – read 1% – that is 10 books in 10 months.  You can see the list of titles here.

When I get the time, and I’m afraid I say this much too often and never find the time, I’m going to set up a web site for general books like I set up for science fiction.  My Classics of Science Fiction created a recommended reading list by finding 28 sources of recommendation, building a cross-tabulation database of all the titles and then deciding that any book that had been on 6 or more of the 28 sources would make my Classics of Science Fiction list.  I would use 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die as one of the sources for a Classic Books to Read web site.

Since I started blogging I’ve discovered the concept of the reading challenge, which is a fun blogging activity.  Over at A Striped Armchair, Eva seems to be the queen of reading challenges, and you can find a lot of good information there.  I don’t have Eva’s ability to read so many books quickly, so I think I’ll start out slow and just stick to this one challenge for awhile, but if you’re a bookworm, I bet they’re addictive.  Although scanning down Eva’s right hand column makes me want to bite off a lot more than my eyes can chew reading-wise.

One reason this reading challenge is so enticing is because of the reading rut I’m in.  I read all the time, but I seem to be going through a period of less than stellar books.  I’m finding plenty to read, even very good books, but few books this year have really jazzed my mind.  The last was The Road by Cormac McCarthy back in January.  That’s the thing about being a jaded bookworm – reading is only as exciting as your last great book.  I want every novel to go nova in my brain.  And when I finish that explosion I hunger for a book that will go supernova.

Then I’m willing to back off and read some gentle books for awhile, maybe some nice informative non-fiction, or even a crappy guilty-pleasure novel, but eventually, the gnawing returns and I need another nova level fix.  That’s where I’m at right now.  I want something that will make every white blood cell tango in my veins and give me a reading fever.  As every bookworm knows, unless a book makes you willing to give up food, sleep and sex and contort you body for hours clutching a tome until it hurts, then it’s not much of a page turner.

Scan the list and let me know of any that have blown your mind.  I’m looking for 10 Supernova Books!

[The New York Times just reviewed 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die as “Volumes to Go Before You Die” and it is an excellent supplement to the book.]


5 thoughts on “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”

  1. Lists like this will always generate controversy. You could put together a list of 1 Million Books to Read if You lived Forever and people would still find books missing from the list that they would be upset about. I have a strong enough self-image that I think there are books that I have read that are must reads that aren’t on that list…we all do…so no subjective list is ever going to be all things to all people.

    There are not many books on the list that I’ve read, which doesn’t surprise me. There are many from the 1700’s that I want to read, especially the gothic fiction classics. I’ve read Castle of Otranto and enjoyed it. I saw Tom Jones on the list and oddly enough I have been wanting to re-read that. It is one of the first ‘classics’ that I picked up by choice, not because of some school requirement, and I really enjoyed it. I’d like to revisit it and see how I feel about it now.

    Reading challenges are great, but I just cannot allow myself to get involved in an overwhelming number of them. Hosting the 3 I do every year is alot of work and beyond that I try to participate in a few that cross over into the ones I am hosting. I too don’t read as much as others and I love to be taken on whatever journey my whims take me on regarding reading and so I don’t like to overcommit to challenges. The best things about them though are that the bring people together and form a really great sense of community and you find recommendations for wonderful books that you might not have discovered otherwise.

  2. i really like your “classics of science fiction” site. although i have several thousand sf books, and upteen lists myself, yours is still a valuable one.

    as for the 1% challenge, it sounds worthwhile when i retire in a few years. right now i’m struggling just trying to keep up with sf books. but i would love to buy a copy of “1001 books”.

    i love your blog, james, and read it faithfully. if only mine (or my 3 now that i’ve added a third for posting original fiction) was half as good.


  3. Thanks for the kind words Bob. I jumped over to your Visions of Paradise site and discovered I had a lot in common with you. Your “A” list books feature many of my favorite reads too, and we both have a life-long fascinating with science fiction.

    I also thought it fascinating that you had your own alternative “Big Three” authors with Bradbury, Simak and Bester. I’m a big fan of those guys too, and they do represent a special kind of science fiction. It would be fun to think of other triples that represented various tributaries of science fiction, like Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley and William Tenn. Or Roger Zelazny, Samual R. Delany and Ursula K. LeGuin.

    How come your site doesn’t have an RSS button? And what are your other two sites?


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