1000 Books To Read Before You Die

I wanted to share this podcast with you. It’s called the “Literary Life.” If you click on the above link you can hear the entire podcast. Below is an edited version.

“I’m Mitchell Kaplan. I’ve owned Books & Books and been a bookseller for over 35 years.”

Mitchell: : “My guest today is Jim Mustich, the author of ‘1000 Books To Read Before You Die’. Jim started The Common Reader,” a mail order book catalog years ago.”

Jim: “The catalogs were generally about 144 pages. I love selling books. But I also love writing. And when I realized my half baked dream of becoming a novelist was not in the cards, I decided to write books. I did that for 20 years. Now I wrote a book called “1000 Books To Read Before You Die.” I get to go to book shops and libraries, to talk about the book upon its publication.”

Jim: “Peter Workman, of Workman Publishing, had published a book called ‘1000 Places To See Before You Die’ by Patricia Schultz, which was a phenomenal success. Peter was a friend and he was a great fan of a ‘Common Reader.’ Every month when a new issue came out, he would call and tell me what books of his I should have on my pages. But after the ‘success of ‘1000 Places,” he decided he wanted to do one on books. He asked me if I’d be interested. And I said, Yes. So we signed a contract for that book. And 14 years later, I delivered the 1000 page manuscript.”

Mitchell: It was a daunting task. The book is gorgeous. It’s done beautifully. It’s got headbands. It’s got a beautiful cover, and it’s got epigrams. For example, Virginia Woolf says, “The only advice one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, and use your own reason to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence, which is the most important quality that a reader can possess.”

Mitchell: “1000 Books’ never says you must read a certain book. It’s just presenting a list in a very democratic way. It’s presented by author. So it ends up with these very interesting juxtapositions of books which allow for incredible browsing. It’s like surfing the internet, but it’s a book or browsing in a bookshop.”

Mitchell: “What are some of your favorite books.”

Jim: “The wonderful thing about reading is that people should be reading whatever speaks to them, especially in times like these. Some people like to go deep into things and read about pandemics, and others like danger. And other people like to read to escape. I wouldn’t prescribe one thing for everyone. Whatever you’re reading, it is a wonderful way to enrich the longest and most important conversation you ever had in your life, the one in your own head.”

Mitchell: “I understand that you have created some very interesting programs on the ‘1000 books’ website, something called Battle of the Books?”

Jim: “Yes, we have been able to extend this concept much further than just between the covers of a book. We wanted to start conversations about the books I write about, and the books that were left out. It’s been very successful. We created a place where readers can calmly talk to each other. Readers can also add books of their own. So I invite your readers from all around the country to visit our website and explore.”


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