‘1,000 Books to Read Before You Die’: The perfect list for any book lover

Author James Mustache gives a talk on his newly -released book, "1000 Books to read Before You Die". (Kush Kamar/ The Daily Campus)

On Tuesday evening, the Barnes and Noble in Storrs Center welcomed author James Mustich for a book talk and signing of his book “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.” A book fanatic, Mustich explained to the audience his inspiration for compiling one thousand different titles, how he chose them and the 14-year process of placing all of his different ideas into a 960-page book.

“1,000 Books to Read Before You Die” is a collection of 1,000 different book titles, with brief essays and endnotes wherein other books are recommended. Mustich’s book successfully encompasses a wide variety that will satisfy any type of reader. He classifies the age range as “cradle to grave,” implying the vast range of age groups that will be able to find an adequate book. With lighter stories, such as “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” to much deeper ones, such as “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Mustich made sure to have a plethora of different options.

Mustich explained the background of his project, saying he has been a book lover since his young adult life.

“In my 20s when I was out of college, I was convinced I was going to write novels and I was working away, but I never really had the combination of inspiration and discipline,” Mustich said.

Being 23 years old, he felt as if he did not have much experience and wisdom, resulting in “a lot of writing in search of something to say.” However, this led him to realize his love for cataloging. He was able to be around books and to write about books on a deadline.

These catalogues had hundreds of thousands of readers, who would send back letters commenting on certain novels, sending recommendations and overall creating a book-lover community. He and his wife have saved eight filing cabinets’ worth of letters, many of which recommended books that eventually made it into “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.”

Mustich does not want his book to be a structured list of titles to read; that would be daunting and difficult to organize. He compared his book to a travel guide. When one is writing a travel book, it is easily organized into continents. With “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die,” Mustich had to figure out how to make sense of all the different titles. He could have written about the best classics of all time, the most influential books of all time or the best sellers of all time. However, “the book is not meant to be a prescriptive list, but rather a menu,” where one can discover something new by simply flipping to one of the pages. After all, “the discovery of what to read next is just as important as the reading,” Mustich said.

Mustich explained how he would often look for something specific, but then end up including a different piece of work with a captivating title or cover. He wanted to ensure that the titles not only captured him as a reader, but also as a person.

Mustich’s presentation was successful and engaging. Rather than lecturing his audience, he provided a conversation amongst fellow book lovers that would allow a group discussion on the reasoning behind his titles, why certain titles weren’t included and all the struggles and successes that came along with creating this massive list. It is easily noticeable how passionate he is about reading and literary works and how even to this day, Mustich continually discovers new titles he would have incorporated.


Jordan Noto is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at jordan.noto@uconn.edu.