I picked this book up in the library and was immediately drawn to it, because I love to read or hear about other people’s views on books.
I am SO glad I did (pick it up that is). Not only is it highly informative, it is witty, erudite and extremely entertaining.
Andy Miller is like the Duracell bunny stoked up on caffeine. The facts are numerous and at times baffling, but the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The book is part memoir, part literary discussion, and is also filled with witty anecdotes, and passionate views on the books he discusses.
In the three years following the birth of his son Alex, Andy Miller had managed to read one book – The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown. For someone who read a huge amount before that, he decides to do something about it, so he makes a list of books he wishes to read, which he calls ‘The List of Betterment.’
Miller tells us in hilarious description not just about the latest tome he is tackling, but the effect of it on his life. He initially begins with a list of thirteen books.
Of the first thirteen books, I had only come across five, which surprised and intrigued me. I knew of the following five:
Moby-Dick Herman Melville
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Of Human Bondage – Somerset Maugham
Middlemarch – George Elliot.
Of these I have only read two – Austen and Maugham.
The other eight books are :
The Master and Margarita – Mickhail Bulgakov
Post Office – Charles Bukowski
The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell
The Sea, The Sea – Irish Murdoch
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
The Unnamable – Samuel Beckett
Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky – Patrick Hamilton.
I would point out at this stage that Andy Miller is both an editor and had also written two books before this one, so he has form. However, his knowledge of culture, music and literature, make this book worth reading for that alone. After he finished the initial list of thirteen books, he expanded the list to fifty. He doesn’t discuss all fifty books in detail, he selects a few from the list that have had an impact on him, either positively or negatively.
He also discusses what makes a good book (highly subjective) and why we feel the need to lie about classic books that we have never read (pretending to be intelligent?!)
I couldn’t put this book down, I screamed with laughter, I felt stupid at my lack of reading, (what the hell have I been doing all these years? – watching too much of The Gilmore Girls and The West Wing I fear.) I googled lots of authors and learnt more about books I liked the sound of, and I also decided not to waste a minute of my life reading Moby-Dick, which sounds like a book I could definitely live without having read.
All in all, if you love reading, I highly recommend this book. There are references you may not understand or have heard in your wildest dreams (a couple of chapters were completely foreign to me) but hey, this is where google comes into its own. It was an education, and might come in handy at parties if I feel like being pretentious!
The book has also inspired me to start my own ‘List of Betterment.’ Andy Miller read 50 books and I have neither the time nor the inclination to set myself such a daunting task. Instead, in 2017 I am going to set myself a list called ‘My Book Gym.’ It will be a list of 10 books I have always meant to read, but have never got around to. These are considered ‘classics’ or at least books that should advance the human spirit in some way. I plan to read and blog about said books. I will be sharing the list and writing more about this in my next blog post, so you can comment/and or read along. I plan to read one book per month and give myself two months off (in case of burn out/frustration and/or to read the odd book for pure pleasure.)
If you want to find out more about Andy Miller and this book, his website is
Would love to hear your comments. How many of the thirteen have you read? Any you loved? Hated? Any that changed your life? Do share!