I've been asked about my reading OCD and how I choose what to read. In every generation, there's someone who tries to make a list. Here's a list list and book review book review!
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006)
Tries to follow the development of the novel, so it leaves out authors like Shakespeare, who you'd expect on any must-read list. It also is heavy on authors known for an innovative style and always chooses the most obscure work by an author (I'm a Beckett-ophile and never heard of "Worstward Ho"). It's extremely weighted toward recent novels, 69 of them between 2000 and 2006, and some authors (not everything by Ian McEwan and Iain Sinclair is worth reading!). The biggest surprise is that it intentionally ignores classics: no Austen, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy or Trollope!
List (I've read 460 of 1001)
Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994)
Opposite to the above, this discounts the recent. Too heavy on poets and too heavy on the Jewish diaspora. Does not include non-fiction or Asian works. Bloom's taste is exquisite; if you want to know what works by an author are worth reading, check the list - and if they aren't listed by date or alphabetically, they're listed by preference and so far, I've always agreed.
List (I've read 855 of 1503)
A Lifetime's Reading (1984)
Nicely corrects the weaknesses in Bloom's work above. Largest problem is how some titles expand (e.g. the one Balzac title is 17 volumes). Many of the titles cannot be found even in the best libraries, so titles must be purchased.
List (233 of 500 read)
Lifetime Reading Plan (1960, 1978, 1988, 1997)
Still probably the best introductory work, but to make the list something one can accomplish, excludes far too much.
List (all of about 200 read)
How to Read a Book (1940, 1972)
Very much classical works by European authors. Very dry. Some works ridiculously long (e.g. Aristotle's "Works.") Unlike other lists, includes scientific treatises. Basis of "Great Books of the Western World."
List (all 264 titles read)
Harvard Classics and Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction (1910, 1917)
First attempt to compile "what one should read." Preposterously outdated.
List (all 70 volumes read)
5 days ago