This is the book I picked up in Borders on Saturday. (The one with a dollop of something sticky on the back cover. But never mind that.)
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall is a book all bibliophiles and bookaholics will adore. And less experienced readers who'd appreciate a guide to what's well worth spending their precious reading time on, will find it here.
There are excellent short reviews of each of the books, all of which tell stories, most of them novels. (The novel as we know it originated in the early C18th, but Boxall includes the best of what went before. )The list starts with Aessop's Fables and ends with books which made it to last year's Booker shortlist.
Of course "best" must always be subjective, but I was so delighted to find most of the fiction I would have included if I'd been compiling such a list, I can forgive the omissions. (Hey, this is an impossible task Boxall has set himself anyway!)
And it isn't a stuffy list only embracing boring "classics" either, - there's plenty of lighter fare (though no less deserving of a place) and the best genre fiction is also included. Steven King, Douglas Adams, John Le Carre, Anne Rice and Patricia Highsmith all make it in.
Some novels I greeted like old friends:
Underworld by Don de Lillo
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Contact by Carl Sagan
Cancer Ward and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
On a Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
Waterland by Graham Swift
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Reader by Bernhard Sclink
The Poisonwood Bible by Barabar Kingsolver
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
... and many, many more!
For those too mean or too broke to buy the book, you can access Boxall's complete list here.
But then you'd be missing out out the wonderful illustrations - author photos, book covers, movie posters. The cover illustration brings back happy memories of reading yet another favourite novel: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
The Guardian reviews the book here.