The thing about ‘must read’ lists

And that is, you don’t have to read any of the books on it.

Who really cares if you do or if you don’t?

It’s just a list of books that a particular writer, journalist, or editor puts together simply because they liked them and think you might also.

And sometimes weight of sales numbers will dictate popularity, and therefore some basis to any particular list.

Of course, this doesn’t work if all you read is comics or romance books like Mills and Boon.  Hey, that’s fine.  You’re reading and this is one of the most important aspects of life, to read, and sometimes, to learn.

I know that my life changed dramatically when I read books, lots of different sorts of books.  I’ve never recommended anyone read the dry, dusty tomes about neurosis for psychiatry, or a history of the Roman Empire simply because of it something I was interested in after I saw the film, Ben Hur.

In a similar manner when we go to school, the curriculum sometimes dictates we read certain books, whether this is to give us an understanding of life centuries before, or that there is some deeper, more sinister, meaning to it all, but some of those books I had to read, back then, the meaning was lost on me.

But should I not read them?  I know most of the kids in the class didn’t because they considered reading a waste of time.  There were more important things to do like chase girls and play a sport.  And torment the teachers.  From what I hear, little has changed.

But the point here is, in my case, I’m just giving you the drum on what I read to improve my literary understanding, of life, and of the world, and perhaps in a small way, help with my writing.  After all, writers must read, particularly in their genre so they have some idea of what readers want.

But again that two-word phrase ‘Must read’ is an unfortunate and often misused heading.  We do it all the time.  Ten films you ‘must-see’, ten things you ‘must-have’, ten places you ‘must go’ usually before you die.

It amuses me to see books with a 1000 somethings you must do before you die.  I will no doubt be well and truly dead before I get halfway through even one of those lists, that is, if I actually took any notice of them.

But, what’s more interesting is that I like to see how many I haven’t done, which is probably the reason why we buy the book, usually off the sale table.

6 thoughts on “The thing about ‘must read’ lists

  1. Lists. I am a bit manic about lists, I will admit this freely. But I do agree with you about the “must-read” “must-see” “must-do” designations. Blech. Once upon a time – several years ago – I read a list by David Warren (http://davidwarrenonline.com) on his “Essay in Idleness.” At the prompting of a friend, he had prepared a list of “100 Facts About Me.” I found his list interesting, so I made one of my own. I was somewhat surprised as I remembered things I had done, places I had been, people I had known, etc. It was a delightful exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very rarely did I ever like a book or story assigned to me in school. The fact that a teacher assigned it made me assume it was boring or depressing because why else would it be a school assignment?

    Like

  3. Poignant article. Funny enough, I just finished reading an article on Medium about “must-read” literary journals. As a writer, I try to get in as many lit mags as I can, but then again, one can only read so much in a day without having said day be spent burrowed in a couch, in front of a screen, all day (which I don’t mind at all, btw 😁) But just think, if we were to truly abide by what these “lists” dictate, we wouldn’t be able, as you said, to read the things we really loved. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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