by Eva von Contzen
Alex Johnson’s A Book of Book Lists is a treasure hoard of reading lists, lists of books to read and lists having to do with reading. It contains to-read lists, inventories of bookshelves, collections of library slips, and book recommendations by writers, pop stars, presidents, and terrorists; there are prospective, fictional, metaphorical, and impossible reading lists. We learn from a list of possible titles F. Scott Fitzgerald drew up that we might have known the story of the ‘Great Gatsby’ as Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, or The High-Bouncing Love. There are many surprising finds: Marilyn Monroe’s private library contained an edition of Elizabethan plays. Queen Mary owned a doll house that had a library, which featured works only written for this specific usage, such as Poems: Abridged for Dolls and Princes, by Robert Grave. Art Garfunkel keeps a list of every book he has read since 1986 (https://www.artgarfunkel.com/library.html). The most recent one (entry 1299, from 2019) is Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Oscar Wilde’s Reading Goal bookcase included The Prioress’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (why exactly this one, I wonder, of all the Canterbury Tales?), Goethe’s Faust, and a paperback on Egyptian Decorative Art by W.M. Flinders Petrie.
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