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Succumbing to the list

Okay, I don't put much stock in these things myself, but since Roger counted over at Read Roger, I had to too. The question is, how many of these "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" have you read? The list is apparently taken from the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: A Comprehensive Reference Source, Chronicling the History of the Novel. My distaste with being told what I should do came head-to-head with my urge to quantify my life, so....

It wasn't all that easy, actually. In some cases (in red) I wasn't sure if I'd finished a book. In one case (in blue) I can't remember if I read the book at all, but it's likely since I read so much else by the author. But did I ever read Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped? I just don't know.... Some of the books on the list are poised to be read, waiting their turns on my TBR shelves, and so haven't made it in yet. Nor do I agree with the placement of many of these being on anyone's must-read list.

But the final count, including the blue and red, is 81.

19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -- Mark Haddon
77. Disgrace -- J.M. Coetzee
93. Memoirs of a Geisha -- Arthur Golden
116. The Reader -- Bernhard Schlink
140. What a Carve Up! -- Jonathan Coe
147. The Secret History -- Donna Tartt
183. Possession -- A.S. Byatt
190. Remains of the Day -- Kazuo Ishiguro
202. Wittgenstein's Mistress -- David Markson
224. Anagrams -- Lorrie Moore

287. Waiting for the Barbarians -- J.M. Coetzee
293. The Name of the Rose -- Umberto Eco
301. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
303. The World According to Garp -- John Irving
320. Interview With the Vampire -- Anne Rice
340. Breakfast of Champions -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
341. Fear of Flying -- Erica Jong
376. The French Lieutenant's Woman -- John Fowles
377. The Green Man -- Kingsley Amis
378. Portnoy's Complaint -- Philip Roth

399. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
409. The Magus -- John Fowles
417. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater -- Kurt Vonnegut
427. Cat's Cradle -- Kurt Vonnegut
435. The Collector -- John Fowles
441. Labyrinths -- Jorg Luis Borges
462. The Tin Drum -- Günter Grass
467. Breakfast at Tiffany's -- Truman Capote
468. The Leopard -- Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
477. The Once and Future King -- T.H. White

493. The Floating Opera -- John Barth
495. The Talented Mr. Ripley -- Patricia Highsmith
496. Lolita -- Vladimir Nabokov
514. Lucky Jim -- Kingsley Amis
529. The Catcher in the Rye -- J.D. Salinger
563. Brideshead Revisited -- Evelyn Waugh
564. Animal Farm -- George Orwell
570. The Razor's Edge -- William Somerset Maugham
574. The Little Prince -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
576. The Glass Bead Game -- Herman Hesse

608. Of Mice and Men -- John Steinbeck
637. A Handful of Dust -- Evelyn Waugh
649. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
650. Cold Comfort Farm -- Stella Gibbons
656. Cakes and Ale -- W. Somerset Maugham
676. Lady Chatterley's Lover -- D.H. Lawrence
680. Decline and Fall -- Evelyn Waugh
685. Remembrance of Things Past -- Marcel Proust
689. The Sun Also Rises -- Ernest Hemingway
699. The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

708. A Passage to India -- E.M. Forster
717. Siddhartha -- Herman Hesse
739. The Good Soldier -- Ford Madox Ford
741. Of Human Bondage -- William Somerset Maugham
752. Ethan Frome -- Edith Wharton
754. Howards End -- E.M. Forster
761. A Room With a View -- E.M. Forster
784. Sister Carrie -- Theodore Dreiser
791. The Invisible Man -- H.G. Wells
794. Dracula -- Bram Stoker

799. Jude the Obscure -- Thomas Hardy
804. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
808. Tess of the D'Urbervilles -- Thomas Hardy
809. The Picture of Dorian Gray -- Oscar Wilde
814. The Master of Ballantrae -- Robert Louis Stevenson
853. Middlemarch -- George Eliot
868. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- Lewis Carroll
875. Silas Marner -- George Eliot
879. The Mill on the Floss -- George Eliot
892. Cranford -- Elizabeth Gaskell

895. The House of the Seven Gables -- Nathaniel Hawthorne
897. The Scarlet Letter -- Nathaniel Hawthorne
902. Wuthering Heights -- Emily Brontë
905. Vanity Fair -- William Makepeace Thackeray
913. A Christmas Carol -- Charles Dickens
931. Frankenstein -- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
933. Persuasion -- Jane Austen
936. Emma -- Jane Austen
938. Pride and Prejudice -- Jane Austen
940. Sense and Sensibility -- Jane Austen

1000. Metamorphoses -- Ovid

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Too many books by the same author. If you don't like one then why would you read five? Edgar Rice Burroughs? I suppose if you like talentless hacks. The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie? The Ayatolla made this book famous. Without him this book sells 25 copies. A Modest Proposal is 12 pages long... hardly a novel. And I'm pretty sure The Pit and the Pendulum is a short story. In Cold Blood is not a novel. It's non-fiction.

These are missing from the list:

The Stranger - Albert Camus
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

I would say the list was mediocre at best.


I was going to say that it's possible the criteria for choosing books was something one wouldn't expect, like that these had advanced the form or something. But I don't think that would explain it, and the title of the book suggests pretty strongly that these are must-reads. I don't see how, say, Laurie Moore's Anagrams could make that list. Or even Memoirs of a Geisha: a great book, but must we really read it before we die?


I might get around to this when I've finished setting up my latest couple of new blogs ;-)


You know, if you do it enough you can crank out one or two new ones a day!


I've seen that list before; it's always interesting to see what one has and hasn't done on other people's lists. I've read lots by the same authors (Hardy, for instance, and Elliot and Gaskell) but may not have read the one mentioned (Jude the Obscure is the one Hardy I've not yet read). Other's I have to agree with as being must reads; but then I'm partial to Austen and to the Hitchiker's Guide and found Dracula such a pleasant surprise I'm always recommending it to fellow fans of that era and thought that Lolita was such an incredible piece of lit that I'm always recommeding it too. Others. . . well. . . I just don't agree. :)


Same with me on the other-books issue. Steinbeck, I think: I've read a bunch, but not the Grapes of Wrath. It is interesting, though.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

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