100 Must Read Books

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Nick Rennison

A & C Black • London

First published 2008 A & C Black Publishers Limited 38 Soho Square London W1D 3HB www.acblack.com © 2008 Nick Rennison ISBN: 978–0–7136–8872–6 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of A & C Black Publishers Limited. This book is produced using paper that is made from wood grown in managed, sustainable forests. It is natural, renewable and recyclable. The logging and manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. Typeset in 8.5pt on 12pt Meta-Light

Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Bookmarque, Croydon, CR0 4TD



Altered consciousness 61 • The child is father to the man 94 • Classics for children (and adults) 9 • Exploration and endurance 121 • Great thinkers, great ideas 39 • In touch with nature 16 • Inspiring memoirs 65 • It’s all in the psychology 96 • Making sense of death 113 • Native wisdom 18 • New physics, new philosophy 14 • Society will never seem the same 45 • Surviving the Holocaust 141 • Up from slavery 30 • Wisdom from the East 134 • Womanpower 48



The individual entries in the guide are arranged A to Z by author. They describe the chosen books as concisely as possible and say something briefly about the writer and his or her life. Each entry is followed by a ‘Read on’ list which includes books by the same author, books by similar authors or books on a theme relevant to the entry. Scattered throughout the text there are also ‘Read on a theme’ menus which list between six and a dozen titles united by a common theme. All the first choice books in this guide have dates attached to them. In the case of English and American writers, there is one date which indicates first publication in the UK or the USA. For translated writers, there are two dates. The first indicates publication in the original language and the second is the date of the book’s first appearance in English. For example, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is marked as 1949 (first publication in French) and 1953 (first translation into English). For some older texts, either there is no commonly accepted date for publication or the idea of publication, in the modern sense, was largely meaningless in the social context in which they were written. In these instances, approximate dates for the writing of the texts have been given.



In choosing the 100 books for this guide, I have followed in the footsteps of Desert Island Discs. The guests on that long-running radio programme are always asked about the one book that they would take with them to the desert island but it is assumed that the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare are already awaiting them on the sands beneath the palm trees. In the same way, I have excluded the Bible, the Koran and other major religious texts as well as Shakespeare from my list. On the basis that poetry is too large a subject to have what could be seen as just a token presence in this guide, I have also omitted volumes of verse. Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, which some people would label poetry, I have included because I prefer to categorise it as lyrical prose.


What exactly is a ‘life-changing’ book? There is no genre of ‘lifechanging’ literature in the same sense that there are genres of ‘crime fiction’, ‘romantic fiction’ and ‘science fiction’ yet nearly all enthusiastic readers would acknowledge that some books they have read have had a profound impact on them. Books that change...
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