This book with a juicy title, “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die,” creates a sense curiosity in the reader.
It almost sounds like a challenge or even edging on insult to the reader’s intellect. If you look deeply, it suggests that you as a reader may not have read even half the list of books and dares you to find out whether your reading powers have been up to the mark created by the writer.
This book is British and as it is well-known, the British love literary lists. Peter Boxall, who teaches English at Sussex, supposedly asked 105 critics, academics and editors to submit lists of all-time great novels and from this list, he is said to have derived the list of 1001, and the British publishers felt that “books” sounded better than “novels” in the title.
The list excludes Shakespeare and Milton; however Professor Boxall could come up with a lot of books.
Even assuming that a reasonably educated person would have read 300 books, there still remain 701 books. If a good reader can complete one book a month, it still takes 701 months, at the end of which, upon reaching title No. 1001, which is “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, death may almost be a relief.
There are two important factors that make this book compelling: guilt and time. For all serious readers, this book provides a sense of inadequacy. Turning the pages only shows us more and more unread novels or writers. How could one allow this demerit to remain on one’s literary report card?
A sense of urgency is required for all human beings, to be able to achieve what they set out to; but Professor Boxall, by bringing death into the picture, sets the bar extremely high.
Taking a look at some of these titles, it certainly is not important to read “Interview With The Vampire’ by Anne Rice before you die, nor is it important to read it even if you are never going to die. If a person is critically ill and someone puts the book, ‘Delta of Venus” in their hands, that person will surely leave this world before time and with a curse on the lips.
1001 Titles edges on the perverse and that is exactly the intention of Professor Boxall, who said, “I wanted this book to make people furious about the books that were included and the books that weren’t, figuring this would be the best way to generate a fresh debate about canonicity, etc.”
1001 Books is in chronological order and starts from the 1800s and then it goes on century by century, arriving into the present.
More than half of the listed books were written after World War II. What about Dickens, Tolstoy, Balzac, whose writings are far superior to all of their successors’ writings?
This book leans towards obscure British novelists, since the contributors hail from Britain and are biased towards the English language.
People would want to see this prejudice in a book like this, which provides tips to hungry readers that are always on the prowl for neglected works and overlooked writers.
For people who prefer not to go with the big names and famous novelists, and go with the ones that have several works but did not make a name for themselves when they were alive, this book is a must read. These novelists gain fame in death.
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