Book – As a compulsive maker of to-read lists (you too?), I’ve always been dubious about letting anybody else choose my books for me. Sure, I wanted guidance about great titles I might otherwise have missed, longing for both a roadmap to self-education and advice on what to read for entertainment, but many book lists seemed one-note. Usually such lists contained only dense adult fiction classics, often heavy and depressing, almost universally written by English-speaking Westerners, the vast majority of them men. Most annoyingly, none of the compilers seemed to remember that reading ought to be fun.
If I doubted that anyone would ever write the to-read list I’d been waiting for, I was delighted to be proven wrong.1000 Books to Read Before You Die is, despite the title, gloriously unpretentious, utterly inclusive and instantly convinced me to trust the author’s taste. Sure, about a dozen Shakespeare plays abound, and includes Waiting for Godot and the Confessions of St. Augustine, but they jostle elbows with Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of her dysfunctional family, multiple picture books by Margaret Wise Brown, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, and even The Da Vinci Code. Mustich’s selections run the gamut from: fiction and nonfiction; children’s, YA and adult; ancient and brand-new; popular entertainment to serious philosophy and everything in-between. From a memoir of the moon landing to the greatest of all children’s novels, to an anthropologist’s look at Australian Aboriginal culture, a prototypical hardboiled noir to a firsthand examination of race in present-day America--and that’s just among authors whose names start with C. Mustich offers a book for every taste, interest and mood.
My only complaint: it should really be titled: one thousand and one books. 1000 Books to Read is surprisingly devourable. Mustich’s essays on his book selections are charming, thought-provoking and incisive–that you’ll want to read it cover to cover.