1001 books you must read before you die…

Thanks again to Jodi for pointing me in the direction of this.

Now, I’m not going to relist all 1001 books.

Instead, I’m only going to mention those books that I have actually read, as well as the number they are on the list. Unlike the previous lists, I won’t list books that I own with the intention of reading. Time to be ruthless. The books are ordered by century, most recent first.

200. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
241. Contact – Carl Sagan
275. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
293. The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
301. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
450. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
456. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
537. Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake
561. Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake
564. Animal Farm – George Orwell
574. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
610. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
623. At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft
688. Amerika – Franz Kafka
691. The Castle – Franz Kafka
701. The Trial – Franz Kafka
743. The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan
781. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
804. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
808. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
837. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
873. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
883. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
909. The Purloined Letter – Edgar Allan Poe
911. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
913. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
916. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
918. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
922. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo
925. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
931. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
936. Emma – Jane Austen
937. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
938. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
970. Candide – Voltaire
983. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
992. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

37 out of 1001. Is that good, bad? There are many more on the list that I own (if I had bothered to read my Dostoevsky, Dumas, and Orwell, I could claim about 45 I think!) and yet more that I would be interested in.

But again, there are books that are notable by their absence. I have read only one of the handful of pre-1700 books (Don Quixote) but there is no mention of The Odyssey, The Iliad, The Aeniad. Where is Dante? Milton? Where the hell is Winnie the Pooh???

As to the list, I want to be a little nitpicky. At the risk of removing several items from the list, the stories by Poe are not books. They are short stories. I’m not even sure they were ever available as separate stories. The same with At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft.

I’m really pleased to see Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan and Gormenghast on the list. Both are well worth reading (I would avoid the third in the trilogy, Titus Alone). Some of the books are testament to literary vanity on my part. Voltaire and Kafka novels all originally picked up to see what the fuss was about/be able to say I had read them. However, Candide is a wonderful story, rich in humour. As for Kafka… The Trial appealed to me as a lawyer, although it suffers from the fact that nobody knows the correct order it should be arranged in. The Castle is also very good, but I almost gave up on Amerika – the story lost direction very quickly. If you want to read Kafka, break yourself in to his writing style with his short stories, they are infinitely more rewarding.

Most surprising on the list? I don’t think people would expect that I had read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

And possibly my favourite? Well, that would be telling. You know I love Poe, Lovecraft, Eco, and the Sherlock Holmes stories. And I will always have a soft spot for The Little Prince. So, you guess…

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3 thoughts on “1001 books you must read before you die…”

  1. So what you’re saying is that you’ve not read anything since the 1990s 😉

    I’ve read 93 of that list. I was rather hoping I’d hit 100, but alas, it is not to be. You’re right, it’s an odd list though. I find it interesting that Hitchikers is on there but not the rest of the “triology” whereas two of Adams’ other books are.

    Also, who’s opinion is this? I’ve got a few more books on my list of “books everyone should read” that don’t show up on that one!

  2. Uuuuh, no, no, what I’m saying is that modern literature is crap. Yes, that’s it. It’s their fault, not mine!

    I was actually a little disturbed to see that I haven’t read anything published in the last ten years that is on that list. That’s not to say I haven’t read anything in ten years – none of the modern books I’ve read (for example – Terry Pratchett, Scott Sigler, the newer Umberto Eco books) made the list, and at the moment most of the books I am readying are what are considered “the classics”.

    The list is made up from recommendations by people on Shelfari, so again it suffers from “personal-opinionitis”. I was surprised that Hitchhikers made it, but not (at least) Restaurant at the End of the Universe. If you started reading the first one, would you be happy dying on a cliffhanger ending (since that is the point of this list).

    I would think everybody would want to add new items to this list. Given that short stories made it, I’m surprised plays weren’t allowed – I think everybody should read at least two Shakespeare plays.

    A graphic novel also made the list (Watchmen). I’m sure my brother could suggest others, even though as I understand it Watchmen is considered the Holy Grail of graphic novels. But V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight Returns, and a shedload of Japanese comics have equal merit.

  3. I’ve read such a tiny smattering of these books (and no I haven’t read Hitchhikers – though Dave tells me that it’s here somewhere)

    I was glad to see John Wyndham on the list (twice) – having been a big fan of him as a teenager. And Harper Lee made it on here too.

    I wonder if you can really determine at the coalface – what is going to be the best literature of the time. As you’ve already pointed out Paul – what was considered best in any particular year, doesn’t mean that it sustains that place over time.

    I had not read a single book on the 2000’s list .. but then again, I hadn’t read a whole heap anyway compared to everyone else. I’m feeling at the moment like I’ve got ‘Bogan’ stamped on my head.

    How about those that are really into fantasy (I would have liked to have seen Magician on there) or more recent speculatory fiction? You’re never going to please everyone all the time though …

    And I’ve got my thoughts together on whether blogging is detrimental to writing. And thanks for the plug on Write Stuff.

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