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1001 Books: You Must Read Before You Die Paperback – March 9, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1844034178 ISBN-10: 1844034178

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Cassell Illustrated (March 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844034178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844034178
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,779,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr Peter Boxall is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Sussex. He has published widely on 20th and 21st century fiction and drama. His publications include a reader's guide to 'Waiting for Godot' and 'Endgame', and a book on DeLillo entitled Don DeLillo: the Possibility of Fiction. He is currently writing a book about the influence of Samuel Beckett's work on contemporary fiction. He lives and works in Brighton.

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Customer Reviews

I love lists of books that "everone must be read."
D. Blankenship
Book Lust is possibly not the very best selection-wise - although infinitely better than this one - but at least it's a fun read.
Wendy Cook
For each of the 1001 books on the list there is an outline of the significance of the book and the author.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

219 of 237 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a lot of books. I have often looked at the various "books about books" and been disappointed. They are usually geared toward the casual reader, and they never prove very useful to me.

This book is different. First of all, it's gorgeous. I am not thrilled with the cover, but the inside illustrations and pictures are all terrific and good quality. Almost every page contains either an author photo, or full color picture of the book cover.

The books listed all have wonderful no-spoiler, intelligent summaries. I find myself learning things about novels I've already read, and I have been reshuffling my "to read next" pile as I go along.

This is an eclectic selection, even though admittedly it's Western oriented. I don't know if any reference book can have everyone's favorites - there are a lot of novels out there. Yet this one is very comprehensive and satisfying.

Highly, highly recommended.
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164 of 180 people found the following review helpful By P. Bryant on June 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a splendid and much needed guide - the beautiful illustrations are worth the price. It should be stacked on your shelf next to "The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction" and "The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors" which are also recommended and which take completely different approaches. "1001 Books" presents you with The Really Great Stuff . Which is where the fun starts - this is a book all readers will want to argue passionately with. Almost at the same time as I'm finding authors I'd never heard of and making "must buy" lists, I'm shouting at the editors - "what's this? You've got three in here by Douglas Adams, and NONE by Roddy Doyle? What's all that about??" 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." 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 seriously, 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 6 months solid.
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495 of 560 people found the following review helpful By moose/squirrel on September 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like so many bad, bad movies, this book is a beautiful production. It features slick, heavy paper; a million color pictures; attractive, readable typeface; witty contributors. Its proportions seem just right for its weight.

But unless you just love grazing on hors d'oeuvres (and many do), you're likely to be disappointed by this beautiful but cynical exercise in marketing to the culturally insecure. As somebody has already noted: No Iliad. No Odyssey. No Aeschylus. No Euripides. No Boccaccio. No Chaucer. No Dante. No Machiavelli. No Shakespeare. No Marlowe.

No Old or New Testament. No Q'uran. No Lao-tse, Confucius, Bhagavda-Gita (really short and really good). No Beowulf. No Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

In fact, only 13 works from before 1700 make the cut - and lest you think fun is the criterion, one of them is John Lyly's Euphues long regarded as one of the most unreadable and, shall we say, "affected" works in English literature. You get John Lyly instead of John Milton.

On the other hand, you do get 69 titles of books that have appeared since 2000. That's a lot of "classics" in record time. How did they pick these? And there's another 700 - out of 1001, if you can dig it, "you must read before you die" written in the 20th Century.

The 19th Century is well represented, I'll grant. Huck Finn is here - but not Twain's more complicated Letters from the Earth, The Mysterious Stranger, A Connecticut Yankee, or Pudd'nhead Wilson.

They also felt it necessary to fill out the list with a few short stories like Lovecraft's "The Mountains of Madness" and Gogol's "The Nose." Great stories, but two actual books had to go to make room for them. Books like The Red Badge of Courage, for example.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Toot on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The title implies that many types of "books" will be chosen, not just works of fiction. When you consider the many forms of literature that have appeared as books, the willful omission of this in the title is deceptive marketing. No treatises, no plays, no essays, no philosophy, no history, no biography. If I am going to have a reading list of 1001 books that I must read, I'm not going to spend my time on novels picked by strangers who have an infatuation with justifiably obscure works.

Because, in an effort to appear knowledgeable and insightful, the authors and their cohorts have selected works from the more remote niches of literature and passed over works with greater import. When the author (or the publisher's marketing department) puts "BOOKS YOU MUST READ BEFORE YOU DIE" in the title, then the works had better well be literary touchstones.

But the selection process is so uneven and so vested with the reviewers' personal favorites that you will be only halfway enlightened when you finish. Is a reader's time really better spent -- and thus bringing the reader incrementally closer to a more contented death -- reading Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" over Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"? Both are in the book. Yet the arguments for Dirk's inclusion are slim, and the literary and cultural impacts nonexistent.

(And I don't need to go into much detail about whole genres that are absent or only given lip service. For a book that presents such lofty claims, it is not worthy of the expansive-sounding title.)

The only recommendation I have for this book is to use it as a springboard for your own list of novels to read. Better yet, go chat with your local librarian about your likes and interests. You will get a far more satisfying list of books to read AND you will improve your knowledge of key works of literature.
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