Who is Peter Boxall? He is the man responsible for giving us a list, a good, though certainly not perfect, list: a guide, if you will. He was the editor of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die. Many people, myself included, have looked to this list as a standard of how they measure up in their reading. There’s even a great spreadsheet to help keep track of how many books one has read, and how many more one must read each year to complete the list before kicking the bucket. It is a happy day when, just about once a week, I get to place an “R” in the column next to a book. The cell turns from red to green and the tally at the top automatically climbs one higher. If it is a really good day, I see my projected yearly average drop by one. That has only happened once.
Now the list is not perfect, as I have said. There are some glaring omissions (e.g. Fahrenheit 451), and a startling lack of many major works written before1800 (no Dante or even Shakespeare). The list is heavily weighted in favor of books of the last 100 years (69 books on the list were written after the year 2000).
It is imperfect, but it is nonetheless a benchmark. It is a commitment mad by a devoted reader: I will read the books on this list, or die trying. Here are 1001 books that are worth reading. They may not be the 1001 best books ever written, or the most important, but I am going to read them.
And then Peter Boxall had an idea:
A second edition.
I remember sitting at my computer, blissfully adding a post in a thread about which books off the 1001 Books list everyone had read (no I’m not the only one that is into this), and finding that Peter Boxall had betrayed us. He was changing the list.
What the hell, Peter Boxall? What the hell?
He changed the list! You can’t just change the list! This was a contract, a promise, and you broke it Peter Boxall. We knew the list wasn’t perfect but we decided to commit to it anyway. Perhaps in time, all such lists need updated. This would be understandable, except that the “old” version came out only two years ago!
I know what you’re probably thinking, that this is a bit of an overreaction to a few changes. 285. Two-hundred-eighty-five. That is how many books were removed; over one fourth of the list! This is Peter Boxall saying one of two things: 1) I’m such an idiot that I put 285 books on the list that should never have been there, or 2) You’re such an idiot that now you’ll buy my book again.
Well nice try, jerkweed, nice try. I know I cheated on the list, I read books not listed, but I still came home to it every night. Peter Boxall has betrayed us all. He must be stopped.