1,001 Books or Bust

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all” -Henry David Thoreau

“1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” is a just what it sounds like – a list of (arguably) the greatest novels ever written. I picked up the hardcover 2007 edition a few years back. I love lists, I love reading, and I love rating things (good thing I’m a market researcher by day) so I couldn’t wait to count how many I’d read.

The book was too pretty to mark up, so I found an online list I could move into Excel: http://www.listology.com/list/1001-books-you-must-read-you-die

I’m pretty well read. English was my favourite subject in school, and reading in bed is my happy place (hence the blog title). I figured would at least crack 100.  Imagine my surprise when I could only check off 55 or so!

I knew I had to do something. I went on a mission. Reading from the list opened up new sides of reading. I found out that language in the seventeenth century novels can be surprisingly accessible, while eighteenth century novels can be nearly unreadable. I found the temptation to cheat too much to bear when a favourite author came out with a new book. And I found that the list is far from perfect; how is “Generation X” not on there?!

I did another count last week, sure this time that I would be over 100. Nope. 83. So disappointing!

I’ve been off the list for a a few weeks now (the new Jonathan Frazen was too much to bear) and it’s time to get back on track! Check out the list, find your number, and join me as I read my way to 1,001… or perhaps 101 by 2012.



  1. jambes42

    Generation X is in my top 25 books I have read. I did not read the list in its entirety. I did look for some books and found some but where are books like Ender’s Game, Alice In Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia, or anything at all from Neil Gaiman. No Pillars of the Earth. But you got me wanting to read more of my books.

  2. SB

    Love your blog and added it to my Reader. Which is a huge compliment as I don’t even like fiction that much! 🙂 Will be following…

  3. Miranda B

    found your blog on goodreads. I am also on a quest to read a list of books. Mine is The Novel 100: the greatest novels of all time, by Daniel S. Burt. Feel free to check out my blog about it http://www.magic-and-mystery.blogspot.com I am sure our list share some of the same novels Wuthering Heights for instance and would love to hear what you think. Thanks!

    • lauratfrey

      Hi Miranda,
      Interesting list! It’s kind of cool that it’s ranked, rather than chronological, and I like the idea of reading them in order. I haven’t read any of the top 10, and only 23.5 total – feeling inferior now. 🙂 The .5 is for Tristram Shandy. I tried, my god I tried, I just couldn’t do it!

      As for Wuthering Heights, it’s one of my favourites, and a relatively easy read. I wrote mroe about it in some other posts. Have your read it yet? If not, you have a ways to go, it’s #38.

      Congrats on reading Ulysses. That’s quite a feat (so I’ve heard). I will be following your blog.

  4. Jen McLeod

    Nice site! I’m painfully inching my way through Jonathan Frazen (guess which one), I don’t get the appeal – but am glad that I’m trying to work through it…because I’m stubborn and hate not finishing books. I loved Room though – I read it in two nights, those next days were a bit rough…

    • lauratfrey

      Thanks! Are you reading The Corrections? I didn’t really get the appeal of it either. I liked Freedom much better, though it was flawed as well.

  5. Jen McLeod

    One other note…Tristram Shandy made me sad. I wanted to like it…really I did…I don’t think I finished it either, or I may have started doing the ‘skip a page’ method in hopes that it would get better…
    Middlemarch is a good one if you haven’t checked it out yet…

    • lauratfrey

      OMG I never thought I’d meet a person (in real life) who has read Tristram Shandy 🙂 I really wanted to like it too! I could tell that it was funny, subversive, brilliant… but the language was too much. I think I would have to have guidance, and not just Coles Notes but an English teacher to get me through it!

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