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Friday, September 05, 2008

My Thoughts On the 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before You Die

I've had this link sitting in my bookmarks for a while, mostly because I was thinking about it and how I don't necessarily agree with the list. Having let it fester for a bit in the back of my mind, I figure it's a good time to have a short discussion of the list, and maybe some suggestions for good replacements.

So, here goes:
  1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
    Huh? I don't even know what this is. How could it be essential to read before I die if I don't even know what it is?
  2. 1984 by George Orwell
    Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. Fortunately, most Americans who graduated from High School got to read this, or at least I hope so. It's one of the best books ever written in my opinion.
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    I think this is a fantastic book, but I don't know if I would consider it a must read before death. I'm just iffy on this entry. I think there are other books of equal interest that could be put here and the list would remain the same.
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
    Yes and no. I think this might be a difficult one for a lot of people to read or handle and I wonder if it's an appropriate choice for all people to read before death. I've already read it, though.
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
    I'll just agree for the heck of it, even though I have never read this book.
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    I've not read it, but I would agree only because I understand the depth and importance of this book.
  7. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
    Read part of it. I don't think this one matters that much. I think the problem with some of the books on this list is it is trying to be too snobbish, giving us lots of books of high literary quality that most people today wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, no matter how good. How many people have read 1984 more than once? I have, but I'm weird.
  8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    Try again. This is not for everyone. This list isn't turning out very great thus far. Try getting stuff that might entertain people, and I mean "ALL" people, or a vast majority. Most people have no idea what this book even is and probably wouldn't make it past the first page.
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
    No. I know it's a good book, a classic and all, but this is, again, not for everyone. This book, as I've heard, can be exceedingly confusing for someone who isn't much of a reader, and considering that most of us aren't literature professors who read such books for a living, this isn't a book for everyone.
  10. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
    I would suggest having a familiarity with the concepts in this book, but not reading the book itself. It's a boring read, even for me (and I'm a huge evolution supporter). There are books that put this into simpler terms and sentence structures and those books would be better for people, in my opinion.
  11. The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton
    Don't know what this is, but it sounds like a book you should read when you're young, which would be acceptable for an entirely different sort of list. If you're 80 years old and you realize you haven't read enough books and you saw this list, this book would probably tick you off. Why the hell do you need to learn about living life simply and purely? You're 80! You don't have time for this.
  12. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    I've never even heard about this one, so it makes me question why it's even here.
  13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
    While I agree this is a great book, I don't agree that it should be on this list. I love this book, and the cartoon, but it's not a book that you absolutely must read.
  14. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    Yes and no. I think you should have familiarity with Sun Tzu's concepts rather than the book itself.
  15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    This depends entirely on who you are. For me, it's a yes, for someone else, it might be a big no. This book, however, has succeeded in crossing many boundaries that face other books of fantasy, so perhaps it belongs here.
  16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
    I haven't read it, so I would replace this with A Tale of Two Cities instead, just so I can be relevant.
  17. Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
    Eh, I don't know. I think if you're going to include poetry on this list you should put some sort of poetry collection here, like a Norton Anthology. That way you are covering all bases. Norton is really good at putting together a lot of interesting and varied works of literature.
  18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    I'll say yes, only because I know this book was so popular that it's title actually created a phrase.
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    No. Again, this is a book that doesn't apply to everyone. Sorry, I don't think that everyone should read this book. Every American should, but not everyone in general.
  20. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    Yes and no. Historically speaking this is an important book, but I don't know if it would be suited for everyone. Some people might find it dull, others might find it horribly offensive, and others might love it. I liked it, but not enough to read it again. It's not a bad book, but I think it's more popular for it's serial killer "connections" and it's history as a banned book than anything else.
  21. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    I suppose this would be a good one to read. I haven't read it, but it's famous for a reason, plus I like Dostoyevsky.
  22. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
    This is another I think people should be familiar with for its concepts rather than it's actual text. I've read it and I really enjoyed it, however, I know a lot of people wouldn't enjoy reading it, but would find the concepts interesting. I don't like cliff notes, but that might be a better way to glean what you need to off Machiavelli if you don't like the style.
  23. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    I'll just agree here because I don't know any better.
  24. The Republic by Plato
    There are so many books on this list that you should know for their concepts rather than the text, with this being yet another one. For those that think I might hate these books, I don't, I just realize that a lot of people who don't read a lot to begin with will find works like Plato's The Republic very difficult and probably boring.
  25. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  26. Getting Things Done by David Allen
    This is another book for young people, not for a list about what you should read before you die. I get why the author puts it on the list, but I think this least needs to be dominated by works that will have a different kind of lasting influence, one that makes you think upon the deeper implications of humanity.
  27. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    Same as above. Stop with the self-help crap. Unless it's "how not to die at twenty and be a cool old man" I don't want to see it on this list.
  28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
    No. Sorry, this book is horrible. I hated it in school and still hate it. The only good part about the book is when Piggy dies. Yes, I found that part entertaining. No, I'm not a sick individual...I just didn't like it.
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    Probably of more interest to Americans, but I agree. Tell me I'm wrong about the American part though. Is it as popular outside of the U.S.? Is Steinbeck as well received in England as here?
  30. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
    Hmm, I've not heard of this one, so I don't know if it belongs here.
Alright, so with all that up there, I have to ask a few questions:
Where is Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley, Cervantes, Dante, Shakespeare, or Kafka? That's not even half the names that should be added to this list. There are a bunch of books that shouldn't be here and they could be replaced with legitimate works instead. That's just my opinion.

What do you think should be on this list?

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