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1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

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For discerning bibliophiles and readers who enjoy unforgettable classic literature, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a trove of reviews covering a century of memorable writing. Each work of literature featured here is a seminal work key to understanding and appreciating the written word.The featured works have been handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries, including 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.Addictive, browsable, knowledgeable—1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die will be a boon companion for anyone who loves good writing and an inspiration for anyone who is just beginning to discover a love of books. Each entry is accompanied by an authoritative yet opinionated critical essay describing the importance and influence of the work in question. Also included are publishing history and career details about the authors, as well as reproductions of period dust jackets and book designs.

960 pages, Hardcover

First published March 7, 2006

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Peter Boxall

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Profile Image for Kristi  Siegel.
192 reviews588 followers
August 12, 2010
Edited 8-11-2010 to add Comment no. 4 (below) in response to Paul's follow-up question.

First of all, don't tell me what I "must" do before I die.

Just fuck off.

At Paul's behest, I'm writing my reactions to this list (not really the book, but give me a break - the book is just a bunch of pretty pictures and blurbs defending their idiotic choices). What's important is this shit-for-brains list.

Comment no. 1:

First, they need a subtitle for “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” I’m thinking “Including Books That Will Make You Want to Die, Peel Your Skin Off, or Shoot Yourself in the Face” might do the trick.

And who the hell just is this Dr. Peter Boxall? Does he know the definition of words like quiddity, esoteric, psychotic, random, fucking insane, etc.? I’m hoping he does because all would apply to this half-assed, biased list.

Comment no. 2:

I take immediate issue (no pun intended) to the word seminal, deriving from "semen," and the whole stodgy, turgid prose describing the holiness of this craptastic list: "Each work of literature listed here is a seminal work key to understanding and appreciating the written word. These works have been handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries..."

"a seminal work key to understanding the written word" [like books?:] !!

"literary luminaries" !? And I can just guess which ones they are given the disproportionate number of works by minor major authors. Hey, if someone is about to die, don't make them read every shithead book Ian McEwan or John Barth ever wrote.

Do you really think Roth's very minor and miss-able The Breast is going to put someone in an orgasm over the "written word"?

Comment no. 3:

I sure hope this list isn’t in any particular order. I’d hate to think Franzen’s metaphorically and literally shit-impacted book, The Corrections is among the top 100.

Oh, and nice coverage of lit before 19th century. There are a few stabs at SEVERAL CENTURIES at about book number 950 or so, but apparently we can just remain illiterate about Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Bible, Spenser, Donne, and the endless number of “SEMINAL” authors/books that are ignored completely.

A medley of the books that are pleasant reads but hardly life changing:
• The Life of Pi
• Curious Incident of the Dog in Night
• The Hours – how could Cunningham take such a good idea for a plot and screw it up so royally?
• Surfacing – nearly anything by Margaret Atwood is worthy, but why pick one of her earliest novels, where her potential has not yet been realized?
• One of Miller’s Tropic books would have been more than enough thank you.
• Who the hell ever heard of Wharton’s Bunner Sisters? I need to read that before I die? Maybe I should read Ethan – this book sucks – Frome again too. No. For Wharton it is House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence.

Colossally stupid list made into a giant and equally stupid book.


Comment no. 4:

So Dr. Boxall/Boxass, to snatch a line from The Rainmaker, “you must be stupid, stupid, stupid.” You’ve now had three tries (2006, 2008, and 2010) to get this sorry ass list in shape, but you’ve fucked it up every time.

In response to your smarmy introduction, which Paul describes: “…this is supposed to be a loose and baggy overview of The Novel, as opposed to drama or biography or history or biography,” I shout BULLSHIT! I’ll agree with the loose and baggy adjectives, but in no way is this list a representative listing of The Novel (and what’s with the reverential capital letters, asswipe?).

For starters, your various lists have included short story collections (not a novel), a single short story (not a novel), autobiographies (not a novel), confessional memoirs (not a novel), histories (not a novel), creative nonfiction (not a novel) and nonfiction essay collections (not a novel). Is there something mysteriously complicated about a novel’s definition, basically, “an extended fictional narrative in prose containing a plot,” that eludes you? Do you find this definition hopelessly complex? There is a cure. Stop creating these inaccurate, nonrepresentational crap-ass lists that suggest you know something about The Novel. You don’t.

Then, even if Boxass were able to plant the definition of a novel firmly into his not particularly fertile brain, he’d want to work on creating a list that’s representational. Let me explain. The good doctor has decided to use 1001 as the definitive number for our pre-death reading pleasure. Given the number of stellar novels produced, that is a tiny number. Logically, you’d accord an author no more than one book, unless there was an immensely compelling reason to do otherwise. Does Boxall do this? Noooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

In the list’s most recent incarnation (and this is attempt no. 3, Boxass), the good doctor still doesn’t grasp the idea of representation. In a list of only 1001 novels, should any author be accorded FIVE books? Apparently so. Boxall feels it imperative that we read, not one or two, but a whopping five novels each by J.M. Coetzee, Graham Greene, and Thomas Mann.

In comparison, ground-breaking novelists like Mark Twain, Charlotte Brontë, Nathaniel Hawthorne are accorded respectively 1, 1, and 2 novels apiece. But hey! We need to save space so we’re able to read FOUR books by Georges Perec, two books by Dashiell Hammett, and two books by John Le Carré. Aaaaarrgggghhhhh!!!! I’m not even going to touch all the ESSENTIAL and IMPORTANT novelists you omitted altogether, dickhead, but too bad, so sad…

Three strikes. You’re out...

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,482 followers
May 25, 2015
There are so many literary awards these days but I think the following notable achievements have been TOTALLY MISSED. So here are the All Time Award winners :

Best Keith Richard impersonation : W H Auden

Award for the Best exotic dance : Colette and Diablo Cody (tie)

Most transgendered author : Gustave Flaubert

“Madame Bovary, c’est moi” - Ok, if you say so

Creepiest family portrait : The Fitzgeralds

Most ridiculous hats, if that’s what they are : Rebecca West :

Author who most looked like their own books : Jean Rhys

Author who least looked like their own books : William Burroughs

Best beard : Samuel R Delany

Craziest beard : Georges Perec

Worst dancer : Truman Capote

Most awed by his own talent : Anthony Burgess

Best fistfight between great authors : Vargas Llosa versus Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We give the award to the loser:

Best calypso singer : Maya Angelou

Most pretentious suit : Tom Wolfe

Best interviewees : Margaret Atwood and James Ellroy (tie)

- invite them on your chat show, you'll get your money's worth.

I must have missed out some awards.... any suggestions?
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book865 followers
June 2, 2021
A few words regarding the title of this book of prologues and the slight dizziness, greediness and downright mental congestion induced by a virtually impossible challenge.

1001 Books — Peter Boxall has selected 1001 books and collected, for each of these books, a 300-words summary + illustrations, with the help of some of his colleagues — most of them academics and quite a few employed by his alma mater, the University of Sussex. 1001 is an allusion to the tales of Scheherazade. The difference being that, while she talks herself out of a tight spot through 1001 sleepless nights, we are invited to take the place of her murderous husband, Shahryar, and read through roughly the same amount of insomnia.

Also, the term “books” is a misnomer in this case. Novels (i.e., roughly speaking: extended prose fictions meant to be read, not performed) would be more to the point. Boxall’s list hardly includes any non-fiction, short stories, poetry, drama or comics. Moreover, most novels would classify as “elite literary fiction”; in other words, there are very few books in the genres or sub-genres of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, etc.

You Must Read Before You Die — This bit sounds like schoolteacher cheekiness. I mean, what, are you threatening me with eternal damnation? I’ll read your fucking selection if I’m in the mood, all right? Because it’s not like this list is some perennial, set-in-stone assortment — it’s just the upshot of a few one-sided, late-night convos around a kitchen table, somewhere in Sussex.

For one thing, Boxall & Co clearly (perhaps unduly) tip the scales in favour of the 20th century. The period between the Big Bang and Jane Austen is rushed through in barely more than 50 pages — e.g. not a word on the The Satyricon, The Romance of the Rose or The Decameron. Meanwhile, the 19th century represents a slim quarter of the volume, and the bulk of the book only covers the 1900s (from Henry James to J.M. Coetzee), with a small section, at the end, on the first few years of the 21st century.

