An odd book fell into my hands recently, a doorstopper with the irresistible title “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” It suggests that you, the supposedly educated reader, might have read half the list at best. The book is British. The British love literary lists and the fights they provoke, so much so that they divide candidates for the Man Booker Prize into shortlist books and longlist books. In this instance Peter Boxall, who teaches English at
Even without Milton or Shakespeare, Professor Boxall has come up with a lot of books. That leaves 698 titles. Two potent factors make “1001 Books” (published in the
“The Invention of Curried Sausage” (1993) is an offbeat quest novel. Eternal gratitude to Andrew Blades, theater reviewer for Stage magazine, who convinced Professor Boxall that this novel belonged on the list.
J. M. Coetzee, with 10 novels, can afford to lose 1 or 2. One problem with drawing up recommended-reading lists is the urge to show off. No matter how well read you are, you’re not that well read. In his novel “Changing Places,” David Lodge — not on the list — introduces a game called Humiliation. Players earn points by admitting to a famous work that they have not read. The greater the work, the higher the point score.