Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Friday, April 20, 2007

Someone Else's Must Read List

I blogged my own top 100 books a while back, but recently I've been hearing about this: "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die".

Today I sat down and went through the list. I've read 38 of them. I'd feel pretty bad about my obvious slacking in this part of being a writer (Writers Write, but also Writers Read), but most of the books on the list I'd never heard of, and quite a few other books I have heard of and wouldn't read if someone put a gun to my head. (James Joyce immediately comes to mind here.)

I've said before that I've read tons of books, though, so to have such a paltry sum seems to almost make a liar out of me. Unless you notice that Ken Follett and Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton are missing, or you see that CS Lewis has been left off, Terry Brooks is nowhere to be seen, Janet Dailey is absent... Maybe I've just been reading 'the wrong books' all those years.

Ack. I just noticed in this supposedly all encompassing list of Must Read books, not a single Ayn Rand made it. Funny since Atlas Shrugged has been listed as the second most influential book EVER. It's curious absence is just sad.

The list has every book Salman Rushdie's ever written, though. Why? *shrug* And Toni Morrison's books are all there. Who's opinions are these? Feh. Since I started at the bottom and worked my way up, the list lost it's meaning after the 1800s.

Going down the list from the other end, I had to get to #301 before I'd read anything. I saw approximately three in the first 300 I actually wanted to read. They listed 'The Shining' by Stephen King, but that was it, and while I haven't read many of his books, I have read a couple. They listed a Nevil Shute I haven't read, but I've read several others of his. I've only read one Victor Hugo so far, but it wasn't on the list either (and if you haven't read Ninety-Three, please find a copy).

What did we learn from this? Listmakers are intensely subjective. So if you didn't do well on the list, don't sweat it. It doesn't make you less of a person, and it sure as hell doesn't make you less of a writer. If you're worried, go read some more of the list - it has value at least in the capacity of giving you some titles you may not have known about before. Or go read my list and call it good.

I'm subjective sometimes too, but in the most objective way possible. ;o)

PS. My daughter just went down the list and hit 31. She hadn't read much from the past 200 years, but she really was on a roll in the 1700s. =o)


Anissa said...

I just glanced at the first few hundred...guess I've been reading the wrong books too! LOL

I read what I like. And I write what I like. It makes me happy. I'm good with that. :)

Alex Adams said...

*gulp* Read them? I've never even heard of most of them! And any time I see Toni Morrison on a list I run the other way.

I'm with Anissa, I'm sticking to what I like. To heck with these lists that tell me what I should be reading. ;)

B.E. Sanderson said...


I agree with both of you. Read what you like. But if you're ever looking for something different, give the classics a whirl. Some of them (from my list anyway) are pretty good.

The first time I heard the name Toni Morrison, I kept thinking about Jim Morrison. (And now I have a song stuck in my head.)