So, we might read these books and RIP, all right. But suppose we could deep-freeze Peter Boxall today and defrost him back to life in a couple of centuries: he would undoubtedly have changed his mind about what we MUST read by then. That is probably the main reason why this book is rendered obsolete and updated every couple of years (okay, there are also marketing motives to consider).
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,482 followers
February 4, 2012
Has anyone thought of this already? Surely they have....

I wonder if it would be possible here on Goodreads to have a page listing all the 1001 books and - here's the thing - links to our own reviews of them (maybe with a limit in the case of famous books with a zillion reviews). It would be an interesting resource and would encourage people to review those which haven't got any reviews at all - say, for instance, The Taebek Mountains by Jo Jung-rae or Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. It would add to the GR fray, and that is what we are here for : the fray.



(if you weren’t wondering then move along, nothing to see here, this is for terminal list geeks only)

The original edition came out in 2006 and got a lot of stick for its eurocentricity and eccentricity – what? 10 Coetzee novels and 8 McEwans? It looked a little like bribery and corruption, or maybe the editorial board had just gone mad. So in 2008 they rethought the whole list. 282 books were dumped and new ones added.

2008 additions

1. Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. Falling Man – Don DeLillo
3. Animal's People – Indra Sinha
4. Carry Me Down - M.J. Hyland
5. The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell
6. The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
7. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
8. Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon
9. Mother's Milk - Edward St Aubyn
10. The Accidental - Ali Smith
11. Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann
12. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
13. Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
14. 2666 - Roberto Bolano
15. Small Island - Andrea Levy
16. The Swarm - Frank Schatzing
17. The Book about Blanche and Marie - Per Olov Enquist
18. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
19. The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
20. Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre
21. The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
22. A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz
23. Lady Number Thirteen - Jose Carlos Somoza
24. The Successor - Ismail Kadare
25. Snow - Orhan Pamuk
26. Your Face Tomorrow - Javier Marias
27. I'm Not Scared - Niccolo Ammaniti
28. Soldiers of Salamis - Javier Cercas
29. Bartleby and Co. - Enrique Vila-Matas
30. In Search of Klingsor - Jorge Volpi
31. The Museum of Unconditional Surrender - Dubravka Ugresic
32. Pavel's Letters - Monika Moron
33. Dirty Havana Trilogy - Pedro Juan Gutierrez
34. Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolano
35. The Heretic - Miguel Delibes
36. Crossfire - Miyuki Miyabe
37. Margot and the Angels - Kristien Hemmerechts
38. Money to Burn - Ricardo Piglia
39. Fall on Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald
40. A Light Comedy - Eduardo Mendoza
41. Democracy - Joan Didion
42. The Late-Night News - Petros Markaris
43. Troubling Love - Elena Ferrante
44. Santa Evita - Tomas Eloy Martinez
45. Our Lady of the Assassins - Fernando Vallejo
46. The Holder of the World - Bharati Mukherjee
47. Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light - Ivan Klima
48. Remembering Babylon - David Malouf
49. The Twins - Tessa de Loo
50. Deep Rivers - Shusaku Endo
51. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll - Alvaro Mutis
52. The Dumas Club - Arturo Perez-Reverte
53. The Triple Mirror of Self - Zulfikar Ghose
54. All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
55. Memoirs of Rain - Sunetra Gupta
56. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture - Apostolos Doxiadis
57. Before Night Falls - Reinaldo Arenas
58. Astradeni - Eugenia Fakinou
59. Faceless Killers - Henning Mankell
60. The Laws - Connie Palmen
61. The Daughter -Pavlos Matesis
62. The Shadow Lines - Amitav Ghosh
63. The Great Indian Novel - Shashi Tharoor
64. Gimmick! - Joost Zwagerman
65. Obabakoak - Bernardo Atxaga
66. Inland - Gerald Murnane
67. The First Garden - Anne Herbert
68. The Last World - Christoph Ransmayr
69. Paradise of the Blind - Duong Thu Huong
70. All Souls - Javier Marias
71. Black Box - Amos Oz
72. Ballad for Georg Henig - Viktor Paskov
73. Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto
74. Of Love and Shadows - Isabel Allende
75. The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman - Andrzej Szczypiorski
76. Ancestral Voices - Etienne van Heerden
77. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
78. Annie John - Jamaica Kincaid
79. Simon and the Oak Trees - Marianne Fredriksson
80. Half of Man is Woman - Zhang Xianliang
81. Professor Martens' Departure - Jaan Kross
82. The Young Man - Botho Strauss
83. Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich
84. Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel - Julian Rios
85. The Witness - Juan Jose Saer
86. The Christmas Oratorio - Goran Tunstrom
87. Fado Alexandrino - Antonio Lobo Antunes
88. The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa
89. Baltazar and Bleminda - Jose Saramago
90. Memory of Fire - Eduardo Galeano
91. Couples, Passerby - Botho Strauss
92. The House with the Blind Glass Windows - Herbjorg Wassmo
93. The War of the End of the World - Mario Vargas Llosa
94. Leaden Wings - Zhang Jie
95. Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai
96. Smell of Sadness - Alfred Kossmann
97. Southern Seas - Manuel Vazquez Montalban
98. Fool's Gold - Maro Douka
99. So Long a Letter - Mariama Ba
100. A Dry White Season - Andre Brink

101. The Back Room - Carmen Martin Gaite
102. The Beggar Maid - Alice Munro
103. Requiem for a Dream- Hubert Selby Jr.
104. The Wars - Timothy Findley
105. Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym
106. The Engineer of Human Souls – Josef Skvorecky
107. Blaming - Elizabeth Taylor
108. Almost Transparent Blue – Ryu Murakami
109. Kiss of the Spider Woman - Manuel Puig
110. Woman at Point Zero - Nawal El Saadawi
111. The Commandant - Jessica Anderson
112. The Year of the Hare - Arto Paasilinna
113. The Port - Antun Šoljan
114. The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
115. The Diviners - Margaret Laurence
116. Day of the Dolphin - Robert Merle
117. The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty
118. The Twilight Years - Sawako Ariyoshi
119. Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro
120. Cataract – Mykhailo Osadchyi
121. A World for Julius - Alfredo Bryce Echenique
122. Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion
123. Fifth Business – Robertson Davies
124. Jacob the Liar – Jurek Becker
125. Here's to You, Jesusa - Elena Poniatowska
126. Season of Migration to the North - Tayeb Salih
127. The Case Worker - Gyorgy Konrad
128. Moscow Stations - Venedikt Erofeyev
129. Heartbreak Tango - Manuel Puig
130. The Cathedral – Oles Honchar
131. The Manor - Isaac Bashevis Singer
132. Z – Vassilis Vassilikos
133. Miramar – Naguib Mahfouz
134. To Each His Own - Leonardo Sciascia
135. Marks of Identity - Juan Goytisolo
136. Silence – Shusaku Endo
137. Death and the Dervish - Mesa Selimovic
138. Closely Watched Trains - Bohumil Hrabal
139. Back to Oegstgeest - Jan Wolkers
140. Gardens, Ashes – Danilo Kis
141. Three Trapped Tigers - Guillermo Cabrera Infante
142. Dog Years – Gunter Grass
143. The Third Wedding - Costas Taktsis
144. Time of Silence – Luis Martin Santos
145. The Death of Artemio Cruz - Carlos Fuentes
146. The Time of the Hero - Mario Vargas Llosa
147. Memoirs of a Peasant Boy - Xose Neira Vilas
148. No One Writes to the Colonel - Gabriel García Márquez
149. The Shipyard - Juan Carlos Onetti
150. Bebo's Girl - Carlo Cassola
151. The Magician of Lublin - Isaac Bashevis Singer
152. God's Bits of Wood - Ousmane Sembene
153. Halftime – Martin Walser
154. Down Second Avenue - Es'kia Mphahlele
155. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon - Jorge Amado
156. Deep Rivers - Jose Maria Arguedas
157. The Guide - R.K. Narayan
158. The Deadbeats - Ward Ruyslinck
159. The Birds - Tarjei Vesaas
160. The Glass Bees - Ernst Junger
161. The Manila Rope - Veijo Meri
162. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands - Joao Guimaraes Rosa
163. The Burning Plain - Juan Rulfo
164. The Tree of Man – Patrick White
165. The Mandarins – Simone de Beauvoir
166. A Day in Spring – Ciril Kosmac
167. Death in Rome – Wolfgang Koeppen
168. The Sound of Waves - Yukio Mishima
169. The Unknown Soldier - Vaino Linna
170. The Hothouse – Wolfgang Koeppen
171. The Lost Steps – Alejo Carpentier
172. The Dark Child – Camara Laye
173. Excellent Women - Barbara Pym
174. A Thousand Cranes - Yasunari Kawabata
175. The Hive - Camilo Jose Cela
176. Barabbas – Par Lagerkvist
177. The Guiltless – Hermann Broch
178. Ashes and Diamonds - Jerzy Andrzejewski
179. Journey to the Alcarria - Camilo Jose Cela
180. In The Heart of the Sea - Shmuel Yosef Agnon
181. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen - Tadeusz Borowski
182. Froth on the Daydream - Boris Vian
183. Midaq Alley - Naguib Mahfouz
184. Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzákis
185. House in the Uplands - Erskine Caldwell
186. Andrea – Carmen Laforet
187. Bosnian Chronicle - Ivo Andrić
188. The Death of Virgil - Hermann Broch
189. The Tin Flute – Gabrielle Roy
190. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
191. Chess Story (Royal Game) - Stefan Zweig
192. Broad and Alien is the World - Ciro Alegria
193. The Harvesters – Cesare Pavese
194. The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
195. Alamut – Vladimir Bartol
196. On the Edge of Reason – Miroslav Krleza
197. The Blind Owl – Sadegh Hedayat
198. Ferdydurke – Witold Gombrowicz
199. War with the Newts – Karel Capek

