Never loan this book to anyone! I made that mistake several years ago and now I have to place an out of print order! The authors solicited a number of English and American critics as to what books they would take with them to a desert island. While the selections are strongly grounded in European and American authors the book does cover every major topic from Anthropology to Zoology. Descriptions are offered for each selection as well as rationale. Stars are added next to seminal writings. This is certainly a worth addition to any book lovers library. Just don't be an "lending" library or you might never see it again.
I would love to see an updated version of this wonderful guide to reading. Raphael and McLeish offer essential reading lists for 35 topics (with subcategories under Fiction and History), and I have found many many fine books based on their recommendations.
The format is easy to use, with a paragraph or two of commentary followed by the list of recommended books. Items are cross-referenced and annotated with symbols that denote works that are considered standard, seminal, a pleasure to read, difficult, recommended for beginners to the subject, containing a good bibliography, containing good illustratioins, etc. There is a LOT of information packed in this slim volume, and while it will not be useful as a guide to popular fiction (since it was last published in 1988), it will be a magnificanet guide to the following subject areas:
Art and Design
Diaries and Letters
Fiction (Crime, Novels, Science Fiction and Short Stories)
Food and Drink
Geography and the Environment
History (American; Ancient; Asian, African and Middle Eastern; Latin American; World)
Home and Garden
Mathematics, Science and Technology
Medicine and Psychiatry
Occult and Paranormal
Sex and Love
Travel and Exploration
The book concludes with an author index. Superb reference.
This an excellent, opinionated, acerbic review of Western Literature. The only other book in this catergory that comes close to this survey is Clifton McFadden's "A Lifetime Reading Plan". Both books make you want to go out and read the best literatue available. It is also daunting to think others have read this entire catalogue of books. For comments sent mail to my e-mail address.
I have LOVED this book since buying it back back in 1981. It is beyond time for it to be updated. It would be so interesting to see how the authors' picks have changed since the 1970's. Please, publishers, find these authors and republish this...