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>Okay, how many?

>I found on Bookslut this morning a link to a list of 1001 books you must read before you die. While I think these things are as specious as all get out, I had to, just had to, count. 131. More than Bookslut herself, true, but I am older and should be further along, especially considering the fact that my reads from the list contain a lot of piffle, e.g., Delta of Venus. (If you ever have the time and opportunity, listen to comedian Marga Gomez’s routine “The Lost Diary,” in which she imagines finding on the bus a volume of Anais Nin’s diary that details Nin’s erotic adventures in Disneyland: “I zot I zaw Meenee shoot me aah loook.”)

The selection from children’s books is very limited: Treasure Island and, snore (sorry, Monica!), Alice in Wonderland, some fables. I would have added at least the Little House books, Where the Wild Things Are, The Cat in the Hat and . . . over to you.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Little Women! The Secret Garden!

  2. >I got less than thirty, but then I counted Books I’d Be Willing To Read For Any Reason Other Than To Make A Million Dollars Or Save A Life and the list wasn’t much longer.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Pan, The Railway Children, and for heaven’s sake, The Secret Garden

  3. Anonymous says:

    >The list includes two of my all-time favorites: The Thirteen Clocks and The Wonderful O. Hooray! And I only have about 650 to read, but I’ve forgotten the first 200 already. Weak on the 1700s and earlier, egads.

  4. >My first inclination wasn’t to count (as that would lead to nothing but feelings of shame and failure), but to hunt. When I was about 646 titles in and still hadn’t seen The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I employed the find function. When it turned out not to be there at all (nor any other Carson McCullers representative) I dismissed the list altogether. Good thing I’m not bitter…

    As far as books for young people, I’d start with Harriet the Spy and The Snowy Day.

  5. >97.

  6. >I hate to even admit it…


    However, if you ask me to check off Newbery and Caldecott, my list would be much longer.

  7. >225, and maybe more that I HAD to red in high school orcollege and have forgotten.

    But an odd sort of list.


  8. shahairyzade says:

    >169. But that is the most anal-retentive list I’ve ever seen. Maybe it should be retitled “101 Great Books You Should Read Before You Die–And 900 More That Will Bore You to Death.”

  9. >No worries lady s, I’ll see you your 16 and beat it with a 12. I started with great hope, but alas scrolled faster as the list progressed. I’m more apt to read what I want to read as opposed to what I should read. I’m annoying that way.

    Ditto on the Newbery & Caldecott titles.

  10. >What! No Dante?

    That list ain’t for me.

  11. >142, but 62 of them were from the 1800s and none were from this century. Not exactly a balanced reader.

    Did anyone else, going through the list, have flash after flash of memories of reading the books at different ages? Fascinating exercise.

    By the way, did I miss The Diary of Ann Frank, or was it truly not there? I would also add Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth as a must read.

  12. >43… but I’m only 20, so I should get a handicap or something.

    books to add…

    The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Odyssey.

    Children’s wise: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. A Little Princess.

  13. >The list is uspposed to be made up of novels. Of course it does contain non-fiction, short stories, and esays. Diary of Ann Frank is non-fiction so we can excuse from not being on the list but In Cold Blood is on the list and it is also non-fiction.

  14. Anonymous says:

    >Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry–I wept when I read it as a child. One of the few books to make me do that.

  15. >32

    And only because I took a lot of AP lit courses in high school.

    I’m more apt to try to get through the AFI’s list of the Top 100 Films of all-time. In my circles, I’d be much more likely to discuss “Casablanca” or “On the Waterfront” than “Pluck the Bud and Destroy the Offspring.” Sheesh.

  16. >I keep thinking about this list, and how I was much more interested in the ones that I have read than the ones that I haven’t, which means that the list changed nothing for me. The more interesting list from anyone (I know this one was from a committee, but bear with me) I think, would be of the books that one couldn’t imagine NOT having read. The books that sank so deep into our psyches that they became part of us. For example, Exodus was one for me, and Green Dolphin Street (Elizabeth Goudge), yet I would never tell anyone else that they must read them before they die. I’m just glad I did.

