Wednesday, April 19, 2006

1001 Books You Must read

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.


Lotus Reads said...

1001 reviews!?! I'd be crazy to pass this one up! "Chapters" (the name of our local bookstore), here I come!

Thanks for the recommendation, Sharon.

Sufian said...

Where is Orhan Pamuk? Masuji Ibuse? Lezama Lima? Cortazar? Pessoa? Kawabata? Antunes?

I hate him already.


p.s. Sharon, have you read The Story of the Novel by Margaret Anne Doody? The [western] novel form, she claimed, has been in existence for two thousand years...

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

i absolutely detest this "1001 ... You Must ... Before You Die" series of books.

the title itself is absolutely presumptuous.

but i loved this book i once found, which had a bunch of writers naming their fave books and the books that most influenced them. now THAT'S more meaningful.

if only i could remember what that book is called!

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

the above is just my personal opinion. dont whack me, pls!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recommendation. i'll get it at borders this sunday. looking forward to your reading.

Anonymous said...

i must get it...

bibliobibuli said...

i love book lists ... any lists

i immediately want to tick off everything i've read and find out about the stuff i haven't heard of

i think it's great that a list like this provokes controversy

and i'm waiting for suffian to write his version of 1001 books ... i am i really am ... how do you hear about all these writers?

i think this book is very western orientated and has so little literature in translation and there reallya en't too many surprises

visitor - i have another couple of books about book which i love and i will post about another day ... (and honestly would i whack you?)

thegrouch, ms d - there was a big pile ... but try to get one without the free food stuck to the cover

why am i doing borders marketing for them? if anyone from borders is reading this, i demand a free book token

bibliobibuli said...

The Story of the Novel by Margaret Anne Doody? now i have to investigate suffian

2,000 years? i suppose it depends how you define novel ... people have been writing stories since writing began ... and can we classify homer for example as a novel writer?

Anonymous said...


quikie: can you write an article about syndication? thanks.

bibliobibuli said...

what is syndication?

daftsavant said...

RSS (Really Simple Syndication)?

Anonymous said...

er no... syndicating your articles/columns etc. either i googled the wrong thing but i'm getting funny results. btw you get paid great moolah!

flexnib said...

Hi Sharon,

I too have been ogling this book in the shops here. Like you I love lists, and I like reviews, and having them both in this one volume is just perfect. I haven't been able to justify the AU$65 price tag yet, so thanks for the link to the list of actual titles. I'm going to have fun going through and seeing what I have actually read!

CW in Perth

P.S. By the way I'm not sure which cover I like better - the version we have in Perth is not the same as the one you have posted on your blog (Clockwork Orange?) - the cover here is of books on shelves.

Sufian said...

Hi sharon.

- The title is The True Story of the Novel. Sorry, my mistake.

No Homer. But she did cite some ancient Greek novels (she learnt Greek to write the book. Amazing.) But even then, Cervantes published DQ around 16/17 C, so...

- Yes literature in translation, sadly missing. GLAMORAMA is in but not CAMUS' Outsider... how like that?

- My version of 1001 books to read? Oh God no. I'd be having violent arguments with myself - sad.

bibliobibuli said...

hi cw - books are so expensive in australia! this was RM85.90 at borders which makes it very much cheaper than the uK price of GBP20. (just noticed i have squashed a caterpillar between the pages ... ooops)

i drop by from time to time to check out your library at library thing - goodness, i suffer from biblioenvy.

isn't it a bit ironic that a librarian relaxes by -- cataloguing books?

bibliobibuli said...

cw - ooops - the cover - haven't seen the other cover but i like this one because it's the same cover as the penguin clockwork orange which is the edition i read

bibliobibuli said...

sufian - the outsider is in the book - is it not on the list? (the list was typed up by someone else - maybe its a slightly different version)

i have fights with myself all the time about which books are favourites ... but it would be fun to have the sufian complete list

can i just ask you how you find out about the books you read? so many are titles i've never heard of ... you aren't being just wilfully obscure are you? (perish the thought)

Anonymous said...

I'm taking a trip home today, and I am so stopping to pick this up on the way there. I am SO excited.

Sufian said...


1. I obsessively read everything about the writers i like. Then just follow the trails he/she left. Saramago lead me to Pessoa (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis). Camoens. Eca de Quieroz. And Brazillian writers like Amado and Lispector. They lead me to other Latin American writers. Pessoa led me to Tabucchi (who wrote Hallucination: A Requiem, his fictional meeting with Pessoa). And of course Tabucchi, being Italian, led me to other Italian writers like Parise, Buzatti, etc, etc.

[maybe this is hell]

2. I used to buy all fiction in translation that I find. I used to read book catalogs and order fiction in translation. I go to Amazon and read recommendations. I forget important things like eating and paying bills.

[I'm sure this is hell]

3. Luck. I usually find the books I want. God wants me to read books (as opposed to torturing small, defenseless animals or suicide bombing myself).

Anonymous said...

And I was thinking of avoiding the bookstore this month. sigh. Must resist.

Anonymous said...

God I love that cover, but God I hate lists. It's a bit of a coffee table manual really isn't it? I suppose I could buy the book for my guests and the cover for myself.

Anonymous said...

Cripes, I've gone bovine LOL! Mad cow disease interfering with my fingers apparently.

bibliobibuli said...

jordan - (i know you've plenty else to attend to but) if you're free while you're back, do give me a call

sufian - you are a truly wonderful bookaholic. i pale in comparison and feel guilty that i haven't read more literature in translation - i should follow up your recommendations ... please let us know what you discover - do you blog it at all? (how sad that you didn't have a chance to meet paul bailey while he was at the litfest - he's one of the judges of the Independent's annual award for lit. in translation and very knowledgeable about fiction from the rest of the world - wrote me a list of must-read japanese writers)

bawang merah - i think you'd regret letting this one escape (but if you don't want to buy it right now, you can always order it later)

walker - i think it's a lovely coffee table book and you'd love the illustrations even if not the lists

flexnib said...

Sharon, it always annoys me that books are so expensive in Australia. Because of this I usually end up on mad book buying binges whenever I'm in Singapore or Malaysia.

Thanks for checking out my library - currently at 2300 titles and I'm almost finished with cataloguing everything we own :) It's very satisfying and if you'd told me, a year ago, that I would have derived such pleasure from cataloguing my personal collection, I would have laughed and told you there was no way!

I think I like the clockwork orange cover better than the one we have in Perth... ah well.

I love Sufian's approach to discovering new authors - very efficient! I never seem to be able to obsessively stick to one author for a sustained period of time - I get a bit... toey (Australianism - I kept trying to think of a different word to use here but keep coming back to this one) .. I start to feel like I'm missing out..

bibliobibuli said...

cw - and folks here always complain about the price of books!

2,3000 titles is mindblowing! I thought i had a lot but i think i won't get much further than 1,500 - but even then i won't in count his thrillers (the pages going brown and blotchy) which i'm quietly recycling to charity ...

but then the rate i'm buying books!

i had to google toey would "itchy and restless" translate it? lovely word