Saturday, November 24, 2018

What’s On Your Book Bucket List?

Do you have a book bucket list?

James Mistich, cofounder of the acclaimed book catalog A Common Reader, puts forward the books one should read in a lifetime of reading with his critically-applauded book 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die:  A Life-Changing List.

Of the 1,000 books featured, roughly half are fiction, half non-fiction.  In the text of the entries and the endnotes, more than 6,000 additional titles are referenced, along with another 3,000 authors.  This should suffice as a good starting point for one seeking to determine what they should read that’s not from today’s 3,800 newly published titles.  Or tomorrow’s 3,800.  Or the next day’s.

The book is alphabetized by author, and often there’s more than one recommended book per author, especially when you come to Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, Austen, Dickens and the like.  The expected pillars are contained in this 948-page volume, including Virgil, Dante, Tolstoy, and Kafka.  Joining these established writers and their time-honored classics are unexpected choices such as the 9/11 Commission Report, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and A Visit from The Goon Squad.

The result, as the book jacket correctly states, “is a treasury of essential reading for expensive tastes"  His list is thorough but considered incomplete by virtually anyone with an opinion or contradictory experience with a book.  And that’s okay.  It encompasses many good selections, including children’s books.

His carefully and personally curated compendium of books will inspire many hours of reading – not just of the books he recommends, but of his own book.  There’s something reassuring with a book like this, for it celebrates the gorgeous mosaic of our literary heritage.  His book hands us a rich history of the many writers and books that have shaped the lives of many generations.

Even if you only read a tenth – or 1% of the books listed here – you will have come across some real gems.  The very act of reading 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die exposes you to so many ideas and plots of great writers that just by reading summaries of their careers and books you feel like you learned something while living a thousand other lives.

I leave you with an excerpt from the book’s introduction, as it speaks to what he hopes to accomplish with its publication:

“Any exercise in curation provokes questions of discernment, epistemology, and even philosophy that can easily lead to befuddlement, and in the case of books, since they are carriers of such varied knowledge in themselves, it can be paralyzing.  A book about 1,000 books could take so many shapes.

“It could be a canon of classics; it could be a history of human thought and a tour of its significant, disciplines; it might be a record of popular delights (or even delusions).  But the crux of the difficulty was a less complicated truth:  Readers read in so many different ways, and any one standard of measure is inadequate.  No matter their pedigree, inveterate readers read the way they eat – for pleasure as well as nourishment, indulgence as much as education, and sometimes for transcendence, too.  Hot dogs one day, haute cuisine the next.

“Keeping such diversity of appetite in mind, and going to have something to satisfy every kind of reading yen.  I wanted to make 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die expansive in its tastes encompassing revered classics and commercial favorites, flights of escapist entertainment and enlightening works of erudition.”


Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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