I think everybody loves a good list: a collection that has been chosen with great care to help you sift through the clutter. Readers are no different. The New York Times reviews a book called “1001 Books to Read Before You Die.” I haven’t looked, but it would be good to know if I have read any on the list. (“No matter how well read you are, youâ€™re not that well read,” writes reporter William Grimes. “If you donâ€™t believe it, pick up â€œ1001â€ and start counting.”)
The Times: “The book is British. Of course. The British love literary lists and the fights they provoke, so much so that they divide candidates for the Man Booker Prize into shortlist books and longlist books. In this instance Peter Boxall, who teaches English at Sussex University, asked 105 critics, editors and academics â€” mostly obscure â€” to submit lists of great novels, from which he assembled his supposedly mandatory reading list of one thousand and one. Quintessence, the British publishers, later decided that â€œbooksâ€ worked better than â€œnovelsâ€ in the title.”
I’m sure the books cited will spark a debate (the fact that more than half of the books were written after World War II already has the Times’ reviewer ruffled).