Friday, February 19, 2010

The One Book List

Back in the early days of the World Wide Web, there was a thing called "The One Book List". It was started in 1994 by Paul Phillips when he posted to the rec.arts.books newsgroup:
I would like for each of you to decide on a single book that you would most like for the world to read for inclusion in the list. The book that, for you, was the most influential, or thought-provoking, or enjoyable, or moving, or philosophically powerful, or deep in some sense you cannot properly define, or any other criteria you wish to set.
Hundreds of people responded to his request, and he eventually accumulated a set of stellar recommendations from people all over the proto-Web, including Douglas Adams, who recommended The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, and Douglas Hofstadter, who recommended The Catcher in the Rye.

I often used to browse through the One Book List Replay when looking for a great book. It was from this list that I found Replay by Ken Grimwood. It takes a novel concept involving replaying events, explores all the permutations, and ultimately comments on the role of human decisions in life. Replay is a thought-provoking and entertaining book that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

When I looked for the list again recently, I found that it had essentially disappeared from the Internet. The only place you can find it now is through the Wayback Machine which has a copy of the original front page of the One Book List site (last updated in 1998) and the the list itself. If you are looking for a great reading experience, the One Book List is still a great place to start your search.

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