Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

Members > I Was Wondering...

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Summer Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Summer Dawn (lunarbeauty) | 3 comments I was just wondering if anyone else found the list geared toward more modern literature. It doesn't go back very far. Where is Dante's -The Divine Comedy? Where is the Decameron? Where is Homer? Where is Shakespeare for goodness sake! I do love that there are alot of books I did not think of reading listed, and some authors seemed favored more than others, and there are a few that do not make an appearance on the list at all. The list just doesn't seem complete. But it is a nice guide to follow for some books I havn't thought to read and some I had never heard of before. And I am sorry don't want to offend anyone. I was just curious!

message 2: by Yelena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Yelena Malcolm | 109 comments I had those feelings when I first saw the list as well, and I think I have the answer: they are narrowly defining their list in terms of novels. The Diving Comedy, Decameron, Odyssey (as well as Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Aeneid, etc,) are poems and Shakespeare wrote plays. You'll notice there's no T.S. Eliot, Ibsen, etc. in modern times either. So these are novels and not to excuse how they chose, but more has been written in the past 50 (20, 30?) years than ever before in human history so from that perspective it makes a little sense.

message 3: by Summer Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Summer Dawn (lunarbeauty) | 3 comments Ah I see your point. And I can see how it makes a little more sense from that perpective. I guess also like everything in literature it is all relative. :) If you are interested in something you will read it, if not most likely you will never pick up the book no matter who says it is the greatest thing ever written.

message 4: by Marts (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Marts  (Thinker) (thinkersutopia) Well I agree with you since I've mostly read books written around the 1800's and 1700's and alot aren't on the list

message 5: by Marts (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Marts  (Thinker) (thinkersutopia) I don't think it being a novel, play or poem should matter the list just said "1001 books you must read before you die" so I hope this distinction was not made in compiling the list. Maybe just a by chance they aren't there

message 6: by Yelena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Yelena Malcolm | 109 comments I would guess that technically speaking a book isn't a play even though we read plays in books. Same with poems. It might have something to do with both of them coming out of a performance and oral history respectively. Both mediums, in one way or another, were recited and committed to paper later.

The list also doesn't include non-fiction, including treatises: exempting Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince among others.

I don't own the book from which this list was taken, but I suspect someone who does could fill the rest of us in as to how the list was categorized and explained.

It just seems to make the most sense that the compilers chose the word "books" to mean fiction as some of the unarguably greatest works of civilization are not included and that those works happen to be plays, poetry, or essays.

message 7: by Liz M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Liz M The actual book has a 2 page preface and a 4 page introduction, both of which discuss the inspiration for compiling the list, and do not mention the methodology. "Books" is definitely limited to prose fiction, to novels.

"It is a list that is animated by the spirit of the novel, by a love for what the novel is and does, but which nevertheless does not hope or aim to to capture it, to sum it up, or put it to bed. Prose fiction lives in so many guides and different languages, across so many nations and centuries, that a list like this will always, and should always, be marked, formed, and deformed by what it leaves out....this book offers a snapshot of the novel,one story among others that one can tell about its history."

message 8: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) For a book that lists other genres, including religious literature, poetry, plays, etc. to use as a guideline (If you want to!), check out Harold Bloom's "Genius."

He profiles 100 of the most influential (In his pretentious, albeit brilliant, opinion) authors who have made a huge impact on literature and thinking in history.

It includes Shakespeare, as well as several relgious figures and a ton of poets.

Of course, 1001 books is a lot to read, so adding Bloom's authors to the list may not be such a good idea...

message 9: by Cecilie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Cecilie | 12 comments The original book is called 1001 NOVELS you should read before you must read befor you die. last time i checked a play is not a book. but i still thing shakespeare should be on the list, i have read 6 of is plays and they really should be there.

message 10: by Rebecca (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Rebecca (rebsbooks) I guess it is a good sign that we are having this discussion in the first place. If there really were only 1001 great books to read, I think the world would be a very sad place. No list will ever be complete. Not to mention all the great works of literature that will be created between the publication of that book and the end of our lifetimes.

message 11: by Smarti (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Smarti | 46 comments I, being a German student living in the Netherlands, am having a bit of a problem with the premise of this book. I think that especially the American and UK versions focus far too much on the anglophile realm. My dutch edition, fortunately, adds more "European" titles, from dutch to german to Eastern European writers.
Of course, anglo-saxon writers have written a great deal of interesting stuff, which I enjoy as well. But to say that it is mainly their work out of which the "1001 greatest novels" consist, is to my mind a very intimidating - and very American/Anglo-saxon - world view!
I would be interested in what you think about this. So please let me know!

message 12: by Liz M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Liz M Smarti,

What European authors does your edition have that the US/UK edition neglects?

