What I've read from this list
from the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
. Apparently, per amazon.com, said books are selected by "Derek Attridge (world expert on James Joyce), Cedric Watts (renowned authority on Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene), Laura Marcus (noted Virginia Woolf expert), and David Mariott (poet and expert on African-American literature), among some twenty others."( 1001 whole books )
Things this says about me:
1. A ridiculous number of bolded books are things I read before I was sixteen, as part of my attempt to read early genre fiction or adventure novels. (The Poe, the H.G. Wells, the E.R. Burroughs, the Scott and the Dumas, and more I'm not remembering right now.)
2. A ridiculous number of the remaining books are things I read for school and despised. (Edith Wharton, Scarlet Letter
, and so on.)
3. I still cannot for the life of me remember the titles of Samuel Beckett novels, and I had to look every one of 'em up to remember which was which.
4. Admittedly, I started at the bottom of this list and worked up, so I was starting to get bored up near the top, but still: nearly all of the "great books" that I've read are pre-1970.
Things about this list:
1. Pre-1700 works are hardly represented at all. Only thirteen worthwhile books were written before 1700? I don't think so. And "book" is defined very loosely here; novellas/screenplays are included (Graham Greene's The Third Man), short story collections are included (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), children's stories are included (the Thurber), and works of epic poetry are included (Metamorphoses).
So there's no excuse for leaving out things like Canterbury Tales, the Iliad, the Oddyssey, Beowulf, the Ramayana, Journey to the West (which I always call "you know, the Monkey story"), Dante, Milton, and King Arthur from somewhat earlier than The Once and Future King
. They'd fit into the definition just as well.
Oh, and while we're at it? Shakespeare. But apparently today we're defining "book" to include Walden and Metamorphoses, but not Hamlet. I mean, at first I thought it was just novels, so they had an excuse for not including some of the things I mentioned above, but then... Walden! Metamorphoses! WTF!
2. Nine Tailors
and Murder Must Advertise
are better'n Have His Carcarse
and the other DLS books with Harriet Vane? Hmph. Oh, and: Cause for Alarm
is the best Eric Ambler? Martin Eden
but not Call of the Wild
3. There's a lot of author repetition: regardless of how much I like Douglas Adams, should both Dirk Gently and Long-Dark Teatime be on the list? Should there be that much
novels, and the list doesn't even include Waiting for Godot.) Every
Jane Austen novel? Do J.M. Coetzee novels really make up one percent of the books you must read before you die? I mean, one Mark Twain and eight Ian McEwans? More de Sade than P.G. Wodehouse?
4. Based on a cursory glance at the dates, about a third of these were published after 1970, and more than half were published after 1950 . There have been 69 "great books" since the year 2000 -- meaning that there are something like five times as many great books of the 2000s as there are great books before 1700. In other words, this list is top-heavy.