200. Ricksaw Boy – Lao She
201. Untouchable - Mulk Raj Anand
202. The Bells of Basel – Louis Aragon
203. On the Heights of Despair – Emil Cioran
204. The Street of Crocodiles – Bruno Schulz
205. Man's Fate – André Malraux
206. Cheese – Willem Elsschot
207. Joseph and His Brothers – Thomas Mann
208. Viper's Tangle – Francois Mauriac
209. The Return of Philip Latinowicz – Miroslav Krleza
210. The Forbidden Realm - J. Slauerhoff
211. Insatiability - Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
212. Monica – Saunders Lewis
213. I Thought of Daisy - Edmund Wilson
214. Retreat Without Song - Shahan Shahnur
215. Some Prefer Nettles - Junichiro Tanizaki
216. The Case of Sergeant Grischa - Arnold Zweig
217. Alberta and Jacob - Cora Sandel
218. Under Satan's Sun - Georges Bernanos
219. The New World - Henry Walda-Sellasse
220. Chaka the Zulu - Thomas Mofolo
221. The Forest and the Hanged - Liviu Rebreanu
222. Claudine's House - Colette
223. Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset
224. Life of Christ - Giovanni Papini
225. The Storm of Steel - Ernst Junger
226. The Underdogs - Mariano Azuela
227. Pallieter - Felix Timmermans
228. The Home and the World - Rabindranath Tagore
229. Platero and I - Juan Ramon Jimenez
230. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge - Rainer Maria Rilke
231. Solitude - Victor Catala
232. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
233. The Call of the Wild - Jack London
234. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness - Daniel Paul Schreber
235. None But the Brave - Arthur Schnitzler
236. The Tigers of Momopracem - Emilio Salgari
237. Dom Casmurro - Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
238. Eclipse of the Crescent Moon - Geza Gardonyi
239. As a Man Grows Older - Italo Svevo
240. The Child of Pleasure - Gabriele D'Annunzio
241. Pharaoh - Boleslaw Prus
242. Compassion - Benito Perez Galdos
243. The Viceroys - Federico De Roberto
244. Down There - Joris-Karl Huysmans
245. Thais - Anatole France
246. Eline Vere - Louis Couperus
247. Under the Yoke - Ivan Vazov
248. The Manors of Ulloa - Emilia Pardo Bazan
249. The Quest - Frederik van Eeden
250. The Regent's Wife - Leopoldo Alas
251. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas - Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
252. The Crime of Father Amaro - Jose Maria Eca de Queiros
253. Pepita Jimenez - Juan Valera
254. Martin Fierro - Jose Hernandez
255. Indian Summer - Adalbert Stifter
256. Green Henry - Gottfried Keller
257. The Devil's Pool - George Sand
258. Facundo - Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
259. A Hero of Our Times - Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov
260. Camera Obscura – Hildebrand (aka Nicolaas Beets)
261. The Lion of Flanders - Hendrik Conscience
262. Eugene Onegin - Alexander Pushkin
263. A Life of a Good-for-Nothing - Joseph von Eichendorff
264. The Life and Opinions of Tomcat Murr - E.T.A. Hoffman
265. Michael Kohlhaas - Heinrich von Kleist
266. Henry von Ofterdingen - Novalis
267. A Dream of Red Mansions – Cao Xueqin
268. Anton Reiser - Karl Philipp Moritz
269. The Adventures of Simplicissimus – Hans von Grimmelshausen
270. The Conquest of New Spain – Bernal Diaz del Castillo
271. The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
272. Thomas of Reading – Thomas Deloney
273. Monkey: Journey to the West – Wu Cheng'en
274. The Lusiad – Luis Vaz de Camoes
275. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous
276. Amadis of Gaul - Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo
277. Le Celestina – Fernando de Rojas
278. Tirant lo Blanc – Joanot Martorell
279. Romance of the Three Kingdoms – Luo Guanzhong
280. The Water Margin – Shi Nai'an
281. The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu
282. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter - Anonymous

Then, only two years later, a third edition, another revamp, but only ELEVEN titles were changed … that’s weird!


1. Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
2. The Children's Book - A.S. Byatt
3. Invisible - Paul Auster
4. An American Rust - Philipp Meyer
5. Cost - Roxana Robinson
6. The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
7. Home - Marilynne Robinson
8. Kieron Smith, Boy - James Kelman
9. The Gathering - Anne Enright
10. The Blind Side of the Heart - Julia Franck
11. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz


1. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
2. Animal's People - Indra Sinha
3. The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell
4. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
5. Small Island - Andrea Levy
6. The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
7. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
9. Islands - Dan Sleigh
10. The Heart of Redness - Zakes Mda
11. Small Remedies - Shashi Deshpande


This is like porn for us book-geek types, it's so pretty and it's full of sexy pix of books in all states of dress, some with their jackets on, some off, some bound, some unbound. And lotsa pix of authors too, although, you know, authors are usually not the most gorgeous of people, and if you think that's stereotypical this book is here to prove it. (Exception : Edna O'Brien, total babe.)

Anyway, this 1001 Books tome did turn my head when it was first published. It didn't, however, make me read anything I wasn't going to, which I guess is its point. Or maybe, its point is just to lie in the corner of your room and purr.

Everybody will be shouting at this book before long as they look through it along the lines of "what's this? You've got three in here by Douglas Adams, and NONE by Roddy Doyle? you arrant dunderheads!" I mean, Douglas Adams is good for one, but not three... And if Douglas Adams, then Garrison Keillor...

Each book gets about 300 words which editor Peter Boxall describes like this : "What each entry does is to respond, with the cramped urgency of a deathbed confession, to what makes each novel compelling, to what it is about each novel that makes one absolutely need to read it." But, you know, they don't actually do that. It's just another pretty lie.

1001 books - it's a lot. If you had the time and money to read every one at a rate of one per week, you'd need 19 and a quarter years, so you better get going. But unless you're in a cult, you aren't going to do that. The pre-1700 section, in particular, is strictly for students of literature - I stick my neck out and say that very few will be reading "Euphues : The Anatomy of Wit" by John Lyly or "Aithiopika" by Heliodorus for fun. And then the dogged reader will be coming up against the rarely-scaled Everests of literature such as Dorothy Richardson's "Pilgrimage" (13 vols, thousands of pages) or Proust (likewise) or "Infinite Jest" (one volume, 1100 pages). Each of which are going to take you 3-6 months solid.

