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1,000 Books to Read Before You Die
A Life-Changing List
Get lost in a thousand great books.
Fourteen years in the making and fifth in the series that has over 4.4 million copies in print, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die is an eclectic and extraordinary book about books, as compulsively readable, entertaining, surprising, and enlightening as the 1,000-plus volumes it recommends. The author, James Mustich, has been a bookseller for decades, including two running the acclaimed independent book catalog A Common Reader, and 1,000 Books is like his personal store, where every book is excellent. Mustich's incomparable writing - lively, informed, erudite yet with an undisguised enthusiasm - not only reveals why the particular title you're reading about is vital but also gives you the urgent feeling that you need to drop everything, right now, and read that book.
The expected pillars are here - Dante, Proust, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Woolf, Joyce, Kafka - but made completely fresh in these animated essays. And in between, the unexpected titles - from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Fun Home, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to Tell Me a Riddle - are made completely essential. Aeschylus is here, and so is Nancy Drew, Herman Melville, and Edwidge Danticat. The alphabetical listing by last name results in the joy of juxtaposition - Grimm next to Grisham, Clarice Lispector followed by Hugh Lofting - prompting a rich appreciation for the gorgeous mosaic that is our literary heritage, whether poetry, science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children's literature, the novel. Because ultimately what this book is not is a canon. It is, rather, an uncommon celebration of the best that our authors have put into words - and, as one of the entrants, the critic David Denby, put it, that "special character of solitude and rapture" that is the act of reading.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"If there's a heaven just for readers, this is it." -- O, The Oprah Magazine "Mustich's informed appraisals will drive readers to the books they've yet to read, and stimulate discussion of those they have." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A treasure chest for book lovers everywhere" --Library Journal, Starred Review
"Every so often, a reference book appears that changes the landscape of its area of focus. In the case of reading and readers' advisory, this is one such book....lively, witty, insightful prose...It might be wise to invest in several copies of this wonderful meditation on life lived with and enhanced by the written word."
--Booklist, Starred Review
"All in all, the literate public--what novelist Robertson Davies dubbed the clerisy--can only be grateful for, and awed by, this product of 14 years of reading and research...It's hard to imagine that such a massive compendium could have been done better."--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Absolutely impressive.... This book is not just a source of information; it's a wellspring of wisdom, intelligence, empathy and generosity."--Ingrid Rossellini, author of Know Thyself: Western Identity from Classical Greece to the Renaissance
"As the owner of a 90-year-old bookselling institution, I am not easily fazed by 1,000 books, but Mustich's literary bucket list stopped me in my tracks. His expansive scope is coupled with a delightful wit and a perfect eye for the surprise detail. Never again will you have to wonder what to read next. A book you'll cherish for a lifetime!"
--Nancy Bass Wyden, Proprietor, Strand Book Store
"Chief among the thousands of pleasures here is the delightfully erudite company of James Mustich. Look up your favorite books; find ones you don't know; argue about the list with friends. Read!"
--Jean Strouse, author, Alice James and Morgan: American Financier
"James Mustich's book is aimed at a society engulfed in words but desperately poor in the talents that reading can bring--judgment, taste, empathy, wit. The book is not a list of canonical works, though many classics are listed and lovingly described. No, the "1000 Books to Read" is an invocation of the pleasures to be had from many kinds of books--genre fiction, journalism, poetry, history, and memoir, the good and the great, the illustrious and the semi-forgotten, all summoned by Mustich's taste. You open it at any point and jump from author to author; you follow his hints and read related works by other writers, and you find your own taste emerging, proud and strong, from Mustich's provocations. 1,000 Books is surpassingly useful as well as good."
--David Denby, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World
"If you've ever doubted that books were the greatest invention of all time, and that they carry within them our collective memories and dreams, as well as any semblance of intelligence we have as a species, pick up James Mustich's 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die and start reading."
"If I were as erudite, entertaining, insightful, and articulate as James Mustich, I could come up with 1,000 reasons to get his book. But here's one: Whether you're looking for something to read for personal edification or fun, for escapism or relevance, you can survey the literary world with Mustich as an experienced, enthusiastic guide. His work is an essential resource for anyone anywhere plagued by that infernal question: What do I read next?"
--Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose Bookstore