501 Must Read Books

by Emma (editor) Beare

Hardcover, 2007





Bounty Books (Octopus) (2007), Edition: 2007 Reprint (Three Times)


501 Must Read Books is like the wisest, cleverest, best-read and most trusted friend you have ever has. The recommendations for inclusion in this comprehensive book were made by a bybliphile and writer with a peerless reputation.This comprehensive guide will inspire you to read more widely than you could have imagined and to explore the previously untrodden aisles in your bookstore or library.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cecrow
A Christmas gift I received from my wife, which caused me to raise an eyebrow. My assumption from the look of it was that its publisher had hastily pulled together a list of 501 easily recommended books to turn a quick buck. It didn't help the impression that I knew it was one in a series of "501" books (movies you must see, places you must go, etc.) I leafed through it, noted the absence of a few of my favourites and dismissed the whole thing. Within the hour, bored, I leafed through it again, but took a bit more time over the entries. In the following days, weeks, more leafing. Started scribbling a list of some titles I might look into. A few months more and I was becoming seriously engaged, cross-referencing its recommendations with LT and Amazon reviews. I've a healthy to-be-read list built up that might be approaching a hundred titles at this point. And now I've entered all 501 titles into LibraryThing's Common Knowledge database. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

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.
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
Excellent summaries and reviews. Lots of full color pictures. Feels quite British for some reason. Not as useful to me as some, because my primary focus at work is kiddie lit, and YA.
LibraryThing member calbookman
This book will be on my currently reading list for years if not decades. I am using it shop for books I have never heard of and to revisit ones that I haven't read for years to find something new in them. I highly recommend this well thought out book and do as I did...make a copy of the inside covers to carry with you whenever you go out just in case.
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.
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LibraryThing member angela.vaughn
I love going back to this book when I am at a loss as to what to read next, or to just see how my list compares to that one. I don't know if everyone will ever feel the same about all the books on a "must read list" but they can sure be fun sometimes. The only section I think I will fail on, is the travel, but who knows, I can always try.

This is a great coffee table book, and I get lots of comments about my "book about books".
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