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|"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"||
I agree that leaving out the Tale of Genji is just totally ridiculous. In addition, all the classic Chinese novels have also been excluded - Journey to the West, Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms should all be on the list, in my view. And modern Japanese novels also seem rather under-represented. Where are Abe, Tanizaki, and Kawabata?
The poetry and fables thing is also rather weird. If you're going to include poems, wouldn't the Iliad and the Odyssey, which actually tell stories that are arguably novelistic (especially the Odyssey) make a lot more sense than the Metamorphoses, which is just a series of loosely connected stories from mythology in verse?
Some of the selections for later authors are also odd - including "The Monastery" for Scott but excluding "Waverley" and "The Heart of Midlothian"? Including "Castle Richmond" for Trollope but excluding "Barchester Towers" and "The Way We Live Now"? "Martin Chuzzlewit" but not "The Pickwick Papers"?
I'd add that any list of 1001 novels "you must read before you die" should really not be comprised of 40% novels from the last 40 years. If there's anything that's clear from a review of literary history, it's that our judgment of what's going to last is often quite bad.
The Telegraph's 1900 list of the best novels of all time should be illustrative of this - writers with multiple books on the list include William Harrison Ainsworth, James Grant, Charles Kingsley, Charles Lever, Samuel Lover, Bulwer Lytton, Captain Marryat, Charles Reade, Michael Scott, and G. J. Whyte-Melville, several of whom I've never even heard of. For Dickens they include The Old Curiosity Shop and Martin Chuzzlewit, but not David Copperfield, Bleak House, or Great Expectations. The only Trollope novel is Orley Farm. There's three by Thackeray, but no Vanity Fair. For George Eliot, they only have Scenes of Clerical Life, not even a novel. Wuthering Heights is missing, and no Stevenson, Hardy, James. Their selection of non-British novels is even worse - they have Anna Karenina, but no War and Peace, nothing by Dostoyevsky or any other Russian writer. For the French, no Stendhal, no Zola, no Flaubert. Basically, the list did not stand the test of time at all. And that was an attempt to do 100 novels, and included several books from before the nineteenth century, when one would think critical taste would have hardened a bit more. This list is of 1000, and half of them are from the last 50 years. Does anybody think that even 10% of the books they list from that period are really going to have any staying power? What are the chances that "Everything Is Illuminated," "The Pigeon," and "The Swimming Pool Library" are really going to stand up better than such not-included works as Pickwick Papers, Barchester Towers, and Waverley, which have all remained popular for a century and a half or more? Or, for that matter, than the Tale of Genji and the Chinese classics, which have been around even longer? Obviously, a book like this shouldn't just be a boring list of universally recognized classics. But, even so, the balance seems wrong.
Another irritating thing is the lack of short story collections. Somehow they have two by Borges, but can't see fit to include Dubliners or In Our Time. Hands up everybody who thinks Colm Toibin's "The Heather Blazing" is more important than Dubliners or that Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke" is more important than any or all Hemingway short story collections. To say nothing of Hawthorne and Chekhov - the former is only represented by his novels, and the latter not at all. Also, if you're allowed to include collections, why do we have three separate Poe short stories as distinct entries? Why not combine them into "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" or "Collected Stories" and make room for two other books?
Anyway, a lot of this is nit-picking - coming up with a list of 1000 books that will satisfy everyone is impossible, and I commend the book's authors for trying.