Rules are broken randomly - the word "books" certainly appears to equate to "novels" in here, BUT "Like Life" by Lorrie Moore is included - a collection of short stories, not a novel. So okay - why no Raymond Carver, America's greatest short story writer? Stupid bastards. And sometimes it's hard to see that the reviewer even likes the book in question - "The Secret History" is described as "quality trash for highbrows"! Or take this: "As with his other writing `The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' raises questions about the representation of female characters, and invites accusations of latent misogyny. These are valid objections that may engender fruitful considerations of this novel as a historical document as much as a work of experimental fiction." Well, that's hardly an enthusiastic endorsement.

Some authors are wildly over-represented, such as J M Coatzee, Ian McEwan and Paul Auster, all of which have more titles in here than Henry James. It's interesting to check if the Booker Prizewinners are included - 20 are out of 37 and there are some strange omissions - no room for "Vernon God Little" (quite right too) or "The True History of the Kelly Gang", "Sacred Hunger" (nothing at all by Barry Unsworth in fact - what's wrong with him, he's great, you dunderheads!), "The Famished Road" or "Hotel du Lac". So this is a guide with enough in it to get everyone's backs up and please hardly anyone except Coatzee and McEwan fans. Therefore I recommend it for everyone, but particularly those who have just been sentenced to a long stretch of solitary confinement.

Having said that, please check out my GR friend Ellen's fantastically vitriolic review - I don't agree with her but her views are BRACING

Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,302 followers
February 1, 2022
Dintre toate lucrările cu recomandări de lectură (și am răsfoit destule), volumul editat de Boxall este, probabil, cel mai cunoscut. A inaugurat și o modă. Are vreo sută de autori / recenzenți și prezintă în cîteva rînduri (cel mult o jumătate de pagină) un morman de cărți (îndeosebi romane).

În mare, prezentările mi s-au părut decente. Uneori, cam vagi. Din păcate, după gustul meu, cărțile sînt de toată mîna, adică și bune, și proaste. Am întîlnit și capodopere, nu-i vorbă (Mănăstirea din Parma, Anna Karenina, Moartea la Veneția etc.), dar cele mai multe cărți recenzate sînt mediocre și, ca atare, nu prea merită citite. Ofer cîteva exemple de cărți care sînt departe de a fi niște capodopere: Emilio Salgari, Sandokan: Tigrii din Mompracem (1900), Marcel Allain & Pierre Souvestre, Fantômas (1911), pus în relație - nu-mi explic de ce - cu mișcarea dadaistă și cu suprarealismul, Paulo Coelho, Diavolul și domnișoara Prym (2000). Nu toate cărțile populare sînt valoroase. Prea puține cărți valoroase sînt populare...

Am observat că mulți recenzenți sînt supărați pe volumul editat de Peter Boxall (poate și pe titlul lui înșelător), probabil că au fost mai dezamăgiți decît subsemnatul, dar de la o astfel de carte nu poți avea prea multe pretenții. O iei așa cum e...

P. S. Spre deosebire de alți experți în recomandări, echipa lui Boxall a vrut să fie ecumenică (să acopere tot globul) și a inclus în volum și cărți scrise de autori din Bulgaria, Ungaria și România (Pădurea spînzuraților).
Profile Image for Jonathan.
917 reviews947 followers
October 8, 2013
As a contributor to this, and having seen a few of the reviews, I thought I could clear a few things up:

1. The title – The publisher commissioned this book as part of its larger series of "1001…before you die". Having this "before you die" was a decision made in the publishing/marketing section as it was decided it would sell better/get more discussion going. It is also, obviously, a little tongue in cheek. "books" rather than "novels", as "novels" was seen as potentially turning people off as it sounds too "literary" and "elitist" (I know, I know…don't get me started). So, the title is pure marketing, and nothing to do with either Peter Boxall or anyone involved in either the selection of books or the reviews.

2. The list itself – Firstly, of course, it is impossible to make a "perfect" list. Secondly, there is author inflation due to financial and temporal pressures. This was fought by some, and the situation was improved in later editions, but I agree there is, for a start, way too much Rushdie! Boxall did the first draft of the list, which was discussed and edited and added to by us. It was, as all things done by committee, flawed. You must remember that the publishing industry is in dire straights, and simply getting this book done and out was a struggle.

3. The point of the book – the point is that it is a list of suggestions, a list of jumping off points, inspiration, ideas. Something to look through when stuck for what to read. It is not intended to be CANON.

Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,126 reviews104 followers
May 31, 2019
While I of course did not in any way expect to agree with EVERY novel or novella that chief editor and book compiler Peter Boxall has considered worthy of inclusion in his 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (and although MANY of my personal favourites are indeed and happily present) I do have three main and very personally uncomfortable issues with this tome (which actually grate enough for me to now only consider a high one star rating at best, a decent enough compilation and certainly useful to an extent, but only to be recommended with very major caveats and reservations).

For one, and for me personally very much annoyingly, I actually consider the title 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die rather annoyingly and inappropriately misleading (and the dictatorial tone more than a trifle off-putting as well) because ALL of the literary works listed (included) are novels or novellas. Now does this mean that Peter Boxall somehow does not consider dramatic works or poetry collections legitimate, bona fide books? I mean, sorry, but Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal are if published in print format in every way as much a book as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest and Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. And thus, why this tome has NOT been titled something more akin to 1001 Works of Prose You Must Read Before You Die I really do not even remotely understand (for frankly, when I ordered my copy of the book, I originally and wrongly assumed that both poetry and drama would also be included, the lack of which does rather majorly frustrate, as the title, as 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is in my opinion rather a falsehood, as it absolutely does NOT make it clear that ALL of the included literature offerings are examples of prose, are only novels and longer short stories and novellas).

Furthermore, and for two, while 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die claims to be international in scope, there is (at least in my opinion) most definitely a decidedly American and United Kingdom bias shown by Peter Boxall. And while with especially most of the United Kingdom, with the England based novels I actually and in fact do heartily agree with them being included as books to must read, I do think that especially earlier French and Spanish works of prose seem to have come more than a bit short (although I must admit that I am in fact pleasantly surprised at how many German language novels/novellas are featured, but be that as it may, I still strongly think that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die could be and really should be considerably more universal and international, for as it stands now, it really does seem as though Peter Boxall thinks that American and United Kingdom authors are by nature somehow superior literature and culture wise, and even if this might never have been his intention, the feeling does permeate and remain throughout).

And finally, and I guess what actually has moved 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die from a low two star to a high two one star ranking for me is the massively infuriating fact of the matter that aside from Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, and Yann Martel (whose Life of Pi I personally in fact and indeed cannot stand, and I also have to wonder if Boxall even considers Martel as Canadian since he was born in Spain), Canadian literature has been pretty well totally ignored. Also, why does Peter Boxall have to include SEVEN Margaret Atwood novels? Yes, she is a talented Canadian author, but there are so many other Canadian authors equally as talented. Where is Margaret Laurence? Where is Timothy Findley? Where is W.O. Mitchell? Where is Hugh McLennon? Where is Alice Munro? Where are the many excellent Quebecois Francophone authors? And I could go on, as Canada has a rich and varied literary tradition and that Peter Boxall obviously rather believes that only Margaret Atwood (and to a certain extend Carol Shields and perhaps Yann Martel) are worthy of inclusion in his 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, that they supposedly somehow "represent" Canadian Literature, well, I find this naively blinkered to the extreme (and actually rather ill read) as well as totally, utterly insulting. And while I do in fact occasionally browse through 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I actually and generally ONLY tend to make use of it to check information (and plot summaries) of books with which I am already familiar (that I have already read) and not so much for finding new reading material, as I just do not in any way consider 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die an acceptable book resource (as there is just too much missing and too much of a USA and United Kingdom bias for me).
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews831 followers
August 2, 2016
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: An Indispensable Guide

Of course, I didn't read this 960 page behemoth in one day. As a matter of fact, the selected edition is the second of two copies in my library, my personal one, and the one I share with my dearest reading friend and partner, Lynda.

