Home > Books > “Ten Books to Read Before You Die” – I think not

“Ten Books to Read Before You Die” – I think not

July 13, 2009

A Harris poll asked 2,413 US Adults to name their favorite book. Apparently these are the “Ten Books to Read Before You Die“.

  1. The Bible
  2. Gone With The Wind
  3. Lord of the Rings
  4. Harry Potter
  5. The Stand
  6. The Da Vinci Code
  7. Kill a Mockingbird
  8. Angels & Demons
  9. Atlas Shrugged
  10. Catcher in the Rye

While I have read four of these (1,3,5,6), I would never have described them as my favorites or even as a “book to read before you die”. Indeed, I am under no rush to read the rest.

No non-fiction. No “classics” (Sophocles, Dante, anyone?). Two Dan Brown works. And Ayn Rand. We’re doomed, I tell ya, doomed.

What would your “Three books to read before you die” be?

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  1. writzer
    July 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Fiction:
    1=Zorba the Greek
    2=Tom Jones
    3=Don Quixote

    Non-fiction:
    1=On the Origin of Species
    2=Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
    3=Montaigne’s Essays

  2. Kenny Rotter
    July 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Fiction:
    1. Count of Monte Cristo – Unabridged
    2. Slaughterhouse Five
    3. Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide

    Non
    1. Origin of Species
    2. Freakonomics
    3. Maus

  3. July 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    With the element of arbitrariness that comes in choosing just 3 books…

    Fiction:
    -The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the real unabridged version)
    -Lolita
    -Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide (Kenny, I was also heavily considering Count of Monte Cristo!)

    Non Fiction:
    -The Selfish Gene
    -Malcolm X’s Autobiography
    -The Blank Slate

  4. July 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    catch 22
    slaughterhouse 5
    kavalier & clay

  5. July 13, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Only 1 so far that I think would qualify for ‘read before you die’ status.

    1) Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche

    I have a large number of other, favorite, much-loved books. They don’t quite cut it.

  6. July 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Actually, I’ll amend that.

    1) Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche
    2) Apology – Plato

    Still can’t think of a third, though.

    I would’ve loved to get my hands on Gorgias’ On Nature or the Non-Existent.

  7. July 13, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawkings

    Ludwig von Wolfgang Vulture Dolph Sharp

    Those are the two I recommend you read before you die.

  8. Mike P
    July 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Ok, I’m going to break with tradition and offer books you should read before you die… once you’ve read all those other classics.

    Fiction:
    1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
    2. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
    3. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

    Non:
    1. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    2. The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
    3. On the Genealogy of Morality by Nietzsche

  9. DLC
    July 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

    three books?
    Damn, only three ?

  10. Michael Fugate
    July 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I have been thinking ecologically lately…
    A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
    Turtle Island by Gary Snyder

  11. July 14, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Who hasn’t read Catcher in the Rye!? I thought that was a national requirement to pass the 10th grade…

    And really, Dan Brown wouldn’t have made this list if they asked responders how many books they’ve read in their life, and thrown out everyone who said under 10.

  12. Wes
    July 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    What an absurd list! I’ve only read 1, 7, and 10, and have no intention at all of reading the others. Could have done without 1, too.

    I don’t know if I could make a list of just three books. Maybe if I divvied it up by category:

    Philosophy:
    Plato’s Republic
    Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
    Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil

    Science:
    Darwin’s Origin of Species
    Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theories
    Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

    Fiction:
    Cervantes’ Don Quixote
    Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
    Tolstoy’s War and Peace

    Poetry:
    Dante’s Divine Comedy
    Milton’s Paradise Lost
    Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

    Drama/Stage:
    Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus
    Shakespeare’s MacBeth
    Aristophanes’ The Clouds

    History:
    Thucydides’ Pelopennesian War
    Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    Sarton’s History of Science

    Short fiction collections:
    Kafka’s complete works
    Poe’s complete works
    Faulkner’s Go Down Moses

    Political writings:
    The US constitution and the Federalist Papers
    Hobbes’ Leviathon
    Rawl’s Law of Peoples

    Religious writings:
    Augustine’s Confessions
    Hume’s Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion
    The Upanishads

    Still, looking at each of these lists, they seem woefully incomplete. So my ultimate conclusion is: You need to read a LOT more than three books before you die.

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