Cover image for 1,000 books to read before you die : a life-changing list / James Mustich ; with Margot Greenbaum Mustich, Thomas Meagher, and Karen Templer.
1,000 books to read before you die : a life-changing list / James Mustich ; with Margot Greenbaum Mustich, Thomas Meagher, and Karen Templer.
Title Variants:
One thousand books to read before you die

1,000 books to read

One thousand books to read
Publication Information:
New York : Workman Publishing, [2018]

Physical Description:
xii, 948 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes indexes.
Encompassing fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children's books, history, and more, moves across cultures and through time to present an eclectic collection of titles, each described with the special enthusiasm readers summon when recommending a book to a friend.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
028.9 MUS Book Adult General Collection
028.9 MUS Book Adult General Collection

On Order



Fourteen years in the making and fifth in the series that has over 4.4 million copies in print, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die is an eclectic and extraordinary book about books, as compulsively readable, entertaining, surprising, and enlightening as the 1,000-plus volumes it recommends. The author, James Mustich, has been a bookseller for decades, including two running the acclaimed independent book catalog A Common Reader , and 1,000 Books is like his personal store, where every book is excellent. Mustich's incomparable writing - lively, informed, erudite yet with an undisguised enthusiasm - not only reveals why the particular title you're reading about is vital but also gives you the urgent feeling that you need to drop everything, right now, and read that book. The expected pillars are here - Dante, Proust, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Woolf, Joyce, Kafka - but made completely fresh in these animated essays. And in between, the unexpected titles - from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Fun Home , Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to Tell Me a Riddle - are made completely essential. Aeschylus is here, and so is Nancy Drew, Herman Melville, and Edwidge Danticat. The alphabetical listing by last name results in the joy of juxtaposition - Grimm next to Grisham, Clarice Lispector followed by Hugh Lofting - prompting a rich appreciation for the gorgeous mosaic that is our literary heritage, whether poetry, science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children's literature, the novel. Because ultimately what this book is not is a canon. It is, rather, an uncommon celebration of the best that authors have put into words - and, as one of the entrants, the critic David Denby, put it, that "special character of solitude and rapture" that is the act of reading.

Author Notes

James Mustich cofounded and was for two decades the guiding force and voice of the acclaimed book catalog A Common Reader. He is currently the Vice President for Digital Product at Barnes & Noble. He lives with his wife in New Fairfield, Connecticut.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Between 1986 and 2006, Mustich put together an eagerly awaited mail-order catalog, A Common Reader, that every three weeks highlighted notable titles old and new. Now the author has drawn on his lifelong passion and knowledge, creating this compilation of 1,000 must-reads. Not a list of classics or "great books," this is instead a wide-ranging selection of literary and nonfiction classics as well as best sellers, popular mysteries, sf, romances, and YA and children's books. As -Mustich planned, his work is "expansive in its tastes, encompassing revered classics and commercial favorites, flights of escapist entertainment and enlightening erudition.novels of imaginative reach and histories with intellectual grasp." Discursive annotations of each book range from 300 to 500 words, with longer entries on some authors (from Margaret Wise Brown to Henry James, Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, and others). VERDICT A treasure chest for book lovers everywhere. (Not to be confused with Peter Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, rev. ed.), which includes only fiction, with annotations by more than 100 contributors.)-Marcia G. Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Lib., -Hanover, NH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.