Rather, this is my indispensable guide to broadening my literary horizons. The pictured edition is that published by Cassell in 2012. However, my first edition was the first published in 2006.

I emphasize that this is an evolving series. As such, as successive volumes have been published, some works have been removed while others have been added. My first edition was rather a comfort to me. For it reinforced my selection of books I had read over the course of my life. Let's say the initial volume was "Anglo-centric." Here were the classics of American and English Literature on which I had cut my bookish teeth. The usual suspects are here. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, William FaulknerErnest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck.

As the series has progressed, the 1001 have taken on a decidedly international flavor. That is an exceptionally good thing. For I have begun to read much further abroad than English and American Literature. These major revisions have occurred in the 2008 and 2014 editions.

This series should not be dismissed as simply another "List of Books." It is far more than that. This series comes with the Literary Chops of Editor Peter Boxall a professor of English in the Department of English at the University of Sussex. He works on contemporary literature, literary theory and literary modernism. The series is further advanced by the work of innumerable scholars, specializing in the works of included authors.

Some readers may well be put off by a book of this scope. Many readers always take exception to works included and excluded. Yet, it must be accepted that Literature is a constantly changing way in which the world is viewed: historically, philosophically, politically, and socially. Otherwise Literature would not have the impact on us as readers it undeniably does.

Those who may be dismayed by the exclusion of beloved works previously included in earlier editions should be assuaged by knowing that most works excluded in later editions are works by authors who have had multiple listings in previous editions. By example, at one time Charles Dickens and J.M. Coetzee were the writers with the most entries; ten for each. Those have been reduced to make room for authors of significant works from different cultures and eras. That suits the mission of this series.

For the Bibliophile, each edition has been a treasure trove of artwork from contemporary editions of the works reviewed. The accompanying artwork for each entry makes this an entrancingly beautiful book on, well, the beauty of books and their wonderful graphic design.

If one were to make a comparison of the various editions in this series, it actually lists in excess of 1300 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

It is quite doubtful I will ever read each and every volume listed in this all encompassing series of books. However, it is a work I return to time and again in looking for that next book to be read. On the other hand, I have frequently said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that the key to immortality is a stack of unread books. "Wait, wait, Death. I'm not done here."

Yet, this guide has led me to books I might not ever have read otherwise. This series has pushed me beyong the limits of my usual literary comfort zone. For that, I'm exceedingly grateful.

Should you decide to embark on this magnificent Literary Exploration, you, too, may find this your guide for volumes to increase your library for years to come. Oh, I highly recommend delving into this series. It is a joy.

Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,858 reviews363 followers
November 27, 2021
So below I know I gave an update in October and said I’d give a number of how many I’ve read closer to the end of the year, but I just don’t have it in me to count and I am not sure how to create a spreadsheet? which I think is what I need at this point. I know I’m getting close to 50% read though looking at the numbers from previous updates. I still cannot believe I’ve been working on this challenge for three years now. This book is the book that got me started in all of the lists I decided to read from, and now I feel guilty half of the time when I read something that is not on one of them. Well except for my true crime obsession

Ok so I know I said I know nothing about computers or technology, which is a true story. But I do have word on my #soheavyitsadeadlyweaponlaptop that I think I’m going to try it. I’m one of those “just push the button and see if that works” kind of people. But I have to do it for ALL DA LISTS not just this one or it won’t be helpful. So cross your fingers
Please ignore any typos

Great reference material

Not what I expected obviously since I’ve only read about 10% of the listed and discussed books! Yes you heard me-10%! I was floored! The majority of the books I had never heard of, so I immediately hit up public domain on iBooks. I found tons, so that statistic will rise. I understand there is a Part 2 to this book. I will die someday. I don’t think I will put that amount of stress on my soul. Although I’ve read over 2500 books in about 4 years so if I just focused on these books it could be done.

10/19/21 UPDATE although I’ve read a ton of true crime this year I’ve still made progress on this list. In 2018 (WOW I had no idea I started these list challenges that long ago) I had read Only 10% of the books included. I’m sneaking up on 50% at least now. I’m going to post an official number by the end of year.
Profile Image for Inder.
511 reviews71 followers
April 18, 2008
I joined the 1001 Books group here on Goodreads, thinking, "What a great way to get exposed to a ton of books!" so I thought I better take a look at the actual list.

Pros: Little descriptions of a lot of classic books. Lots of books described here that I have never heard of, and that I might not have known about otherwise. In fact, I may discover some new favorites through this list. Also, it appeals to my 12-year-old self, who loved to write lists of books I wanted to read. Overall, inspiring, if seriously intimidating.

Cons: 1001 books is actually a lot to read in a lifetime. You'd have to average about 25 books a year, if you start at my age and live according to actuarial projections, and keep in mind, there are books like Gravity's Rainbow and Ulysses lurking in there to seriously slow you down. I fancy myself quite well read (basically because I have read Middlemarch - ever since then, I've been quite full of myself), but I've read less than 5% of the books on this list - I have a ways to go.

Also, since the list (naturally, because the book had to be published at some point) terminates in 2005, you'd be pretty behind the times if you decided to ONLY read books on this list, until you die.

Also, many would argue with the actual list itself: Why so much contemporary (and thus, not tried and true) fiction? Why is it almost all fiction, for that matter? Shouldn't you read some nonfiction before you die?

Also, three Burroughs novels? Doesn't that violate the Geneva Convention? Certainly the 8th Amendment.

What I'm saying is that the premise of the book is obviously ridiculous. Plainly, this is not really a list of books you must read before you die - that was probably the publishers' catchy title, anyway. But if you don't take it too seriously, this is fun to read, fun to disagree with, and fun to ignore.

I'm inspired to try to pry my psyche out of the pre-modern era, however painful, at least long enough to read one or two novels written post-1930. (I'm sure my psyche will scuttle back into its 19th century hole directly afterwards, but I really should try to participate in the 21st century at least now and then.)

In short - a rolicking nerd-fest for bookish people.
Profile Image for Lynda.
204 reviews82 followers
August 29, 2014
Yeah, I know, we GR readers already have too many books on our To Reads list! :-)

As I get older my literary tastes change. I've been a little disgruntled with reading lately and thought I'd check this reference guide out. The first thing I did was to go through my home library and check off how many of these books I actually had. I'm embarrassed to say less than 50! So I'm going to use this list as a guide to broadening my reading horizons, together with recommendations by GR friends.

The 2013 edition is beautifully illustrated with concise insight into the novels. I've delved into the pages and have purchased a few so am ready to sit back and resume my reading with a little more joy.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,482 followers
October 18, 2012
Further note, for Ben and anyone else interested in what they've added - here are 20 recent titles they've added to give you an idea. I'm sure a comprehensive list will pop up somewhere soon.

Professor Martens' Departure : Jaan Kross
The Young man : Botho Strauss
Love Medicine : Louise Erdrich
Half of Man is Woman : Zhang Xianling
Black Box : Amos Oz
The First garden : Anne Hebert
The Last World : ChristophRansmayr
Obabakoak : Bernardo Atxaga
Inland : Gerald Murnane
The daughter : Pavlov Matesis
Memoirs of Rain : Sunetra Gupta
The Dumas Club : Arturo Perez-Reverte
Before Night falls : Renaldo Arenas
Remembering babylon : David malouf
The Holder of the World : Bharati Mukherjee
The Twins : Tessa de Loo
Our Lady of the Assassins : Fernando Vallejo
Santa Evita : Tomas Eloy martinez
Margot and the Angels : Kristien Hemmerechts
Crossfire : Miyabe Miyuki
The heretic : Miguel Deliber

Confession : haven't heard of ANY of these titles and only one of ther authors.

So i think them describing this edition as "international" is pretty reasonable.


Here's the 2012 new edition, and it's very much changed. I just made some preliminary notes while other persons were watching The Great British bake-Off

[image error]

and howling out loud because it was the final (ooh!). But anyway, I noted that this (British) edition is calling itself an "international " edition, meaning that a whole lot of mainly British and North American titles have gone gone gone and been replaced with novels from everwhere else. None of which I have heard of, which is where this big list book gets its points - it will inform people if nothing else.

