I think it was Niccolò Macchiavelli who once said, “Why use a pair of pruning scissors when a Weed Eater® will do just as well.” That’s the core philosophy for today’s installment of “How to Rid Yourself of Unneeded Books.”
It turns out that a lot of authors are repeat visitors on the candidate list of 1,712 great books. Perhaps people who compile such lists give up after a few hundred names, but whatever the reason, some great authors are serial great-work writers. That William Shakespeare is a fame hog.
To help bring some variety to the final list of fifty books, I made a command decision that I would limit myself to one book per represented author. Naturally, I would give favorable treatment each author’s magnum opus, so my task was to determine which books for each writer were top-shelf, and which were also-rans.
Fortunately, most authors are monogamists when it comes to putting their hearts and souls into their books. When an author had multiple books on the candidate list, most reviewers were in general agreement about which book was the best or had the most lasting impact.
My pile of 1,712 books includes 847 unique authors, allowing me to ditch 865 items. Consigned to the dustbin of my project are works such as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Plato’s writings on the trial of Socrates, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to name a few. Stephen King’s The Stand fell off the list here as well, but is anyone crying?
This mass culling of more than half the books was shocking at first, but a sense of calm came over me when I realized that I wouldn’t have to deal with so many not-great works. Let’s face it, if it’s not an artist’s brightest and best, how good can it really be? Does The Phantom Menace ring a bell? Although there are many big names and big stories laying in the dirt at my feet, I will hold my head high, confident that the books that remain are the best that each author has to give. I hope.