“100 Books to Read in a Lifetime”

Amazon Chooses 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime
A very special list just appeared within the pages of Amazon.com. It’s described as “A bucket list of books to create a well-read life,” and it’s been lovingly assembled by the editors of Amazon’s book sections. “Over many months, the team passionately debated and defended the books we wanted on this list,” reads a statement from Amazon — and I smiled when I saw some of my favorite books among Amazon’s picks. But every book on that page means a lot to somebody. “We talked and argued and sifted and argued some more,” explains some text at the bottom of Amazon’s web page, “and came up with a list, our list, of favorites.”

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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!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Hunger Games
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)
Farenheit 451

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.

Pride and Prejudice
Great Expectations
The Age of Innocence
Of Human Bondage
The Wind in the Willows
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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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