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May 11, 2012


Yesterday Neal posted on his book blog a list of books from the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. (Phew, that’s a freaking lot of “books” in one sentence.) “Competing” over lists like these — books, movies, albums, travel — and taking online quizzes are definitely some of our main couple hobbies. I spent a ridiculously long time trying to post the list here, but the numbering and formatting was just completely out of whack. So while I don’t recommend you spend the same amount of time I did trying to recreate the list (at a certain point I think I imagined that I was locked in one final technological battle and I would be victorious . . . but I was not), I’m curious how many you have read from the list.

I’ve read these 58 (Neal bested me as he usually does):

2000s (1)

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

1900s (25)

  1. The Hours – Michael Cunningham
  2. Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
  6. Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  8. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  9. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  10. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  11. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  12. Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  13. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  14. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  15. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  16. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  17. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
  18. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  20. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  21. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
  22. Howards End – E.M. Forster
  23. A Room With a View – E.M. Forster
  24. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  25. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

1800s (27)

  1. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  2. The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  5. The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy
  6. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. The Devils – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  8. Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll
  9. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  11. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  12. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  13. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  14. Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lonely – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  15. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  17. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  18. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
  19. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  20. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
  21. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  22. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  23. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  24. Emma – Jane Austen
  25. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  26. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  27. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

1700s (4)

  1. Émile; or, On Education – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  2. Candide – Voltaire
  3. A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift
  4. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe

Pre-1700 (1)

  1. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

I’ve definitely covered Dostoevsky and Jane Austen and Soren Kierkegaard, not that he made the list since he wrote nonfiction, philosophical texts. Which brings up the question of why lists like this never include any nonfiction whatsoever . . . if you’re going to be so bold as to say these are the books you must read before you die, wouldn’t you think there would be at least one nonfiction work that was deemed significant? I can think of many.

Despite that, I do think I should read some more fiction. I’m on my third adoption book as well as finishing up another nonfiction work and I’ve decided that I should force myself to take a break and read a novel. So hit me with your suggestions (either from the list or not) — what novels are essential to you?



  1. I prefer fiction written in this century – I could probably count on my fingers how many I’ve read from the list, and I’m pretty sure of those, most were forced read in High School. And I feel no shame, and I think I will still die happy (does that really happen, why do we say that?)

    Comment by Enelo — May 11, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    • Yeah, I definitely don’t think I’m going to get anywhere near this 1001. I find lists like this a little suspect in general, which is why I’d rather try out family/friend recommendations instead.

      Comment by llcall — May 12, 2012 @ 2:13 am

  2. 38. None from the 2000s. Only a few from the 1900s. I’m a classics girl . . . a really old classics girl. I highly recommend Martin Chuzzlewit (Dickens) which is on this list. A Tale of Two Cities and G. Expectations were not my fave, but I LOVE MC. I’ve wanted to read Cold Comfort Farm ever since falling in love with the movie, but can’t seem to get my hands on it. I also watched Manon de Sources at International Cinema and I bet that’s a great read. I liked the Hobbit, but never read the LoftR trilogy. I don’t see 1984 on your list—have you really not read that? If not, you MUST. Also, not on this list, but I love Watership Down. I hear Disney did an awful cartoon version. Skip that. The book by Richard Adams is great. Also, for some fun non-fiction, have you read the “All Creatures Great and Small” series by James Herriot? (Stories from a country vet in England. You will laugh and cry, in the best of ways!) Ryan and I LOVE those!

    Comment by v. blanchard — May 12, 2012 @ 12:36 am

    • I had given up on Dickens after “Great Expectations” but maybe I should give him another try with “Martin Chuzzlewit.” I have read part of “1984,” but I only counted completed reads — I have meant to pick it up again. I loved “Brave New World” so I would probably enjoy it. Those are two good candidates . . .

      I have read “Watership Down,” one that Neal required prior to marriage. And yes, I love James Herriot’s stories. We used to listen to them on tape when I was growing up and I’ve read them again as an adult — definitely agree with the laughing and crying.

