The 1morechapter blog has posted the titles from 1001 Books to Read before You Die, an intimidating list of material for any literature fan. I’d like to consider myself well read, but if I’ve only read 40 books from the 1001, a mere 3.996%, do I really have an opinion that could be considered valuable?
To be honest, I haven’t even finished all of the 40 books on that list. Anne Proulx The Shipping News? Any brave soul that ventures to the end of that novel deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor, or in the very least a peaceful escape into the afterlife. The book was terrible, but it made the list.
I believe John August agrees with me on this point, arbitrary lists spanning hundreds of years of literature may not be everybody’s cup of tea. I was worried I wouldn’t break 10 until I hit books from the 1900s and onward. My saving grace, as far as the list goes, were William Faulkner and Hemingway.
On top of all fo this, a good amount of the list reaks of elitist lit-critic trash. Anne Proulx’s stinker was mentioned prior, but look who else makes the list, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott and everything written by Charles Dickens! Surely, they are all great writers, but do they really warrant required reading before you die? I mean, I’m in absolute love with Italo Calvino, but I really wouldn’t push If on a winter’s night a traveler… to every reader.
Read for the sake of reading, and read what you enjoy. Don’t bother with lists that claim you’ve missed all the important facets.