January 21, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 3 Comments

Well, now we know.  There are actually 1,284 books to read before we die.

Between the first and second editions of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, 283 titles were replaced.  We have to assume, though, that these titles are still worth reading – runners-up, perhaps.  We have a vested interest in this theory because 26 of the titles we had read on the original list were cut out of the revised list.  We are also nonplussed about some of the particular deletions.

Let me put that more bluntly.  They removed The Brothers Karamazov?  And kept American Psycho?

Okay, there are a couple of additions that make sense to me, and certainly removing some of the more obscure titles to make room for these is a fine idea.  The Tale of Genji would be a perfect example, as it’s considered the first novel and it’s still readable.  I also thought Season of Migration to the North and War with the Newts were excellent additions.

But what, I ask you, is the meaning of removing Aesop’s Fables, which are major cultural references?  A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most famous books of all time?  A Christmas Carol, again one of the most famous books ever and full of those major cultural references?

Then there’s Henderson the Rain King, one of my top ten favorite books of all time.  That’s just offensive.  I’m afraid I’ll have to take that one personally.

There are some other problems, which have been noted before, namely that the vast majority of titles come from the 20th century and that the list, in focusing on fiction, excludes Shakespeare and the great poets.  What are all these 21st century titles doing there when there’s no room for Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost or Walt Whitman?

When it comes right down to it, though, leaving off The Brothers Karamazov is probably the worst.



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  1. I’m put off by the title of this list. Being told I must do something makes my hackles rise. Altering the list adds to my contempt.

  2. According to the introduction to the original book, the list follows the development of the novel, therefore, no plays, poetry, religious texts, etc. Admittedly, the name of the list is unfortunate and falls victim to society’s love of sensationalism, but I still have a great time perusing it and reading selections from it. The new version just gave me more suggestions! If I ever were to compile such a list, I think I would call it “1001 Books I’m Really Glad I Read.” 🙂


  3. Maybe there’s room for a competing title, “1,001 Best Books Evar!” Then we could include every genre.

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