      Comment by llcall — May 12, 2012 @ 1:54 am

  3. Ok, here are my suggestions for you
    Wild Swans, Poisonwood Bible, I know why the caged bird sings, Dracula, North and South, wuthering Heights, count of monte cristo, any virginia wolfe and the scarlet pimpernel (didn’t see that one on there but it’s a must on my list)
    I’ve also seen the movies for Casino Royale and Mrs pettigrew lives for a day and since they were good the books will be better I’m sure!
    Good luck. I’m always on the hunt for good book ideas and I realized the books I’ve read from the 1001 are heavily concentrated in the same era…guess I need to branch out a bit!

    Comment by Carissa — May 13, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

  4. So I’ve been out of the loop for a while. But here are some fiction books, I’ve enjoyed that I don’t see on your list.

    “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell (not the American civil war- she is along the lines of Jane Austen- I almost spelled that with an “i”- I’m becoming more Texan than I ever thought!)
    “These is my words” by Nancy Turner
    Have you read “Les Miserables”? I love recommending that read along with “the Count of Monte Cristo”. My dad used to say that Dumas and Hugo would argue which was more powerful- to hate or to love . Hugo wrote Les Mis to show the power of love and forgiveness, and Dumas wrote the Count depicting hate and vengeance. Whether they did really have an on going debate or not it’s fun to read and discuss.
    I enjoyed “Cutting for Stone” and a lot of people liked “The Guernsey Literary and Potato peel Pie Society”, I preferred Austen’s “Lady Jane”. And then Catherine Cookson is catching my fancy. I’ve only read one of her books “The Golden Straw” which was totally reading like a soap opera until I read a little about Cookson’s background and you start to see that the things she was writing in her book are actually legitimate concerns and hopefully causes people to look at their moral values.

    And I know you are steering clear of non-fiction but eventually you need to read Nurture Shock if you haven’t already. Anyway, those are some off the top of my head, but they are probably not worthwhile to your extensive reading!

    Comment by Ishkhanoohie — May 16, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

    • Embarrassing! How many comments can I make? I just had to say, “Lady SUSAN” not Jane- egads!

      Comment by Ishkhanoohie — May 16, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

  5. Sorry, I have to add “Middlemarch” by George Eliot as well!

    Comment by Ishkhanoohie — May 16, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  6. Ack! Totally meant to comment here sooner! Just reading the above I can vouch for The Scarlet Pimpernel. That’s a fave of mine (and the movie version, with Jane Seymour! Which does not spoil the book and vice versa!)

    As you know I love kidlit — there’s something about reading a short, good book. Have you read Hidden yet, by the way? It might be a little hard to find…but worth it in my opinion.

    I’m into graphic novels lately. Definitely give Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol or Level Up by Gene Luen Yang a try.

    A book that makes you think you’re listening to a cajun storyteller: The Underneath by Kathy Appelt.

    Fantasy with vivid language and swashbuckling action: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

    Funny. Funny, funny, so funny (and also thought provoking): The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.

    Let me know if you read any of these!

    Comment by Alysa — May 16, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  7. Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I decided I am going to read at least one book from each of the commentors, so I’ve been to the library to check out and place holds and request transfers. I’ll report back on this grand fiction-reading experiment when I’m through!

    Comment by llcall — May 17, 2012 @ 3:23 am

  8. I’d kind of like you to read Gravity’s Rainbow, mainly because reading it kind of makes me want to pee my pants. Either that or The Infinite Jest. But if you read one or both, I know my competitive spirit will kick me into gear.

    Comment by neal — May 17, 2012 @ 3:32 am

  9. I am also trying to read some fiction. I’ve definitely gotten out of the habit, and feel like it really must be a lovely escape. I might try some of these, too. If you haven’t read The Bean Trees, I remember really enjoying it.

    Comment by Robin-Elise Call — May 17, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    • I did read The Bean Trees years ago and remember really liking it too.

      Comment by llcall — July 4, 2012 @ 1:29 am

  10. Thanks for the list- I’m always looking for some new good reads that aren’t just the latest fad.

    Comment by Mandy — May 18, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

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