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Covering just over 200 great novels, you can argue til the cows come home about the editor's choices - who was left out, why this novel and not that, etc, etc, etc. List books about books are entirely subjective, but can take you in totally different directions in reading.
This book is split into 12 genres and has a world-wide breadth to it, and pleasingly for each book in translation (of which there are many), a suggested translator is given. For each novel a suggestion for further reading is given, plus the best film/TV adaptations where appropriate.
Some of the choices are not the obvious ones - for instance we don't have a Maigret book for George Simenon, but 'Dirty snow' about a teenage killer, although Maigret does merit his own sidebar.
Some of the genres used are the normal ones, but often with a twist - so we have 'Crime and punishment'; also 'Rites of passage', and 'Making it'; my favourite was 'A sense of place'.
The test I have of these catalogues is how many books I buy from it - I've already ordered half a dozen.
A great book to dip into and feed your bibliomania!
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on 25 October 2008
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential for Every Bookshelf, August 23, 2008

Creating a guide to Classic Novels would seem to be an impossible task, yet Simon Mason has produced a superb book that reaches far and wide - and yet it wears its considerable learning lightly. It's a breathtaking book, truly, yet it never makes you feel overwhelmed. This has in great measure to do with the descriptive sections on the books, which are so engagingly written that they made me want to go out immediately and purchase the books, since it was clear I'd missed a lot of good stuff in my reading life.

The book is cleverly divided into themes, such as Love, Family, War and so on, and includes novels by non-English language writers. Next to each entry is a 'where to go next' and 'screen adaptations' section, both of which are hugely useful, and thoroughly intelligent.

I suspect that many people don't ever get to read the classics because they have no idea what they are. They get turned off by reading Dickens when they're eight and they assume that there are no other classics. This book can change that, and inspire any reader, young or old. I promise you you will find yourself introduced to many authors whose works you may not have thought about, or even known about, and there's not a dud in the bunch. I'm sure some people will miss a favorite author here or there, but remember, this is a guide - it will show you what you really need to know in broad terms and it does not aim to include everything. That's part of its charm. It'll show you the really good stuff and allow you to by-pass those novels by famous authors that, well, are not their finest work.

It's a delicious book; small, compact, fits easily in a pocket, and its full of excellent things. I'm getting some more copies as gifts for a bunch of people. Hey, they'll actually thank me for this gift!

Dr. Allan G. Hunter
author of 'Stories We Need To Know' and 'The Six Archetypes of Love'
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on 15 May 2008
A surprisingly enjoyable read in its own right. It feels like browsing through a gorgeous catalogue of enticing book goodies. The selection is unusual in places, but means it takes the hard work out of searching for worthwhile reads off the beaten track.
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on 30 April 2015
Wonderfully well framed and concise, with great off the beaten track suggestions that have proved well worth trying.
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on 3 August 2012
Very dissapointing. The novels selected are the indiosyncratic choice of the author and omit all number of classic novels. What more can I say?
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