Last year I bought 1001 Children’s Books: You Must Read Before You Grow Up and spent many happy hours (and far too much money!) investigating books for my children. I therefore jumped at the chance to review the adult version, 1001 Books: You Must Read Before You Die.
Weighing nearly 2kg, this chunky book contains a wealth of information. It is divided into four sections (pre 1800, 1800s, 1900s, and 2000s); with each book summarised in around 300 words. As an example, (and a great excuse to mention my all-time favourite book!) here is where it mentions A Fine Balance:
The text gives a brief summary of the plot (without a hint of spoilers) and then goes on to explain why the chosen book is important. Each review is bursting with positivity.
a beautiful and devastating novel whose genius lies in its refusal to allow the reader to escape into either pathos or cynicism.
It is easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm of each page, buying lots of books on a whim (I know that from my year-long relationship with the children’s version!). I’ll take that as a good sign – anything that encourages reading is fantastic.
The wonderful thing about this book is that it doesn’t just focus on classics from the English speaking world and so, although I was familiar with the majority of the titles mentioned, there were still lots of interesting books for me to investigate.
Don’t these sound interesting?
The Taebek Mountains by Jo Jung-rae
A Korean epic which “skilfully conveys intimate personal dramas” whilst playing them “out in a climax of suspicion and terror”
Lady Number Thirteen by Jose Carlos Somoza
A Cuban novel “full of supernatural portents”. “A novel as exciting as it is intelligent.”
The only problem with this is that many of the books (including the two mentioned above) aren’t actually translated into English yet and this can be frustrating. This isn’t the fault of the person compiling the book, in fact I admire them. It just highlights the number of amazing books that we are missing out on in the UK. I hope that the stigma around translated books reduces with time and more of these outstanding books can make their way onto our shelves.
Overall I can’t fault this book – it is perfect for all bibliophiles. The only problem is the fact it highlights how many amazing books there are and simple calculations show it will be difficult to fit them all in before we die.