I only checked from 1950 onwards, but these titles are now OUT :

1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
2. Saturday – Ian McEwan
3. On Beauty – Zadie Smith
4. Slow Man – J.M. Coetzee
5. Adjunct: An Undigest – Peter Manson
7. The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
8. The Plot Against America – Philip Roth
10. Vanishing Point – David Markson
11. The Lambs of London – Peter Ackroyd
12. Dining on Stones – Iain Sinclair
14. Drop City – T. Coraghessan Boyle
15. The Colour – Rose Tremain
16. Thursbitch – Alan Garner
17. The Light of Day – Graham Swift
19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
20. Islands – Dan Sleigh
21. Elizabeth Costello – J.M. Coetzee
22. London Orbital – Iain Sinclair
23. Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry
24. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
25. The Double – José Saramago
27. Unless – Carol Shields
28. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
29. The Story of Lucy Gault – William Trevor
30. That They May Face the Rising Sun – John McGahern
31. In the Forest – Edna O’Brien
32. Shroud – John Banville
33. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
34. Youth – J.M. Coetzee
35. Dead Air – Iain Banks
37. The Book of Illusions – Paul Auster
38. Gabriel’s Gift – Hanif Kureishi
41. Schooling – Heather McGowan
44. Don’t Move – Margaret Mazzantini
45. The Body Artist – Don DeLillo
46. Fury – Salman Rushdie
47. At Swim, Two Boys – Jamie O’Neill
48. Choke – Chuck Palahniuk
51. An Obedient Father – Akhil Sharma
55. The Heart of Redness – Zakes Mda
57. Ignorance – Milan Kundera
58. Nineteen Seventy Seven – David Peace
60. City of God – E.L. Doctorow
61. How the Dead Live – Will Self
63. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
64. After the Quake – Haruki Murakami
65. Small Remedies – Shashi Deshpande
66. Super-Cannes – J.G. Ballard
67. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
68. Blonde – Joyce Carol Oates
69. Pastoralia – George Saunders
70. Timbuktu – Paul Auster
71. The Romantics – Pankaj Mishra
72. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
74. Everything You Need – A.L. Kennedy
75. Fear and Trembling – Amélie Nothomb
76. The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
78. Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
80. Intimacy – Hanif Kureishi
81. Amsterdam – Ian McEwan
82. Cloudsplitter – Russell Banks
84. The Talk of the Town – Ardal O’Hanlon
85. Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
87. Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis
88. Another World – Pat Barker
91. Mason & Dixon – Thomas Pynchon
94. Great Apes – Will Self
95. Enduring Love – Ian McEwan
97. Jack Maggs – Peter Carey
99. American Pastoral – Philip Roth
100. The Untouchable – John Banville
102. Cocaine Nights – J.G. Ballard
104. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
105. The Ghost Road – Pat Barker
112. The Information – Martin Amis
113. The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
114. Sabbath’s Theater – Philip Roth
115. The Rings of Saturn – W.G. Sebald
120. Mr. Vertigo – Paul Auster
121. The Folding Star – Alan Hollinghurst
124. The Master of Petersburg – J.M. Coetzee
130. Felicia’s Journey – William Trevor
134. Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
137. Operation Shylock – Philip Roth
138. Complicity – Iain Banks
144. The House of Doctor Dee – Peter Ackroyd
145. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
146. The Emigrants – W.G. Sebald
150. A Heart So White – Javier Marias
155. Jazz – Toni Morrison
159. Black Water – Joyce Carol Oates
160. The Heather Blazing – Colm Tóibín
162. Black Dogs – Ian McEwan
167. Time’s Arrow – Martin Amis
171. Downriver – Iain Sinclair
172. Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord – Louis de Bernieres
173. Wise Children – Angela Carter
176. Vineland – Thomas Pynchon
179. The Music of Chance – Paul Auster
181. A Home at the End of the World – Michael Cunningham
183. Possession – A.S. Byatt
186. A Disaffection – James Kelman
189. Billy Bathgate – E.L. Doctorow
192. The Temple of My Familiar – Alice Walker
197. London Fields – Martin Amis
198. The Book of Evidence – John Banville
199. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
201. The Beautiful Room is Empty – Edmund White
206. Libra – Don DeLillo
207. The Player of Games – Iain M. Banks
209. The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul – Douglas Adams
214. The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
216. The Child in Time – Ian McEwan
217. Cigarettes – Harry Mathews
222. The Taebek Mountains – Jo Jung-rae
226. Marya – Joyce Carol Oates
232. Foe – J.M. Coetzee
237. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
239. A Maggot – John Fowles
240. Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis
244. Old Masters – Thomas Bernhard
246. Queer – William Burroughs
262. Worstward Ho – Samuel Beckett
263. Fools of Fortune – William Trevor
267. The Diary of Jane Somers – Doris Lessing
277. The Newton Letter – John Banville
279. Concrete – Thomas Bernhard
280. The Names – Don DeLillo
283. The Comfort of Strangers – Ian McEwan
289. Rites of Passage – William Golding
292. City Primeval – Elmore Leonard
296. Shikasta – Doris Lessing
299. The Safety Net – Heinrich Böll
303. The World According to Garp – John Irving
307. Yes – Thomas Bernhard
310. The Passion of New Eve – Angela Carter
314. Petals of Blood – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
316. The Hour of the Star – Clarice Lispector
318. Ratner’s Star – Don DeLillo
319. The Public Burning – Robert Coover
322. Amateurs – Donald Barthelme
327. Grimus – Salman Rushdie
331. High Rise – J.G. Ballard
333. Dead Babies – Martin Amis
334. Correction – Thomas Bernhard
339. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carré
340. Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
348. The Black Prince – Iris Murdoch
349. Sula – Toni Morrison
351. The Breast – Philip Roth
360. The Wild Boys – William Burroughs
363. The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark
364. The Ogre – Michael Tournier
366. Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – Peter Handke
368. Mercier et Camier – Samuel Beckett
369. Troubles – J.G. Farrell
371. The Atrocity Exhibition – J.G. Ballard
377. The Green Man – Kingsley Amis
385. The Nice and the Good – Iris Murdoch
391. Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid – Malcolm Lowry
396. Chocky – John Wyndham
398. The Cubs and Other Stories – Mario Vargas Llosa
402. The Joke – Milan Kundera
405. A Man Asleep – Georges Perec
406. The Birds Fall Down – Rebecca West
407. Trawl – B.S. Johnson
416. August is a Wicked Month – Edna O’Brien
417. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
421. Come Back, Dr. Caligari – Donald Bartholme
422. Albert Angelo – B.S. Johnson
435. The Collector – John Fowles
439. The Drowned World – J.G. Ballard
452. The Violent Bear it Away – Flannery O’Connor
453. How It Is – Samuel Beckett
454. Our Ancestors – Italo Calvino
464. Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow
465. Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
474. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris – Paul Gallico
476. The End of the Road – John Barth
487. The Wonderful “O” – James Thurber
492. Seize the Day – Saul Bellow
497. A World of Love – Elizabeth Bowen
505. Self Condemned – Wyndham Lewis
512. The Unnamable – Samuel Beckett
513. Watt – Samuel Beckett
516. The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
523. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
535. The Third Man – Graham Greene

So you can see the changes are very considerable.
Profile Image for Lara.
372 reviews44 followers
November 16, 2007
Of course I didn't read this front to back...it's a reference book, and a wonderful one at that. Besides, there are plot spoilers! The artwork from first and rare editions and photographs of authors are especially nice. This belongs on every bibliophile's shelf.

My three complaints:

1. The awful cover, which looks like a cross between a New Age pamphlet and a college text book. Why?

2. It seems as though every work by some authors is included, so that it could almost be condensed into "500 Authors You Must Read Before You Die."

3. Major omissions include _Watership Down_ and anything by Cormac McCarthy.
Profile Image for notgettingenough .
1,026 reviews1,184 followers
August 4, 2016
I find these lists loathsome, but have no need to go into that, since it has been done so meticulously by Ellen.