I hadn't realized that there were multiple additions customized by country of publication. Perhaps this is connected to the modern-day focus. Perhaps the books one "must read" are books that are part of shaping the current cultural consciousness.


message 13: by Smarti (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Smarti | 46 comments for instance, in the section after 2000, my book lists Daniel Kehlmann's "measuring the world", which was a big success in Germany and on the European continent. As for the older titles, there are numerous alternations. For instance:

Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdochter
Leon De Winter: Hoffman's Hunger
Yasar Kemal: Mehmed my Hawk

All three amazing books with Undset even winning the Nobel Prize. Yet, those are missing in the english-language edition.
Also, I found it a bit strange that Thurber's "13 clocks" were included. To my mind, it is "just" a charming childrens' book. Any book, in fact, by Michael Ende - another German - would have been worthier in my opinion.

I'm not sure, if it is just my "German or European consciousness speaking here". I would actually rather like to see my self as a cosmopolitan, not being too attached to one particular country. However, I found those obliterations/alternations striking!

message 14: by Yelena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Yelena Malcolm | 109 comments I think one of the parties at fault in this is the publishing community. In the U.S. nearly every book that wins, or is short-listed for the Booker Prize is available at bookstores whereas the book prize winners in non-English speaking countries are either rarely translated or rarely feted in U.S. markets. When I bought last year's Prix Goncourt winner, I took a look at the list of previous winners and was shocked by how few books and how few authors I was familiar with.

There are some authors whose works always get translated (Gunter Grass, Milan Kundera, Umberto Eco) and many many more whose works never appear in English. I like to think that American readers would enthusiastically scoop up the great works penned by foreign hands, but perhaps the market won't in fact support it.

Having been greatly disappointed with many of the recent books on the list, I would be greatly interested to know what books made the cut in Europe from the past 20 years. Perhaps I'll have to track down a foreign copy.

message 15: by Summer Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Summer Dawn (lunarbeauty) | 3 comments Little did I know that a small question would spark such a discussion :)

It is sad that more works from other countries are not translated into English. I have started gaining an interest in forgien literature. And hope that living in Italy soon I will know enough Italian to actually read books written in Italian.

Sadly on reason I think the vast majority doesn't get translated is a) publishers do not think there is a market for them and b) the supremist attitude that sometimes seems to infect some Americans. I think sometimes we believe that we are the very best at everything and nothing out there can compare. That likewise can come with being uneducated (or even possibly over educated pompous know-it-alls). There is a huge group of people uneducated, which can lead to narrow veiws and tunnel vision.

Like Water for Chocolate is one of my favorite movies and I am trying to fit the book into my reading list. And just coming back to my love of reading (life and kids can take up quite a lot of time) I am on the prowl for books to read beyond popular fiction.

And I am begining to think that I had better get to it, because well there are tons of books out there I want to read and like Rebecca said more being written all the time.


message 16: by Cecilie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Cecilie | 12 comments there is several european versons. i don´t agree with all of this. for example the norwegian verson has 10 norwegian arthors. this is not a a book peter has been helping with, they have just edited the book to what we in norway want. and that is just stupid. i have gone through that book to and there is many books there i do NOT agree with. stay to the origenal book, it has something from everywhere. and it is very good :D

message 17: by Jennifer (JC-S) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Jennifer (JC-S) (jenniferjc-s) 'Measuring the World' is doing very well in Australia too. I have just read it, and enjoyed it immensely. I think you are correct about the English language focus, and it is probably something that people like me (who only read functionally in English)tend to forget.

I've not checked but I'd expect that the Australian version of '1001 Books' (which I have) is slightly different again.

message 18: by Dianna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new)

Dianna | 83 comments Well it's just one person's idea of what would be good to read. I like it because it gives me ideas for more books to read. Some of them I probably will never read and since I have only read 5% at the age of 42 I will probably die before I get a chance to read them all. But it is a goal anyway.

message 19: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (wanna_read_all_the_books) But the book isn't called "1001 Greatest Novels". Having different editons for different parts of the world makes sense to me. The books that are listed in the book are chosen for a variety of different reasons by a panel of 107 different contributors, not just one person. They appear to be mostly from the US and the UK in the edition that I own but I'm sure it varies in other editions, just as the books chosen vary.

message 20: by Aimee (new)

Aimee Cooper | 1 comments I have a book called The New Lifetime Reading Plan. It goes all the way back to the begininning (The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer, Dante...) and also includes Shakespeare and many poets. I would definitely recommend it to any book lover because I feel that it includes a lot of what is considered great literature of all time. It has 233 authors, some have multiple titles, but it is less than 1001 books.

Maybe I should focus on the list I already have and not add 1001 books(minus the 40+ I have read and whatever books are on both lists) to my to- read list . I like these lists, though, because they help me find great books. It is satisfying to check books off of the list as read but if I focused on it too much I wouldn't enjoy the reading as much. Therefore, my reading plan is to go to the library or book store with certain authors in mind from both lists and hopefully leave with 1-2 on the lists and probably a few that aren't.

message 21: by Chel (new)

Chel | 380 comments They are largely novels with a smattering of short stories, a juvenile novel, a graphic novel, and an essay thrown in a well along with several books that are collections of interconnected and nonconnected short stories. This is to allow the miniaturists to have some representation as well.

back to top