At one point or another, most major outlets discussing books broach the subject of what you should be reading. Book lists are always popular, and I’ve certainly produced my own here. Often, they rally around absolutes: here are the 100 best books to read in a lifetime! And yet it always seems like the same books are highlighted — primarily ‘classics’ — tossed around with the occasional contemporary novel so the authors can offer up something fresh.
And sure. They’re harmless lists. However, I have a hard time believing that different authors consistently wading through the wild world of books always come up with the same titles. More so, the concept of a one-size-fits-all lifetime of books seems inconceivable. The same works can’t have the same impact on every reader.
Reading is such a personal experience. What one reader loves is insufferable for another. Think of your favorite book — one that has had a deep influence on you, that you love — and look at its one-star rating on Goodreads. Yikes, right? But that’s the point. How do you proceed when tasked with another list pushing Ulysses, Vanity Fair, and The Great Gatsby? Yes, you just might love them, but for others, wouldn’t it be better to devote yourself to a life of reading actually tailored to your likes and needs?
So rather than writing another list, here are my guidelines for a well-read lifetime:
- Read 100 books.
- Read 100 books that make you laugh.
- Read 100 books that make you cry.
- Read 100 books that challenge you.
- Read 100 books that comfort you.
- Read 100 books that you get lost in.
Read 100 books that you never finish.
- Read 100 books that you share.
- Read 100 books for yourself.
- Read 100 books that you love.
- Most importantly: Read.