So there's a new list of 1001 books you must read before you die. I downloaded the list, and started reading through it, ticking off titles I've read.
Then I realised that reading isn't a competitive sport. I remembered that half the books I've been told I 'must' read have left me cold. Half the big phenomenon books don't live up to the hype - I don't know that many books could live up to the ecstatic, foam-at-the-mouth ravings you find on the back covers.
And also - reading takes a varied, forking, tangential path. I don't think I like the idea of moving steadily through a list, nodding along with every other reader in the Western world, accepting the 'greats' and discarding all the other oblique, strange, off-list books that never make it for some reason. What about the 'withdrawn' library books that have never been borrowed but turn out to be phenomenal, unpopular revelations? I think all we can do is write our own lists.
Sod the official list. Here's mine, in no particular order, of some books I've loved and loved:
The Saddest Pleasure, by Moritz Thomsen
Living's the Strange Thing, by Carmen Martin Gaite
Snow is Silent, by Benjamin Prado
A confederate general from big sur - Richard Brautigan
Toward the end of time - John Updike
Norwegian wood - Haruki Murakami
The Unbearable lightness of being - Milan Kundera
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Old man and the Sea - Hemingway
Unless - Carol Shields
Living Dead girl - tod goldberg
Enormous changes at the last minute - Grace Paley
Things you should know - AM Homes
My life in heavy metal - Steve Almond
Janet Evanovich's Plum books
....at which point I give up and wander off to read something new, lists losing interest after a few minutes or so.