Recently, a friend shared a link on Facebook, entitled 200 Books Everyone Should Read. I'm not writing this to specifically knock that list. I've seen lots of lists of X-number of Books Everyone Should Read. Sometimes it's Science Fiction books; sometimes it's Classics. Sometimes it's a list of female authors or authors of color. Those interest me slightly more, because if nothing else, we should all make a point of being aware of female authors and authors of color, because neither demographic gets a lot of press.
But back to the 200 Books Everyone should read.
Who says? Why should anyone who isn't interested the topic, the characters, or the time period slog through 400,000 words just because someone, somewhere decided that "everyone" should read Gone With the Wind? Why should anyone who isn't interested in child-wizards read Harry Potter? How did those two books end up on the same must-read list, anyway? What do these books have in common with each other and the other 198 books on the list? (Because this list in particular casts a pretty wide "must-read" net).
My time is precious. So is yours. Read the books that speak to your soul, that take you somewhere magical. Broaden your horizons, yes--pick up something you might not have picked up otherwise because it's a freebie on Amazon (a classic whose copyright has expired) or go to a different section of the library.
Heck, just go to the library. Poke around. See what's out there that you might have missed by staying in your comfort zone.
Read a book you wouldn't normally pick up because you want to study the writer's style, learn something from the way they present their craft, or learn something new.
But don't rush out and buy War and Peace because someone said you should or because it's some kind of competition.
I read eight of the books on that list; most were assignments for school. Of the eight books I read, I only have fond memories of two.
There have been other books that profoundly affected my life and my worldview that aren't on that list, or other lists like it. (I was genuinely surprised not to find Anne McCaffery on the list of "must-reed" female science fiction authors.) Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishiop. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip. These are stories that more than entertained, but affected me. They aren't the only ones, but they're the ones that spring easily to mind. They're books I remember, books I cherish. Books I periodically revisit.
I'm never going to voluntarily pick up Dickens ever again.
What about you? What are your personal "must-reads" -- the books you loved and have shared with your friends, because "everyone has to read this!" ?