A Bucket List for Book Lovers

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I’ve mentioned before that I am a bibliophile. I like to read and I like to collect books—not as a hoarder, although my overflowing bookshelves might say otherwise. I do pass on books that I know family or friends might enjoy. Since I was a young child, I’ve been fascinated with books and all the places that they can take you, from flights of fancy to heady histories.

Over the course of my reading and reviewing a variety of books for The Epoch Times, several readers have reached out recommending James Mustich’s “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List.”

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“1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List” by James Mustich. (WorkmanPublishing)

On the cusp of a new year, with all our resolutions and good resolve, perhaps reading more can be added to the list. This volume is an inspirational place to start.

In the Company of Books

Author James Mustich cofounded and was the guiding force for two decades of the acclaimed mail-order book catalog “A Common Reader: Books for Readers With Imagination.” Also a book lover from an early age, he has surrounded himself with countless reads. He was a bookseller for some 40 years.

Fourteen years in the making, the book’s pages will feed a diversity of reading appetites and satisfy every kind of reading devotion.

Mustich makes no claim that this is a comprehensive list; rather, it contains entertaining essays that he hopes will invite discussion and perhaps inspiration to pursue new interests or reinvigorate old ones. He’s all about encouraging fresh reading and stimulating new ideas.


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“The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton. (PenguinRandomHouse)

It’s a personal compendium that will no doubt inspire hours of browsing and encourage a lifetime of reading. It’s a tome for sure, but open it at any point and readers will be pleasantly surprised at what they might find. There’s much serendipity just in how the selections are designed and presented.

Entries are arranged alphabetically by author. So as an example, you’ll find Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” opposite “The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton. A curious juxtaposition but it works, and there are many of these. Another example is “All Passion Spent: A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman” by Vita Sackville-West sitting next to “The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence” by Carl Sagan.

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“The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence” by Carl Sagan. (BallantineBooks)

However, when it comes to William Shakespeare, he has his own section, which takes up several pages. There’s no getting around how influential Shakespeare is to the literary world—familiar texts that can forever offer readers new truths for hearts and minds.

Pick a Page

When I first opened the book, sort of as a preview of coming attractions, I landed on the page with “The Poems of Catullus” by Gaius Valerius Catullus, a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic. I was brought back to my college days, for what is not to like about this poet who wrote much about human emotions? In more than two dozen of his poems, he speaks of a woman whom he adores.

Sitting opposite Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” where a father and son face an apocalyptic world, is one of my favorite children’s books: “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey. This mallard couple is searching as well, but in their case they are searching for a place to start their family of adorable ducklings. Both of these selections, landing opposite each other due to their authors’ last names, curiously share similar themes: bonding, caring, and searching.

It’s these kinds of serendipitous arrangements that make Mustich’s collection so delightful and savory. Another childhood favorite of mine is Hugh Lofting’s “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle,” which sits opposite Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild.” Certainly, there are conversations with animals in both.

St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” exploring the story of a soul, is followed by “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, exploring an emperor’s enduring wisdom. Then, readers will move right along into a section on the beloved books of Jane Austen.

Not limited by the 1,000 choices, Mustich, a true book aficionado, adds suggestions of other works by the same author and/or recommendations of similar themes after each entry. More than 6,000 titles by 3,500 authors are recommended.

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“Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey. (McGrawHill)

The first essay is “Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey, an American author, essayist, and environmental activist who died in 1989. The last essay is “A Part of Myself: Portrait of an Epoch” by Carl Zuckmayer, a German writer and playwright who died in 1977. His older brother was the composer, conductor, and pianist Eduard Zuckmayer.

In between, there are hundreds of worthy selections for children, teens, and adults. They range from the illustrious to the semi-forgotten, all chosen with care by Mustich for the reader’s pleasure. Start at the beginning or open at any part; it’s a treasure trove of authors, plots, and characters sure to entertain and inspire.

This is a rich reading reference volume, a bucket list for book lovers to cherish, and a must-have on your library shelf.

Mustich’s expansive scope and keen eye for surprise details will leave readers with little doubt of what to read next.

Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

‘1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List’
By James Mustich
Workman Publishing Company, Oct. 2, 2018
Hardcover: 960 pages

Anita L. Sherman

Anita L. Sherman is an award-winning journalist who has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for local papers and regional publications in Virginia. She now works as a freelance writer and is working on her first novel. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to four, and she resides in Warrenton, Va. She can be reached at

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