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Don’t Be Listless

By Sumana Ramanan

10th June 2020

Humans like lists, and if you want to know why, here is a list of reasons:

Those looking for lists of books they must read before they leave this world have plenty to choose from. Depending upon how old they are and how much time they have on their hands, people can select the number of recommendations they want. As usual, these lists almost entirely contain books written in English, and the few exceptions are from continental Europe, including Russia, although none of the lists make these qualifications. Moreover, these lists are far from definitive, in the sense they may have left out a few books that some feel should have been included and may have mentioned others that some feel do not deserve inclusion. The shorter the list, the more contentious it is likely to be. But over and above these caveats, these lists are a useful resource, both for those who are just beginning to explore the world of (English) literature and for long-standing readers. Many books are found in two or more of the following lists of diminishing size.