  17. >51! Being 24, I find this quite respectable. Perhaps if I read the rest of Don DeLillo’s and Margaret Atwood’s respective ouevres, I can bump up the number without the mind-numbing boredom so many fo the titles seem to suggest.

    I was amused to see that the list included the entire syllabus of my college’s queer lit course…but only about half of Modern British Lit. And speaking of modern British lit…where on earth is His Dark Materials??

  18. Roger Sutton says:

    >Doug, I think Delta of Venus is to this list as Dances with Wolves is to the AFI’s ;-).

    Jeanne makes a great point about such lists, that we read them competitively–us against the “experts”–rather than in search of inspiration. But Bookslut did say that the book the list is drawn from annotates each choice with a seductive argument.

    Anon, I wonder if your college sexed-up Lit 101 as Queer Theory to increase enrollment!

  19. rindawriter says:

    >Wow! I must be in the boondockies, with not a single college lit class to my credit. Was a bit busy with Kant, Piaget, and Bultmann among others then. I WAS surprised at how many I’d read but more falling-down-on-the-ground grateful I don’t have LISTS in my private reading spaces!

    Back to my FAV reading materials, though,
    I will add a longer picturebook to the mix though, “Are You My Mother?” That book has NEVER failed me in reading aloud to a restless crowd of little ones…

  20. Anonymous says:

    >Should Rindawriter NOT be the amazing Susan Patron who wrote *The Higher Power of Lucky*, she will want to read it. *Are You My Mother* plays a significant role in comforting both Lucky and her hanger-on Miles. Could be added to a list of children’s books to read before you die, because lord knows I won’t have read most of the ones on the “grown-up” list.
    Karen B.

  21. >73. My have-read list is almost entirely American. That’s the only thing I learned from this- the whole Varsity Reader contest, letters earned by quanity, is pretty dumb. My high school obsession with Flannery O’Connor and my college obsession with Gertrude Stein finally paid off. But yeah, “novel” is a generous term for this list. And where’s Walker Percy?

  22. >11 so far.

    I didn’t think Thurber’s “The Wonderful O” was as good as his essay collections. But they did list “The Thirteen Clocks,” that’s good.

    42? Is that all? I skipped those that I hadn’t read all the way through, or if I couldn’t remember if I’d read them all the way through or not. If I’d been more of a stick-to-it gal my total would have been better. Alas.

    But whoa, they skipped Chaucer and Shakespeare and Homer and Euripides. And Beowulf. Sure, it’s great to be able to keep up with the latest reading, but hadn’t you ought to read the giants as well? The giants you like, of course. (For some reason I like Chaucer a lot better than Shakespeare.)

  23. >Oh! Raise me to 43, Tom said “In Cold Blood” is on the list! But I’m afraid I’m never reading that damn book again.

  24. rindawriter says:

    >Ah, for good or ill, I fear I am plain rinda and thanks very much for the book tip!

  25. Nzeru Louisa says:

    >91 – I think studying English helped! Quite a few books on it that I’d still like to read, so hopefully over time it’ll go up.

  26. >Plenty of books on that list I’d like to read, I just need to find the time.

  27. Anonymous says:

    >Should add: YOU BETTER COME HOME WITH ME, pub. 1968(I think) author J. Lawson. Still worth reading.

  28. >66. And I’m with Hollis – high school obsessions with Thomas Hardy and Flannery O’connor and a college obsession with John Irving really made the ticker go up. If only I’d listen to those friends who are always bugging me to read Murakami, I could have topped 70.

    There are some I can’t remember if I read, or if I just own and never read (House of the Spirits?)

  29. Anonymous says:

    >205. One-fifth done. It is funny how one wants to count the ones that have been made into movies; I had to beat back the temptation. And the ones one got 3 pages into and then abandoned (Satanic Verses, anyone?)

  30. DearReader says:

    >83, thanks to all the 18th and 19th century books I’ve read.

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