The recommendations for inclusion in this comprehensive book were made by a bibliophile and writer with a peerless reputation. The reviews themselves were compiled by lecturers, writers and book lovers, sharing their pleasure, surprise or even indignation with the rest of us. This comprehensive guide includes recommendations in children's fiction, classic fiction, history, memoirs, modern fiction, science fiction, thrillers, and travel.
The volume is nicely categorized into sections labelled Children's Fiction, Classic Fiction, History, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers and Travel Writing. Within each section there's a wide range of publication dates (though Classic Fiction is of course generally older), and authors are featured from all over the globe. Any selection of 501 "must-read" books is of course never going to be definitive, but a clear enough effort was made to have the selections be varied and representative that I respect the opinion. Every entry comes with a list of other works by the featured author, which sometimes led me to recognize authors and piqued my interest when otherwise I might have casually passed over it.
It seems there was a self-imposed rule not to select two works by the same author for the same section. The Classic Fiction section, for instance, has only one book by Dickens ("Our Mutual Friend"), only one by Tolstoy ("War and Peace"), etc. This counteracts favouritism and contributes to representativeness across a wide range of noteworthy authors, but leads to oddities such as including "Interview with the Vampire" while ommitting "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Anna Karenina," etc. A couple of genres get shortchanged, most notably Romance (distributed across the categories) and my beloved Fantasy (largely relegated to Children's Fiction(!) but cropping up sparsely elsewhere. Apparently "The Neverending Story" is Modern Fiction but Tolkien is strictly for kids. Now you know.)
While I wouldn't expect it to be worth anyone's time to track down and read every title (much less expect you to enjoy the process), if you can withstand the cold shoulder given to some of your own favourites and the occasional odd categorization, you're sure to find something here - probably multiple somethings - that you've not previously heard of and are intrigued by.
Inside you will find an organized listing of genres that you can brouse easily by genres or from front to rear or even alphabetically. I like picking it up just to flip through on slow weekends or next to the pool or to plan a book outing to used and/or new bookshops in the area.
As an added bonus and to make sure I don't get lazy in my search for interesting books I look to the left, right above and below the searched for book to see if there are any that catch my attention and expend my book menu.
This is a great coffee table book, and I get lots of comments about my "book about books".