Books about books are like a magnet to me – if they’re booklist books, they have even more pull. They can also drive you mad when you find your own favourites titles or novelists are missing and others you think less of are included. Any book of this kind is entirely subjective and the opinion of its contributors, but the best guides will always inspire you to take your reading into new directions. Here are some I have on my shelves …
1001 Books: You must read before you die by Peter Boxall. This is ‘the Daddy’ to compare all the rest to nowadays. With its striking cover featuring the classic cover artwork from A Clockwork Orange, it is a well-produced doorstop with lots of interesting information, artwork/photos on those works and authors selected. I’ve found it fascinating and useful – particularly in directing me in the direction of older classics from the early twentieth century backwards.
The Rough Guide to Classic Novels by Simon Mason. Covering just over 200 great novels in some detail, and dinky in size – this is my favourite book-guide. It is split into 12 genres and has a world-wide breadth to it, and pleasingly for each book in translation (of which there are many), a suggested translator is given. For each novel a suggestion for further reading is given, plus the best film/TV adaptations where appropriate. Some of the choices are not the obvious ones – for instance we don’t have a Maigret book for George Simenon, but instead the novel Dirty Snow about a teenage killer; Maigret does merit his own sidebar though. Some of the genres used are the normal ones, but often with a twist – so we have ‘Crime and punishment’; also ‘Rites of passage’, and ‘Making it’. My favourite was ‘A sense of place’.
Next is Time Out: 1000 Books to Change Your Life . This one is different from others, in that the Time Out editors have taken Shakespeare’s ‘seven ages of man’ speech as their concept and commissioned many insightful articles and critic’s choices on topics related to those ages. For instance, under birth we get ‘Innocence’, Childhood – school stories, rock ‘n’ roll in Adolescence, war under Adulthood, culinary delights in Middle Age, grumpy old men in Old Age, and biography under Death.
These are just a flavour of the essays, lists and shorter articles by a fine group of writers including novelists, critics, essayists, journalists, etc, that made this book a delight to dip into, and I’ve made many discoveries from it. However the books in here don’t get the detail in the two guides above.
Lastly a new acquisition that arrived today – The Ultimate Teen Book Guide. A friend’s teenage daughter has this, and leafing through it a couple of weeks ago, I found there was so much good stuff, not only specific young adult books but also adult books suitable for teenagers that I just had to have it too mainly for me rather as in preparation for my daughter reaching that age!
Source: All own copies. To explore further on Amazon UK, (affiliate links) please click below:
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Boxall (2012 edition).
The Rough Guide to Classic Novels by Simon Mason (2008 edition).
Time Out 1000 Books to Change Your Life (2007 edition).
The Ultimate Teen Book Guide (2010 edition).