Our Titles in James Mustich’s “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die”

We are very fortunate to have 25 of our books included in James Mustich’s “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.” This extensive list curated by Mustich contains novels that are embedded in literary history, as well as books that deserve more recognition. So, here are our some of our books that made the list, along with descriptions provided by our website.

1. Study is Hard Work – William H. Armstrong

This is the best guide ever published on how to acquire and maintain good study skills. It covers everything from developing a vocabulary to improving the quality of written work, and has chapters on studying math, science, and languages; taking tests; and using libraries. If anyone you know is college-bound, buy this book: it will prove a lifesaver and a godsend.

2. Aubrey’s Brief Lives – John Aubrey

The whole ferment of the Elizabethan age and the vigor of the century that followed come alive in these “brief portraits” that have been looted by scholars for centuries. Here are Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare, Milton, Marvel, and countless others, who in these pages become not abstract names from a history book, but flesh and blood characters.

3. Les Fleurs du Mal/ The Flowers of Evil – Charles Baudelaire

This translation of Baudelaire’s magnum opus – perhaps the most powerful and influential book of verse from the 19th century – won the American Book Award for Translation.

4. The Thirty Nine Steps – John Buchan

We know the Buchan formula well, although few may remember it was he who set the mold: take an apparently ordinary man, and let him be drawn into a mystery he only vaguely understands; give him a task to perform, and set obstacles in his path; see that he cannot turn to established authority, see that he cannot be certain who he can trust – and then, set the clock ticking. . .

5. The Secret Garden/Little Princess –  Frances Hodgson Burnett

The characters and the story are as fresh today as they were when the book was first published. Graham Rust’s illustrations, with their delicate period flavor and detail, bring to life the whole cast of characters and, of course, the secret garden itself – “the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine.”

6. The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati

Often likened to Kafka’s The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who is posted to a distant fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe. Although not intending to stay, Giovanni suddenly finds that years have passed, as, almost without his noticing, he has come to share the others’ wait for a foreign invasion that never happens.

7. The Geography of the Imagination – Guy Davenport

There is no way to prepare yourself for reading Guy Davenport. You stand in awe before his knowledge of the archaic and his knowledge of the modern. Even more, you stand in awe of the connections he can make between the archaic and the modern; he makes the remote familiar and the familiar fundamental.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review

8. String too Short to Be Saved – Donald Hall

This is a collection of stories diverse in subject, but sutured together by the limitless affection the author holds for the land and the people of New England. Donald Hall tells about life on a small farm where, as a boy, he spent summers with his grandparents. Gradually the boy grows to be a young man, sees his grandparents aging, the farm become marginal, and finally, the cows sold and the barn abandoned. But these are more than nostalgic memories, for in the measured and tender prose of each episode are signs of the end of things — a childhood, perhaps a culture.

9. Dresser of Sycamore Trees – Garret Keizer

This profoundly contemporary book displays not only Keizer’s knowledge of life’s small practicalities (winding the church clock, shopping for groceries), but also his insights about faith and the mysterious ways of God. With an eye attuned to both the pleasures and foibles that make life on earth so rich, he presents a refreshing and often hilarious account of the hands-on work needed to maintain a parish and sustain its spirit. He is a man who believes that God’s intentions, if seldom apparent, are inevitably compassionate and compelling.

10. Life a User’s Manual – Georges Perec

Life is an unclassified masterpiece, a sprawling compendium as encyclopedic as Dante’s Commedia and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and, in its break with tradition, as inspiring as Joyce’s Ulysses. Structured around a single moment in time — 8:00 p.m. on June 23, 1975 — Perec’s spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary.

11. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

For anyone who loves sailing and adventure, Arthur Ransome’s classicSwallows and Amazons series stands alone. Originally published in the UK over a half century ago, these books are still eagerly read by children, despite their length and their decidedly British protagonists. We attribute their success to two facts: first, Ransome is a great storyteller and, second, he clearly writes from first-hand experience. Independence and initiative are qualities any child can understand and every volume in this collection celebrates these virtues.

12. Lark Rise to Candleford – Flora Thompson

Flora Thompson (1876–1947) wrote what may be the quintessential distillation of English country life at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1945, the three books Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941), and Candleford Green(1943) were published together in one elegant volume, and this new omnibus Nonpareil edition, complete with charming wood engravings, should be a cause for real rejoicing.

Other titles included on the list are:

Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel and Narcisse Chamberlain

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy

A Johnson Reader by Samuel Johnson

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell

Age Like This by George Orwell

In Front of Your Nose by George Orwell

As I Please by George Orwell

My Country Right or Left by George Orwell

Giving Up the Gun by Noel Perrin

The House of Life by Mario Praz

The Prelude by William Wordsworth

With that, happy reading from us here at Godine!