February 6, 2014

Amazon chooses “100 books to read in your lifetime, better hurry, why? Oh, no reason, forget I said anything”


You should probably hurry up with that reading, Dave.

You should probably hurry up with that reading, Dave.

This week everyone’s favorite cloud computing and hemorrhoid cream dispensary Amazon announced their selection of “100 books to read in your lifetime.” They sent out a press release and everything. That’s nice. I like books. And of course I always love to be reminded by enormous terrifying corporations that I could, and likely will, die tomorrow but that I shouldn’t worry about it because everything of cultural value is already here.

Lists of “books you must read” are entirely unremarkable. They’re like the background static of a literary life, Buzzfeed avant la lettre. Don’t worry about them, or any imperative pronouncements about the arts in general, really.

Lists of books to read “before you die” are the same. One just hopes they’re longer. Longer, at least, than a hundred measly books. That just seems unambitious. It seems lazy. Unless… unless the people compiling the list knew I didn’t have more than a year of reading left “in my lifetime.”

After all at least one of the balder, cacklier persons making this list—a list which, as that press release tells us, “the team passionately debated… over many months” is working to develop a computing substrate for artificial intelligence. “100 books to read before the singularity turns you into a grey slurry” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as their list’s name, perhaps, but might be more accurate.

The same company is planning to build a fleet of drones to patrol the skies with bellies full of cargo. “100 Books to read before we lobotomize you with a robot”, again, is not such a selling name for the list.

The same company is investing more heavily now in streaming other media, in building a game console, and in delivering non-perishable groceries than they are in books. “100 books to read before you forget what a book was” might have been showing their hand too soon.

In any case, it seems strange that Amazon used this platform to announce their belief, even their efforts, to end us all in the very near future.

Oh wait… now that I look at it, this list is hugely boring. These are books for people who only read a single book a year. That explains everything. It’s not that Amazon has revealed their plans to murder us. They’re simply revealing their disdain for us. Much better.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.