Saturday, July 6, 2013

1001 Books and What I've Read.

One of the questions I get asked most often is whether I've looked at the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die List (you can see it here). The answer is that yes I have, but I have always steered away from it.

First, the list has been revised a couple of times already. I find it a bit annoying that a book can be removed and another added, so it really makes the list longer than 1001.

Second, I'm offended that the creators of this list neglect plays. I'm sorry, but everyone should read Shakespeare. And while yes, I know you should SEE Shakespeare as it was intended, there is a lot to say about reading his plays. There are so many nuances you can pull from them by seeing the text.

Third, epic pieces, such as The Odyssey, Iliad, etc are also excluded from the list. REALLY?

Anyway, I've pretty much ignored the list for those 3 reasons...but also because I find the list daunting. While I consider myself to be more well-read than the average Joe, looking at the list intimidates me...and well, I know I won't ever complete the list. It's not something I will ever attempt, but I do think it's worth looking at...and maybe reading a few titles from.

You can blame O from Delaisse for inspiring this post. In a very recent post, she mentioned that rather than looking at the whole list, she would simply list the books she HAD read. I really like that idea, so I'm copying that here. :) I don't think she'll mind too much.

The time periods are listed below, with the titles I've read from that era.

The 2000s:
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
2. Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer
3. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
4. Atonement – Ian McEwan
5. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

The 1900s:
6. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
7. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
8. The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
9. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
10. The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
11. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
12. The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul – Douglas Adams
13. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
14. Watchmen – Alan Moore & David Gibbons
15. The Cider House Rules – John Irving
16. Contact – Carl Sagan
17. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
18. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
19. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
20. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
21. Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
22. Sula – Toni Morrison
23. The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
24. Slaughterhouse-five – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
26. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
27. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
28. Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
29. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
30. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
31. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
32. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
33. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
34. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
35. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
36. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
37. On the Road – Jack Kerouac (technically I'm still reading this, but I'll be done soon).
38. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
39. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
40. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
41. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
42. Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor
43. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
44. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
45. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
46. Animal Farm – George Orwell
47. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
48. Go Down, Moses – William Faulkner
49. The Outsider – Albert Camus
50. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
51. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
52. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
53. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
54. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
55. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
56. Absalom, Absalom! – William Faulkner
57. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
58. The Waves – Virginia Woolf
59. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
60. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
61. Orlando – Virginia Woolf
62. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
63. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
64. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
65. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
66. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
67. The Glimpses of the Moon – Edith Wharton
68. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

69. Summer – Edith Wharton
70. Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs
71. Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence
72. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
73. A Room With a View – E.M. Forster
74. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
75. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
76. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The 1800s:
77. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
78. The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
79. Dracula – Bram Stoker
80. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
81. The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
82. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
83. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
84. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
85. The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
86. Germinal – Émile Zola
87. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
88. The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy
89. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
90. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
91. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
92. Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
93. Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
94. Middlemarch – George Eliot
95. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
96. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

97. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
98. Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne
99. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
100. Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
101. Silas Marner – George Eliot
102. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
103. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
104. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
105. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
106. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
107. Hard Times – Charles Dickens
108. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
109. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
110. Villette – Charlotte Brontë
111. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell
112. Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
113. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
114. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
115. Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell
116. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
117. Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
118. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
119. The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
120. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
121. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
122. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
123. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
124. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens
125. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
126. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
127. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
128. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
129. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
130. Persuasion – Jane Austen
131. Emma – Jane Austen
132. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
134. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
135. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
136. Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth

The 1700s:
137. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
138. The Interesting Narrative – Olaudah Equiano
139. Rasselas – Samuel Johnson
140. Candide – Voltaire
141. A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift
142. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
143. Love in Excess – Eliza Haywood
144. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe

145. Aesop’s Fables

There you have it, a good 145. I was a little nervous when I started deleting titles. It's obvious that I haven't read hardly any contemporary fiction. I like my old writers. :)

I was also happy to see at least another 100-200 titles that are on either my 250 list or my list for the Classics Club. I can be happy about that.

So what do you think about lists like this?


  1. I understand your point about 1001 Books...but I think people shouldn't take any list too seriously. After all what do we know about the people that create the lists in the first place. I think they turn into a game of sorts to see if you can finish the game. There will never be a complete list b/c I don't believe it is possible but I do find them entertaining to read (the lists) and if someone decides they want to be a reader they are a good starting point. An obsessive reader (like many of the book bloggers) will just want to get their hands on everything ever published . It's good to just keep it fun. Enjoyed this post. You've done well on this list. I have the book but have not tallied up the numbers. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    1. Good points!

      I'm a sucker for lists, which is why I bother with them. :) I'll probably always be obsessed with finding them and seeing how my reading stacks up!

  2. Whef! I've only read 48 out of your list. Yeah, reading them all seems great but it's too close to 'catch them all' if you know what I mean.

    What's up with this kind of competitive reading? Who are we competing against? For me, it ruins the whole spontaneity and pleasure and fun in reading. I've felt frustrated many times with myself for not reading fast enough or snob worthy books and just gave up on reading for as many as two weeks at a time. Looking back, it is childish.

    It's a great reading guide though. Worth checking out when you've ran out of ideas for new books. Maybe just select something at random without knowing much about the author and subject and discover something new and delightful. :)

    1. Oh, I agree! When I started blogging, I was very focused on getting through my own personal list of 250 books that it became obsessive. I finally burned out.

