I was surprised to discover that some of the books are available for free, and I was glad Amazon’s list included On the Road by Jack Kerouac — as well as Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (another personal favorite of mine). At first I was a little surprised that they’d also included Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo” memoir about taking a “Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”. But then I re-read the book’s first paragraph, and remembered what an intense read it had been.
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…’ And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas…”
The same list also includes some children’s classics, like Where the Wild Things Are and The House At Pooh Corner. In fact, there’s books for all ages, including young adult novels like A Wrinkle In Time and The Phantom Tollbooth. Amazon explains at the bottom of their page that “We wanted the list to cover all stages of a life (which is why you’ll find children’s books in here)…” It’s a nice philosophy, along with the fact that they included some extra-fun choices because “we didn’t want the list to feel like homework.”
That explains how their list came to include Stephen King’s The Shining and Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. (Though I’m glad they also included Raymond Chandler’s classic noir detective story, The Long Goodbye. ) Other “fun” titles include David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day and Kitchen Confidential by chef Anthony Bourdain. And there’s even some “blockbuster” fantasy and science titles – as well as some classics!
Kindle versions are available for most of the books — but not all of them. (That’s one of the list’s biggest surprises.) In fact, 17 of the 100 “books to read in a lifetime” that Amazon recommends are only available in print editions. But there’s also six classic novels on their list which are not only available on the Kindle — they’re free.
A list like this will always provoke a discussion. (For example, I’m glad Amazon included Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, but that same author wrote a memoir about his high school baseball coach which I thought was much more inspiring…) But the real point of a list like this is to pique our curiousity about what other great books may be waiting for us out there that we haven’t read yet. Amazon’s introduction to the list sums it all up with just six words.
“So many books, so little time. ”
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