A Gift: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

I don't anticipate receiving books on holidays, birthdays, or any other occasion where exchanging gifts is expected because I never think to ask for them.  So, when I  acquired 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die from J's Mom for Christmas, I was ecstatic.  You can ask J, he was there.  I immediately pulled out a pack of post-its (you know, the tiny size, designed for bookmarking) and began noting the titles that I wanted to accomplish this year.

The week that followed was no doubt some Olympic-medal-worthy action.  I flipped through every single page in one sitting, counting the titles I had completed as I went along.  I scribbled notes on each chapter and compiled the numbers.

The grand total: 36 out of 1001 (it's something!)

I broke it down by time period ("chapters" in the book):

  1 from the 1700s

  14 from the 1800s

 19 from the 1900s

  2 from the 2000s

Then I figured I'd make more lists to complete the experience.

Madame Bovary*
Gustave Flaubert
Pub: 1857
Anna Karenina*
Leo Tolstoy
Pub: 1877 
Jude the Obscure*
Thomas Hardy
Pub: 1895 
Ethan Frome*
Edith Wharton
Pub: 1911 
Jeffrey Eugenides
Pub: 2002
Most Anticipated TBR:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Pub: 1892  
Margaret Atwood
Pub: 1972 
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler*
Italo Calvino
Pub: 1979 
Sebastian Faulks
Pub: 1993 
Felicia's Journey*
William Trevor
Pub: 1994  

Titles new to me:
The Return of the Soldier
Rebecca West
Pub: 1918 
The Well of Loneliness                                            
Radclyffe Hall                                                                        
 Pub: 1928
* Owned

I've enjoyed making lists and thinking back on all the books I've read in my life.  I'm looking forward to exploring new work and finding new favorites.

I know this is quite a popular title in the book world, so I'm hoping you'll share your own experience and favorites!


  1. I always love this blog because I get exposure to titles I've never heard about before. Thanks, Beth!

    1. Yay! Glad I could do that, Brent. There are actually many titles in this tome that I had never seen before (far more than what I listed above). You should think about taking a peek at a copy!

  2. I received this for Christmas a few years ago, too, and I love it! It's a great source for discovering new books. I forget what my grand total is up to, but I've starting writing in the date every time a read a book from the list.

    1. Oh! That's a perfect idea. I wouldn't even mind recording in the book itself (gasps!). I doubt I'll tackle every title listed but I'm sure there's a good portion of those that I will eventually. It really is such a perfect gift for book lovers.

  3. I got this book last Christmas from my sister and I sat with it for weeks with post-its! I had one color to label the ones I read, one for the ones I owned but haven't read and another for books I wanted to read in the next couple of years. So dorky and so much fun! I'm glad you are enjoying the book so much! Guarantee this will be a book you go back to over and over.

    1. Brenna,
      It really is so dorky. But, I mean, it's just so awesome. Really. I know it's going to be the center of the coffee table for the rest of my life. Haha. I love the color label comment! I should have done that... I just made little abbreviations. :)

  4. I have the older edition of this, I think I'm on about 75. I'm always gutted when I read a classic and it isn't in the list - Villette isn't in it and neither is The Beautiful and the Damned!

    Nancy Pearl's Book Lust and Book Lust To Go are great for list making too.

    1. Sam,
      75! Wow.. I've got some work to do. And I think Villette is in this edition. I've read other reviews on Book Lust and it seems pretty good too. Perhaps most book lovers and obsessive list makers as well?! I know I am.

  5. What a great gift idea! I know a bunch of people who would love to receive this but am rather tempted to just buy it for myself instead... what fun to look through and make lists!

    1. Anne,
      It really is a perfect gift for those readers in your life. You may never finish all 1001 (especially when the editions add/subtract certain titles), but it's fun to thumb through and learn a little bit more about the authors and the reasons why they were chosen. You should definitely grab a copy, or add it to a wish list!

  6. FUN! I think my list of "already read" books would stack up much the same. Looking forward to your thoughts on these as you work through!

    1. Andi,
      Honestly, I thought I had read more than what I finally figured. I'm on a classics kick after reading your Madame Bovary review. I'm even contemplating War and Peace... yikes!

  7. I have a spreadsheet of this list but not the book although I really want the book!

    I have read around 75 so far and according to the spreadsheet if I read 8 per month Ill be done be the time im in my late 40s lol

    I have mostly read the ones around the 1900s like Dickens and the Brontes period and then again around the 1900 - 1930s

    1. Jessica,
      A spreadsheet! I didn't think about that. I'm pretty partial to my post-its (I might even have a problem). I need to up my game because 75 seems to be the norm. Could I finish 50 this year? Not likely. I'm actually in an Austen mood because I feel like I haven't read some titles that I thought I had and just want to revisit a few.

  8. I got this for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I'm (very) slowly making my way through. I've read several, but I'm planning to re-read any from my pre-blogging days. I'm aiming to read 24 a year, so I'll finish in about 40 years! Enjoy!


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