      But that still means I'll reference lists. I like comparing my own reading goals to what "others" have listed. That might be a fault of mine.

  3. I've only read 128 books on that list (I keep track on my blog for the fun of it - I never intend to read all of them). Considering that I read about 100 books/year, it shows that what I find read-worthy is not the same as the people who composed that list. I'm not sure what the criteria are, which makes it harder for me to understand why certain books (that I think have very little literary merit) are even on the list. Also, as a lot of people have commented, it's chockful of Western literature.

    The reason plays aren't on there is because they're not novels. And Homer's works are poems (which makes me wonder why Dead Souls by N Gogol is on the list since he insisted it was a poem).

    I have gotten a few recommendations from the list when searching for Russian literature, so it does have its uses. It's up to the reader to decide how much merit to give to any list of things to do before you die. We're not all the same and therefore a list of that magnitude means we'd have to struggle through some novels we'd otherwise never finish, which can be both good and bad, depending on how you view your reading experience.

    1. Personally, I don't see how you can have a "great" works of literature list without Shakespeare or Homer. I know they aren't books, but still. :)

      I do think referencing the list will be good in the future. As I was going through and deleting the hundreds of titles I haven't read, there were MANY I haven't heard of. :)

  4. Lol. And SHE took her list from mine, which I posted a couple of years ago and have been updating ever since. ;) I am reading from this list, well, no - when I read books, I check to see if they are on it and, if so, cross it off the list (or add it to my list of completed titles, I should say). I also sometimes use it for recommendations, when I just can't decide what to read.

    It is irritating that some great works of literature (Shakespeare, Epics, Poets, etc.) are not considered, but the list is "books" to read, by which they mean, primarily, novels. I think they might have some other versions about "Plays to Read before you die" or whatnot. I don't mind the exclusions, when I keep in mind that we're only talking about "book books" and not all of literature.

    The changes drove me nuts at first, but then I decided I was just going to stick with my original 2006 version and go from there. I understand why they update every so often, especially re: the 2000s category.

    But, yeah, it's all good. Fun little side-list to keep track of. All of us and our crazy lists!

    1. I do love my lists. :)

      And I think I'll just reference it as I keep reading and see what kind of "progress" I make. I did find a lot of authors and titles that were new to me!

    2. That's a good idea. I've found quite a few on the list that I've enjoyed or been intrigued by, but probably never would have heard of otherwise. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and The Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil both come to mind.

      Oh, and Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe, which was rad (I read it a few years ago and then discovered later that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so I was glad to have experienced some of his writing).

  5. I enjoyed your post. Great lists too!

    Cyntha@The Things You Can Read

  6. Wow! You've already read quite a few. I'm keeping track of what I read from the 1001 list because I am a lover of lists. I haven't read as many as you though...yet. =O)

    1. I was surprised my number was so high! :) Especially when I hit the 1800s. :) Lots of titles there!

      Good luck as you read through the list!

  7. My whole blog was based on the concept of reading the 1001 books, but I've moved away from it for a couple of reasons, some of which you mentioned. I like to read new authors, local authors, female authors, and there aren't many of those. I counted the original list and I believe 206 were written by a woman, which is abysmal.

    I'm still working on it, and using The Classics Club as a way to keep up, but I'm certainly not exclusively reading from the list anymore. I did that for a while and it's too stifling.

    1. Agree with the stifling feeling! I like reading from lists (obviously), but I also like to read what grabs me!

  8. Your list with, in my opinion both strengths and omissions, at least reflects a real flesh and blood reader with a formed character and taste. The "1001...." list has all the character of a data base. Why bother? Your taste in books does you credit!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad that I try to read diversely and from different genres in addition to my love of classics. :)

  9. I hate that they keep changing the list, but I came up with a solution to that. I bought one of the earlier versions of the actual hardcopy book. At the end of each December I sit down with the massive book and go through page by page marking off books I read that year. I don't pick books because they are on the list, I just mark off what I read that happened to be on the list. There's always about a dozen a year. I ignore all the new updates and don't stress about "trying" to read the list.

    1. I do that, too! Well, I bought the hard copy when it came out in 2006 (I think) and turned it into a list (excel) for myself. Then, as I read, I just check that list to see if the book is on it. Sometimes I do browse through and pick something from the list if I'm not particularly in the mood for something or can't decide what to read (and want an excuse to go buy a new book!). ;)

  10. There's an app for this list that has all of the different lists in one or you can filter by each list and it's searchable and stuff. I keep track on there and I let it influence if I read a book sooner or later but I did go through it at one point and mark the books that I'm just not interested in. I'm certainly not aiming to read all of the books or anything. There are too many good books, especially genre books, that aren't there.

  11. I'm guilty of loving lists and making tons of them myself, but some of the items included on the master list mystify me -- seriously, Martin Chuzzlewit? I love Dickens but it's not great.

    I always look at them though and feel inadequate. I've read about 150 off the list I found on the internet (not through your link, I couldn't get it to load) and there's a lot of stuff on there I know I'll never read, though there were a few nice surprises like Barbara Pym and Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. At least they seem to have updated it with more writers that are non-white though of course not many females.

  12. Agree with you re. the missing titles - I love lists, and I love the idea of reading it, but it's far too much commitment for something so very inadequate.

    (As you can see, I am SO VERY behind on blog reading, I'm kind of embarrassed commenting on this 25 days after it was posted :S)

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