100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

100-books_amazon Ama­zon’s Books edi­tors set out to com­pile a list of 100 Books to Read in a Life­time, with a few goals in mind:

We want­ed the list to cov­er all stages of a life (which is why you’ll find chil­dren’s books in here), and we did­n’t want the list to feel like home­work. Of course, no such list can be com­pre­hen­sive – our lives, we hope, are long and var­ied – but we talked and argued and sift­ed and argued some more and came up with a list, our list, of favorites. What do you think? How did we do?

Over­all pret­ty well. That’s how I’d answer the edi­tors’ rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. The list does­n’t pan­der to the low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor of read­ing tastes. It fea­tures sub­stan­tive works by Albert Camus, Alice Munro (see our col­lec­tion of free Munro sto­ries), Ralph Elli­son, Robert A. Caro, Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Rebec­ca Skloot and many oth­ers. It’s a hearty list, so far as these lists go, offer­ing plen­ty of good selec­tions for some­one seek­ing a new read. But let me add this one caveat. If the Ama­zon edi­tors did­n’t sell out, they did intend to sell. Or so it seems to skep­ti­cal me. Of the 100 books on the list, only a hand­ful are old­er works in the pub­lic domain and thus free. Maybe the Ama­zon edi­tors would claim that read­ing books writ­ten a cen­tu­ry ago is tan­ta­mount to home­work. But that seems fair­ly short-sight­ed. All of this reminds me of a post we wrote last year called The 10 Great­est Books Ever, Accord­ing to 125 Top Authors. Here we looked back at a 2007 book called The Top Ten: Writ­ers Pick Their Favorite Books where edi­tor J. Ped­er Zane asked 125 top writ­ers to name their favorite books — writ­ers like Nor­man Mail­er, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Mes­sud, and Michael Chabon. The lists were all com­piled in an edit­ed col­lec­tion, and then pref­aced by one uber list, “The Top Top Ten.” All but one book in the top 10 was writ­ten before 1931 (which means they’re almost entire­ly free and avail­able in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books col­lec­tions). It just goes to show, I sup­pose, that one per­son­’s home­work is anoth­er per­son­’s read of a life­time. Feel free to sift through both lists (here & here) and see which texts belong on your per­son­al buck­et list.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 10 Great­est Books Ever, Accord­ing to 125 Top Authors (Down­load Them for Free)

Nabokov Reads Loli­ta, Names the Great Books of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

18 (Free) Books Ernest Hem­ing­way Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

F. Scott Fitzger­ald Cre­ates a List of 22 Essen­tial Books, 1936

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