However, I think this story may be recorded here. It may change your mind about whether hanging out on GR is what measures the importance of reading in your life. I wonder what these people, in peril every day, would think of this list, so much of which seems to comprise trivia. I wonder if it guides them as they make their life-endangering trips to this library. Or if they have better things to read.

Syria's secret library

When a place has been besieged for years and hunger stalks the streets, you might have thought people would have little interest in books. But enthusiasts have stocked an underground library in Syria with volumes rescued from bombed buildings - and users dodge shells and bullets to reach it.

Down a flight of steep steps, as far as it's possible to go from the flying shrapnel, shelling and snipers' bullets above, is a large dimly lit room. Buried beneath a bomb-damaged building, it's home to a secret library that provides learning, hope and inspiration to many in the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya.

"We saw that it was vital to create a new library so that we could continue our education. We put it in the basement to help stop it being destroyed by shells and bombs like so many other buildings here," says Anas Ahmad, a former civil engineering student who was one of the founders.

The siege of Darayya by government and pro-Assad forces began nearly four years ago. Since then Anas and other volunteers, many of them also former students whose studies were brought to a halt by the war, have collected more than 14,000 books on just about every subject imaginable.

Over the same period more than 2,000 people - many of them civilians - have been killed. But that has not stopped Anas and his friends scouring the devastated streets for more material to fill the library's shelves.

"In many cases we get books from bomb or shell-damaged homes. The majority of these places are near the front line, so collecting them is very dangerous," he says.

"We have to go through bombed-out buildings to hide ourselves from snipers. We have to be extremely careful because snipers sometimes follow us in their sights, anticipating the next step we'll take."

At first glance the idea of people risking life and limb to collect books for a library seems bizarre. But Anas says it helps the community in all sorts of ways. Volunteers working at the hospital use the library's books to advise them on how to treat patients; untrained teachers use them to help them prepare classes; and aspiring dentists raid the shelves for advice on doing fillings and extracting teeth.

About 8,000 of Darayya's population of 80,000 have fled. But nobody can leave now.

Since a temporary truce broke down in May, shells and barrel bombs have fallen almost every day. For the same reason, it's long been impossible for journalists to enter Darayya, so I have been conducting interviews by Skype - my conversations repeatedly interrupted by shattering explosions, so loud that they distort the studio's speakers.

The location of the library is secret because Anas and other users fear it would be targeted by Darayya's attackers if they knew where it was.

As it is, the library is in an area considered too dangerous for children to approach. One young girl, Islam, tells me that she spends almost all her time indoors, playing games to help her ignore the gnawing pangs of hunger in her stomach and reading library books she is given by friends.
She tells me she has no idea about the cause of the bloodshed around her.

"All I know is I'm just being fired at," she says.

"I'll be sitting by myself, watching some place being shelled and I'm thinking, 'Why are they bombing this place?' Sometimes I hear that someone has died because of their injuries and I ask myself, 'Why did he die, what did he do?' I don't know."

There is one child who visits the library every day, however, because he lives next door. For 14-year-old Amjad it is safer there than being above ground, and over time his enthusiasm for the place has earned him the role of "deputy librarian".

In one of our Skype conversations, Anas tells me that as well as aspiring teachers, doctors and dentists looking for technical or academic books, many still just read for the love of it. The majority of their most popular books are by well-known Arab writers such as the poet and playwright Ahmed Shawqi, known as the Prince of Poets, or Syrian author al-Tanawi, who chronicled rebellions in the Arab world. But he says there's also much enthusiasm for names that are more familiar in the West.

"I've read some books by French writers but I like Hamlet the best," says Abdulbaset Alahmar, another former student in his mid-20s.

"Shakespeare's style of writing is simply beautiful. He describes every single detail so vividly that it's like I'm in a cinema watching a film in front of me. To be honest I became so obsessed with Hamlet that I began reading it at work. In the end I had to tell myself to stop!"

But, I ask him, in a besieged town that has only had access to two aid convoys in nearly four years, wouldn't it make more sense for the library enthusiasts to spend their time looking for food rather than books?

"I believe the brain is like a muscle. And reading has definitely made mine stronger. My enlightened brain has now fed my soul too," he replies.

"In a sense the library gave me back my life. It's helped me to meet others more mature than me, people who I can discuss issues with and learn things from. I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books. Abdulbaset Alahmar"

It turns out that even the greatly out-gunned Free Syrian Army fighters, who have the daunting task of defending the town, are avid readers.

"Truly I swear the library holds a special place in all our hearts. And every time there's shelling near the library we pray for it," says Omar Abu Anas, a former engineering student now helping to defend his home town.

Books motivate us to keep on going - we read how in the past everyone turned their backs on a particular nation, yet they still made it. Omar, library user

Every time he heads for the front line, he stocks up with books first. Once there he spends much of his time with a rifle in one hand and a book in the other.

"In the heart of the front line, I have what I'd call a mini library. So I bring a collection of books and I put them there. So I sit there for six or seven hours, reading."

Many of his comrades also have their own mini front line libraries, he says, adding that at just about every defence point, which are spaced about 50m apart, you will find a collection of borrowed books.

"So, for example, when I have finished reading a book I go up to one of the others on the front line and exchange it for one he has just read. It's a great way of exchanging ideas as well as books."

Unfortunately for Omar, his fellow fighters and the people of Darayya, they may soon have little time for reading. Over the past two weeks Syrian government forces and their Hezbollah allies have moved into all the farmland around the suburb and even some outlying residential areas.
One man I spoke to predicted that after nearly four long years of siege Darayya could fall within days.

For now though, Omar says the library is helping to strengthen the town's defences as well as its resolve.

"Books motivate us to keep on going. We read how in the past everyone turned their backs on a particular nation, yet they still made it. So we can be like that too. They help us plan for life once Assad is gone. We can only do that through the books we are reading. We want to be a free nation. And hopefully, by reading, we can achieve this."

For those who need their reviews with pictures, go to the
link: original story.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,910 followers
May 18, 2008
May 19, 2008
After reading or attempting to read a fairly large number of books listed in this book, I have come back and removed two of the stars I originally gave it. Many of the books are terrible, and many of the ones that aren't terrible are not "must reads".
Below is my original review from before I'd tried some of the suggested books.


March 16, 2008

I can't believe I read the WHOLE thing! I have it from the library, so I wanted to go through the whole thing before returning it.

I enjoyed the format and artwork in this book. A half page discussion of each book and why it's worth reading, as well as some exceptional photos, movie posters, book covers, and other artwork.
The book is essentially British, so the selections are somewhat weighted in favor of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh authors. That's their prerogative, but it means they left out some books others of us would consider essential.
On the whole, well-done and inspiring.

Profile Image for Marc.
3,072 reviews1,093 followers
February 5, 2019
I can hardly say that I have read this book, but I regularly browse in it and it inspires me (partly) for my reading list. The collection is well composed, but on some works I frown the eyebrows, and the discussions are of a very variable level. Obviously, Anglo-Saxon literature is overrepresented, but at least there is an attempt to look broader! Wonderful to occasionally make new discoveries.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews862 followers
June 28, 2020
Whether you agree on those books chosen, and those that have been omitted this is a grand selection of books, that you may want to read. The summaries are mostly literary talking about technique, composition, and the development of the novel over time etc. and leaving out critique, controversy etc. One of the best things about this collection are the numerous wonderful author and/or book related photographs. I gave this an 8 out of 12; it's probably more informative and useful than 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die, but also just as Western-centric.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books336 followers
June 25, 2013
Peter Boxall and his panel of high-falutin' lit'ry types got together and made a list of 1001 books they think everyone should read before they die. Now the title might rub some folks the wrong way - hey, who are you, you high-falutin' lit'ry types, up in your academic towers, telling us what we must read? Ultimately this list is probably no better or worse than any other "best books" list compiled by literary scholars, though it's certainly longer than most. (I'd be amazed if any of Boxall's committee really has read every single one of these books.)

The merits of the books chosen are of course open to considerable debate. They range from the big classics that every single list ever includes (Madame Bovary, Crime and Punishment, Moby-Dick, etc.) to a handful of modern genre classics (Neuromancer, Interview with the Vampire, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) to some really obscure ones I have never heard of, nor met anyone who's read them (The Clay Machine Gun? Giles Goat-Boy? Yeah, I see some of you on my friends list are making a liar out of me...)

