Amazon's 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

I’m sure very few. When I read Catcher in the Rye I thought it was trite. (Enjoyed Portnoy’s Complaint a lot more.) Wouldn’t be interested in LOTR though I like Winnie the Pooh and the Berinstein Bears. For about a decade I read mainly “first books,” packed with all the heart and soul (and plot, not stretched out into sequels) a writer could pour into them in hopes of being published. Some are amazing.
I pick books like I eat; some spicy, some filling, and some spare and lean. I don’t care what year they’re written in or who says they’re “good.” A good writer can make changing a tire compelling. A bad writer could make the Second Coming fall flat. I open a book and read a paragraph. If it’s not awful I go to the front and read the beginning. If it’s intriguing, I read…I read.

The CNN article on them explains a bit of it. The selectors at Amazon said they had a few goals starting out, one was to not make the list identical to the typical reading list kids have from K-12 so that’s partially why I suspect some of the more notable classics are missing. They also wanted a balanced list that tried to cover a lot of different genres while also featuring both fiction and non-fiction, so if you do that right away no, the list can’t really be expected to stand out as the “100 Best Books Ever” because it’s highly unlikely the 100 best books ever (if they could even be objectively measured, obviously) wouldn’t necessarily be a selection of books that features all of the major genres/subgenres.

The cynic in me also suspected maybe Amazon features a bit more newer bestseller type novels than you’d expect because they make more money selling those than they do a Dickens or something that you wouldn’t pay more than $7-8 for as classics tend to be cheap I’m assuming because they are essentially just a commodity product since they are no longer copyrighted (unless you’re selling some sort of special edition with notable articles or commentary in it or something.)

But then I also think probably not, Amazon is way too big of a company for that to really make any sense. It’s probably only valuable to Amazon as a general way to keep its brand in the news and associated with books in general, any sales directly generated from the publication of the list will probably be immaterial versus Amazon’s total revenue.

Some classics aren’t too hard. Modern readers seem to exclusively love or absolutely hate Dickens, but I don’t think the haters dislike him because he’s a hard read. His mid-19th century prose is actually pretty readable even for a 20th/21st century reader. Mark Twain is another (bit later) 19th / early 20th century author whose novels (aside from having the word nigger in them which gets them banned from schools or threatened with revisionism) are easy to read for a modern reader.

Actually I think there’s a lot of literature from the 18th through the late 19th centuries that are pretty readable (Defoe from the 18th is still quite readable for a modern reader), and oddly some of the ones that are harder to read actually come a little later. Joyce for example and a few other authors who were his contemporaries almost seemed to revel in intentionally making their books difficult to read and understand for readers of their age and it’s even harder for modern readers.

But some of the older stuff is still of course a labor, I’ve always found Walter Scott hard to read, as an example.

  1. I didn’t think it was too bad as lists such as this go. I have 2 others on my Kindle to read.


I was super excited to see Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I bought it because I adored the title and it is an absolutely amazing collection of short stories.

39 I agree that it’s a flawed list, and actually I agree with Filbert, it’s fairly US-centric. Having said that, I absolutely love lists like this (I love lists anyway - I’m a child of my age, I reckon) - I always get great ideas from them, whether those are books to read, places to go, things to see or whatever.

Now I’m off to add to my Goodreads To-Read shelf.

  1. And I have never even heard of a lot of those.
  1. There were a couple more that I started and didn’t finish b/c I couldn’t get in to them. (The Road–Cormac McCarthy, I’m looking at you.)

I scored 29, but as people above me have noted, I seriously doubt the respectability of a list that includes the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Ender’s Game as must-reads. I’d have liked to see The War of the Worlds, The Religions of Man, Why People Believe Weird Things, Illuminatus!,or even Cloud Atlas (which I haven’t even read yet, but it’s on my to-do list) over any of those.

The list seems to be mostly classics and books that are currently popular, or were popular in the last few years.

I’d like to see Amazon (or some other entity that people pay attention to) put out a list of really good books that most readers may not have heard of.

That said, I don’t know how I’d define “really good”. :slight_smile: Maybe the list would be books recommended by secondhand bookstore owners.

69 completely and parts of 5 others. Not a great list.

Do people actually still read Silent Spring? Seems more like a book that was influential rather then being particularly relevant to current readers. But then, I’ve never read it.

I’ve completed 50, but I still feel quilts taking credit for the kiddie books. I didn’t count starts. Some or these I gave a whirl because Awards! and just couldn’t make myself finish. I’m surprised to find I’ve read half the books on any list, despite reading every day. My reading taste is too wide ranging to ever hit a majority.

As some have said, it definitely isn’t the Top 100 Ever, but I don’t find anything especially awful about it. It’s a fair mix of genres and has some legit lit. (Not to imply that HP or THG aren’t legit, but you know what I mean).

I’m not much of a reader, so it’s probably not much of a surprise I’ve only read 10 on that list. But I refuse to read a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games book.

I don’t think the list is intended as a Western canon, never mind an international one. They just selected 100 books to read in a lifetime, with an intent to capture variety and the greatest current hits. Some would be classics, others ephemeral.

They have a list of 100 on top and a list of 173 on the bottom (which goes on to other pages). The top list has 1 Harry Potter book.

Just at a quick glance I saw three that I thought were crap. Still, I suppose they deserve a little credit for not putting Fifty Shades of Grey on there.

Only 10, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar. That’s a bit sad. Though there were only a couple of others that piqued my interest as I saw them come up.

I’m wondering what list everyone else is looking at. The one I saw only had one Harry Potter book, one Hunger Game and no Ender’s Game. I’ve read 25, which made me know the list would get bad-mouthed.

Big meh.

Very US-centric, very english-language centric, very best-seller-centric. Not that it’s a bad thing per se but as a list of"books to read in a lifetime", it falls short on many levels.

Where are all the classics of world literature?

Maybe it’s subtly different depending on region, or your own purchases.