cover image One Thousand Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List

One Thousand Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List

James Mustich, with Thomas Meagher and Karen Templer. Workman, $35 (960p) ISBN 978-1-5235-0445-9

This compulsively readable reference work from Mustich, cofounder of the Common Reader book catalogs, is sure to send bibliophiles hopscotching through its pages. The 1,000 entries (actually more when taking into account the book’s recommended reading lists and many sidebars), ordered alphabetically by author, include classic and contemporary works, literary and genre titles, fiction (mostly) and nonfiction, and children’s and adult reading—each fleshed out with several short but insightful paragraphs of critical commentary. Some selections are no-brainers, among them Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Others are slightly more unusual: John Updike’s The Maples Stories but not his Rabbit Angstrom novels; Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye but not The Handmaid’s Tale. There are also some surprising omissions, with no works by Joyce Carol Oates or Raymond Carver making the cut. Throughout, Mustich shows a knack for getting to the gist of his subjects, as when noting “the intense drama and disregard for orthodox morality” that distinguish Wuthering Heights, or acknowledging the myriad objections of Dan Brown’s critics but touting “the sheer energy of his invention” in The Da Vinci Code. Mustich’s informed appraisals will drive readers to the books they’ve yet to read, and stimulate discussion of those they have. Agent: Paul Feldstein, the Feldstein Agency. (Oct.)