The B&N Podcast: James Mustich on the Biggest Reading List Ever

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

This episode features a very special conversation, as the podcast’s former executive producer James Mustich takes a turn in the guest chair, joining us to talk about the marvelous work he spent years — including quite a few nights  and weekends! — composing. 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die contains, as its subtitle notes, a “life-changing list,”  but Mustich’s monumental work is much more than that. Each entry gets its own gemlike mini-essay, a quick peek at why Mustich believes a particular book deserves your time, and from Absalom, Absalom to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the subjects, styles and moods included are all over the map. The author joined us in the studio to talk about his eclectic celebration of reading and the universes the bookshelf offers us to explore.


It’s time to talk books—and the conversation starts here.

Encompassing fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die moves across cultures and through time to present an eclectic collection of titles, each described with the special enthusiasm readers summon when recommending a book to a friend.

The expected pillars are here, including Jane Austen and Toni Morrison, Virgil, Dante, Dickens and Tolstoy, Franz Kafka and Simone de Beauvoir—their works made fresh through the author’s animated essays. Established classics are joined by new and unexpected choices like Citizen and Friday Night Lights. A Visit from the Goon Squad and The Pillow Bookof Sei Shōnagon, The Day of the Jackal and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The result is a treasury of essential reading for expansive tastes.

The book’s alphabetical listing by last name results in the serendipity of juxtaposition—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road next to Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, John le Carré next to Ursula K. Le Guin next to Harper Lee. Following each entry are rich endnotes that include publication dates and preferred editions, other books by the same author, related books to try, and listings of worthy adaptations, including movies and audiobooks. In total, more than six thousand titles by thirty-five hundred authors are recommended.

A Miscellany of Special Lists at the end of the book offers the reader surprising entry points into the collection, such as “Books to Read in a Sitting,” including The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg and The Third Man by Graham Greene, and “Offbeat Escapes,” including Freya Stark’s The Valleys of the Assassins and Felice Benuzzi’s No Picnic on Mount Kenya. For the truly dedicated reader, “A Long Climb, but What a View”—a perfect way to describe those mountainous texts we long to scale, such as Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and Shelby Foote’s The Civil War.

An insightfully curated personal compendium that will inspire hours of browsing and a lifetime of reading, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die celebrates the gorgeous mosaic that is our literary heritage.

 The purchase of the B&N Exclusive Edition includes an 16” x 21” poster featuring a checklist of all 1,000 Books so that you can keep track of your reading journey”.

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