Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

Amazon just announced in this

press release

a new feature:

100 Books to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

As with most lists like this, there will be a lot of debate. I’m surprised at what seems like a high number of recent books, but I perhaps shouldn’t be.

Amazon now owns Goodreads, and has set up a poll of sorts there, which lets you suggest books not on the list (and vote for ones which are):

Interestingly, it told me how many I had read, based on their data, and how many I “wanted to read”. That’s one of the biggest problems I have with Goodreads: you can’t simply say you own a book from what I can tell. They assume that if you own it, you must want to read it, have read it, or are reading it. That’s not always the case: for one thing, not everybody in a family reads every book. I also have to recognize that I may never end up reading every book I own…newer ones I get move up in the list over older ones frequently, and, well, I’m unlikely to be reading forever (books are published faster than they can be read, of course…even if you want to read every book in the world ((and I understand that)), you can’t keep up).

So, I thought I’d go ahead and list them here, and then ask you how many you’ve read. 🙂 I’ll let you know my count as well.

Oh, an observation: there is at least one book on here which I would have read if text-to-speech access had not been blocked in the Kindle edition by the publisher. I don’t buy paperbooks to read for myself any more, and I don’t buy books with TTS blocked**.

I also did a quick count: looks like fifteen of them are available in print, but not as Kindle editions. I’m just basing that on the links on the page, but I suppose that suggests that they aren’t doing this purely based on which books would be the bestsellers for them (I’ll state pretty confidently that not having a Kindle edition reduces your sales).

I’m going to follow Amazon’s order here, which is not based on merit (it’s supposed to be alphabetical, but they count the words “a” and “the” as full words for alphabetization purposes…quite non-traditional, and easier for a computer. That doesn’t reinforce their desire for this to be seen as curated by human editors, in my opinion):

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Teh Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (#1) by Jeff Kinney
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared M. Diamond
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Love in the Time of of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Out of Africa by Isaak Dinesen
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Color of Water by James McBride
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • The Little Prince by Antoinde de Saint-Exupery
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wind-up Bird by Haruki Murakami
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Things Fall Aprt by Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My own count is that I’ve read 26 of these. How about you?

Feel free to comment on this list: what would you have done differently?

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)


** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

18 Responses to “Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime”

  1. Becky from Iowa Says:

    It’s a lousy list: too many classics missing; too many currently popular works of doubtful quality and lasting importance (“Girl Gone”???) included. That said, I’ve read 45… but I am both a mother AND an English major. 😀

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Becky!

      I appreciate your comments! I also find them choosing 100 books to read “in a lifetime” interesting…100 books in a year, I could see. 😉

  2. Zebras Says:

    I’d love to see curated list from different types of Amazon employees. “100 Books to read in your lifetime” by the Vice Presidents. “100 Books to read in your lifetime” by the Chef’s in the cafeteria. Would be fun!

    On another note, was still trying to get the app for Firsttoread working on my Kindle Fire, with no luck. Wrote them a slightly sarcastic e-mail as one of there “methods” to install involved an SD card, so it made me believe, they had no idea what a Kindle Fire was! Will keep you posted. It is such slow reading on my laptop, that I missed the deadline to review the one book that I actually finished.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Is your poll broken? I voted 37, but it isn’t showing up in the rusults. Maybe there’s a time lag?

    I certainly disagree with a lot of their choices and cringe at the omissions. This seems more like a list of books they’ve been promoting in their Amazon Daily Blog than a lifetime worthy book! Gone Girl and Valley of the Dolls? I’ve read both but neither made a lasting impression. I would have chucked those in favor of books like A Separate Peace and Silent Spring! Instead of short stories by Alice Munroe I’d rather read collections by Eudora Welty or Shirley Jackson or the master O Henry! Kitchen Confidential was one of the worst memoirs I ever tried to wade through. It was one of my prime borrowed books, and that’s a lost month’s borrow I’ll never get back. And where are books like Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, The Jungle????? Sorry, you can retire the English teacher from the classroom but…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      My apologies for the time it took to post this comment! I had missed it somehow.

      I haven’t read Gone Girl (or Valley of the Dolls, for that matter), so I can’t really judge them. For short stories, I might have gone with H.G. Wells…or perhaps Ray Bradbury, but there is my geekiness. 😉 I’d have to say that my list, if I was recommending 100 books for someone to read over their lives, would be quite different. The list at Goodreads, which is crowdsourced, is quite different…

      I’m not aware of a problem with the poll. I know it has been changing, so it’s recording something. There is a 37 recorded, but I don’t know when that happened or if that is yours, of course. One weird thing, when you are looking, is that they are out of order at that point…the most popular answers are at the top.

  4. jjhitt Says:

    How did ‘The Raven’ get listed as a book? I could see ‘Idylls of the King’ or any of a number of book length poetry cycles but not something you can read in less than ten minutes.

    I scored a paltry 10, but about a dozen more titles were already on my ‘to be read’ list.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      The Raven isn’t a book on the Amazon list, just at Goodreads. There, anybody can add a book. That version is an illustrated one (illustrations by Gustave Doré), and I think you’d consider it a book if you saw it. 🙂

  5. Jean S. Says:

    It’s a very US-oriented list. Contrast it to, for example, the BBC Big Read Top 100 Books list:

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jean!

      Interesting…let’s take a quick look at author nationalities/birthplaces:

      Orwell – British (although born in India)
      Hawking – British
      Eggers – USA
      Beah – Sierra Leone
      Snicket (Handler) – USA
      L’Engle – USA
      Munro – Canada
      Carroll – UK
      Woodward & Bernstein – both USA
      McCourt – USA

      Hm…doesn’t seem overwhelmingly US-oriented to me (at least up to those first ten), unless it’s judged by books which were popular in the USA.

      I wonder, and I’d have to look at it, if perhaps the USA is under-represented in some lists, rather than over-represented in this one. 😉

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Thanks, Jean! I like that list a lot better. I’ve read 41 of those.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Interesting! Since you said that, it got me to look at it a bit more.

        I think, rather than reflecting different national perceptions, it’s probably more the difference between one that is crowd-sourced (the BBC one) and one that is curated. Over time, it may be that the Goodreads list comes to resemble the BBC list more.

        I am seeing a number of Americans on the BBC list, by the way: Harper Lee; Joseph Heller; John Irving; John Steinbeck; and Frank Herbert, to name some that immediately stand out.

        I want to be clear that I appreciated you posting the link, Jean! Thanks again!

  6. Lori Says:

    24, but sorry to say, that number should be much higher. Wow, so many good ones missed, esp for young readers.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lori!

      If we postulate that one in 1,000 books is great, and that there are literally millions of books available, you could miss all of these and still read only great books. 😉 I tend to think that every book has good in it…although yes, some have more than others for that particular reader at that particular time.

  7. smlbetsy Says:

    It’s such an interesting list. As a former children’s librarian, I love the children’s classics on the list…and the rest…well, there are a lot on there not to my tastes…but that is going to be the case on any list of this kind created. As someone else pointed out…Heller…and Catch-22 come to mind…
    As an aside…thanks for blogging…this is a favorite!

  8. g. b. anderson Says:

    No Moby Dick? Really?

  9. Michael Gorecki Says:

    I can’ t believe The Grapes of Wrath is not on the list.Inconcievable.

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