There are two main criticisms people usually make of the list: one is that it's very Western-centric, with very few non-Western novels on the list, even going back to the 17th century. No Tale of Genji, no Water Margin, to say nothing of anything more modern.

The other flaw is that it's pretty obvious that some of the literary panelists just stuck as many books by their favorite author as they could on the list. I mean, I like Charles Dickens, but I don't think he needs to be on the list 10 times. He does not make up 1% of the world's most important literature all by himself! Philip Roth: 7, Virginia Woolf: 9, Jane Austen: 6, etc. I know it's probably hard to choose which of Jane Austen's six novels are the best/most important, but come on — I'd agree everyone should read at least one or two of her books, but not all of them, unless you actually like Jane Austen (which I do, incidentally).

So, anyway, I understand the revised 2010 edition has addressed this a bit, with fewer Dickens and more non-Western inclusions.

The summary of each book is brief and not always very illuminating. None of them really argue passionately for why this particular book (especially if it's only one of many by the same author) deserves to be on your literary life list. However, in a brief allotment of words, each book gets a page on its qualities and what it has to offer.

So, this is the sort of book that's interesting to have on your shelves and to page through. And I have been semi-randomly making my way through it, sometimes choosing books I would never otherwise have read. You can see my list here. Some have been delightful surprises, some were just an opportunity to read one of those books everyone is supposed to have read in high school but I never did (hence my finally getting around to Wuthering Heights and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), and some I do not think my life would have been diminished by missing.

I still haven't read Moby-Dick or The Great Gatsby yet.

Personally, I found Jane Smiley's 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel a more engaging and personal read, with her list of a 100 books which she personally read (or reread) for their importance. But 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a hefty doorstopper worthy of any book-lover's collection, though I'd like to meet the person who's actually read all 1001. I seriously doubt I will get around to all of them.
Profile Image for Skylar Burris.
Author 20 books230 followers
September 10, 2008
It's always fun to read some random academic's random list of the books one supposedly should read. It either bestows a sense of satisfaction in seeing one's tastes validated or inspires a pleasing self-righteous indignation at seeing certain books excluded; usually it does a little of both. "1,000 Books You Must Read Before You Die" includes contributions by over one hundred international critics, and, in addition to serving as an amusement, it also serves as a handy reference with summaries of 1,001 different books in 300 or words or less.

I'm not quite sure what criteria was used to compile this list (here comes the pleasing indignation); it is heavily weighted toward the 1900's, giving barely a passing glance to classical world literature. In the pre-1700's section, which numbers a pathetic less-than-15 pages, there is no Iliad, no Odyssey, no Beowulf, no Canterbury Tales, no Decameron, no Inferno …but there is Chariton's Chaireas and Kallirhoe? Huh? I suppose the defense given for such omissions may be that these are not "novels," and this is (I guess?) supposed to be a list of "novels," but that is not in fact the case: the list includes numerous essays and individual short stories as well (since when did "The Pit and the Pendulum" or "A Modest Proposal" qualify as "novels"?) I think they would have done better to have begun with the 1700's, simply omitted the short stories and essays, and called it "1001 novels," if a novel list was truly their goal. Because if we really want to talk about *books* to read before you *DIE*, the list is badly lacking. Aside from the classic omissions previously mentioned, why no Bible, no Bahagvad Gita, no Koran, no Tao Te Ching - nothing at all in that vein?

But enough of the omissions; what of the inclusions? The "MUST read" portion of the title seems a bit hyperbolic to me. MUST I really read a *minimum* of half a dozen books that include *multiple* scenes of female rape and/or sexual degradation before I die? Surely I could live a fulfilling and educated life having read but one or two such books? Or perhaps I could make it through life, enlightened, informed, educated, moved, even inspired—without even reading one such book.

Many of the descriptions seem to take relish in the anti-capitalist themes of many of the books, and I sometimes wondered if a book or two wasn't chosen precisely because of it's anti-capitalist bent. That might also help to explain that, among hundreds and hundreds of 20th century titles, not a single book by Ayn Rand was included: a rather glaring omission in 20th century literature when one considers her cultish following and impact.

I'm still plodding through this, patting myself on the back at what I have read, and of the hundreds and hundreds of books I haven't read—trying to decide which might be worth the time. I will have read 1,001 books before I die, most likely (God willing and the creek don't rise)—but certainly not all or even most of these 1,001.

I kept changing this back and forth between two and three stars, and I finally settled on three. I rate the selection poorly, but as a reference book, it's really quite good. The summaries are well written and concise and do, I think, a fairly good job of giving me a notion as to whether I would want to read the book or not. But once again I'm reverting to the lower score, because I'm sitting here thinking - come on now! Not a SINGLE work by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, or Dante could manage to edge out even one of the 60 titles written after the year 2000?

Profile Image for Jersy.
760 reviews61 followers
November 7, 2021
Auch wenn ab dem 20. Jahrhundert nur noch weniger meinen Geschmack anspricht (zu viel Krieg und schlechte Stimmung), finde ich, dass dieses Buch eine tolle Inspiration ist. Die Texte schaffen es gut, auszudrücken, warum ein Buch lesenswert ist und welchen Platz es in der Geschichte hat.
Grade im Bereich "vor 1800" habe ich einiges gefunden, was ich noch nicht auf dem Schirm hatte oder worüber ich bisher zu wenig wusste.
Ich finde aber, dass manche Autoren überrepräsentiert sind und es hätte dem Buch gut getan, nur ein Buch pro Autor zu nennen.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books357 followers
October 12, 2020
Here's a bit of inside baseball, publishers choose titles not authors.

These days, when a book proposal is submitted and it looks as if the book has potential the marketing department gets involved. This is how books like this get these absurd, melodramatic titles.

I've had this book awhile. It's not a Bible of any kind, it's just another information source, like GR, when it comes to investigating books. That's all.

Got some good ideas from this.
Profile Image for Mon.
179 reviews201 followers
July 29, 2010
So many criticisms of this book are about one thing only, and that is so and so didn't get a certain book in. While I do feel that putting every single Virginia Woolf in is a little too much, it can easily be improved by limiting one book per author. That way, even Ayn Rand might have a change of nomination.
December 13, 2016
პიტერ ბოქსალს უნდა დაახიო ლაყუჩები ;დ ერთი ქართველი მწერალი რომ არაა, გასაგებია ნაკითხი არ ხარ საკმარისად, აი ფოლკნერს რო მარტო ერთ რომანს აღირსებ და ისიც აბესალომ, აბესალომს იქ უკვე სერიოზულად იჭრები ; იტოკში არასწორი კაცია პიტერი, თუნდაც მარტო იმიტომ რომ კოელიო 1001 წიგნში შესაყვანად ჩათვალა.
Profile Image for David.
Author 2 books30 followers
August 26, 2020
Very nicely illustrated.

Succinct reviews that invariably make you want to read all 1001 books. Along with literary criticisms by Martin Seymour-Smith and Peter Parker with Frank Kermode, this book sorts out which books one must concentrate on reading first and not waste your time following fads or non-literary friends' suggestions.
Profile Image for Nick.
409 reviews6 followers
January 4, 2017
Ah, the freedom to choose. I love this chunky volume, and one I return to for reading ideas. I have read about a quarter of the 1001, so a few more to go. One qualm about this: it focuses too much on very modern works, at the expense of some really excellent novels which are omitted.
Profile Image for Thomas.
15 reviews8 followers
January 17, 2022
Über Sinn und Unsinn solcher Bücher kann man trefflich streiten. Jeder Leser wird das eine oder andere Buch (wo ist Harry Potter oder Jonathan Littell?) vermissen. Ich verstehe es als Inspiration neue Bücher kennenzulernen. Zu diesem Zweck gefällt mir das Buch sehr gut. Da die Bücher chronologisch geordnet sind ist es auch auch ein schöner Überblick über die zeitliche Entwicklung der Literatur. Außerdem im Anhang eine hilfreiche Aufstellung der wichtigsten Literaturpreise und ihrer Preisträger.
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