I love lists. I especially love lists of books where I can tick off the ones I’ve read – which usually, though not always, makes me feel good about myself. I have a few lists that I have created myself, such as the Luke Cage Reading List, plus I have my own version of the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge, heavily edited by me on my many rewatches of the show (which have actually become much rarer for me since the frankly disappointing Netflix reboot).
The only list that I have set myself as a goal to complete is the Classics Club, and even that one is open to being changed over the five years of the challenge. I’m currently a little behind on that but at halfway through the challenge period I’m not too worried.
Every few years I do a quick count of how many books I have read from certain prize lists (I generally do best at the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and one day I will actually store that information in a spreadsheet so that I don’t need to start from scratch each time.
But the list that started me thinking about all of this is possibly the longest one out there: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a book first published in 2006 compiled by Peter Boxall and it includes reviews by academics and critics of each of the 1001 books listed. (It’s part of a series that also includes 1001 movies, video games, inventions, wines and a whole host more.) It has a book blog and a huge Goodreads group, which I’m a non-active member of.
The list is of course subjective and was initially accused of being too white and western, though updated editions have started to address that. These changes mean the combined list is actually 1306 books, and there’s a handy checklist here if you want to see how many you’ve read. I’ve read 230, or 18%, which doesn’t seem like many at all, though the site reassures me that it’s in the top 4%. And that of course made me want to start deliberately ticking some of these books off. So I made a spreadsheet. (Or rather, I have started making a spreadsheet. It turns out that a spreadsheet of 1306 books is a big job.)
I think, as for my other lists, I’m not going to set myself any deadlines or goals around this, I’m just going to enjoy ticking titles off as I read them! I am by no means completionist when it comes to these things. There are too many books and I am not going to force myself to finish a book I’m not enjoying. But they do provoke me to pick up books I might not otherwise have considered, and I am always up for having my reading horizons widened.