16 September

The World's Best Books: A Key to the Treasures of Literature [1889] by Frank Parsons is not, at least in the short term, included in this project. It's an intriguing work, featuring elaborate tables, as well as lists, of recommended readings. His Preface and Introdcutory Remarks do not note Lubbock's list and its responses, so we can only assume that it was written and published with those lists in mind. The first table lists works in the following categories: Religion & Morals; Poetry & the Drama; Science; Biography; History; Philosophy; Essays; Fiction; Oratory; Wit & Humor; Fables & Fairy Tales; Travel Guides; and Miscellaneous. Those categories are ranked in order of importance, according to Parsons. The second table is in fact not a table, it's just a list: "a short special course, to gather ideas of practical importance to every life, and to make a beginning in the gaining of that breadth of mind which is of such vital value by reason of its influence on morals and the aid it gives in the attainment of truth" [original italics]. Similar to the "minimum reading course" in Jesse Lee Bennett's What Books Can Do for You [see 1 September post], this list is not one of the great, or best, books, but rather a vague set of basic texts for (American) readers, consisting mostly of works from table I.

More confusing still, while the third table is indeed a table, Parsons's claim that it is "a short course of the choicest literature from the whole field of general literature" is contradicted by the content of the table. Instead, it is split into Poetry, Short Poetical Selections, Short Prose Selections, and Wit and Humor.

Table IV is, again, a supplemental list, to the second and third (though it doesn't overlap entirely with the first table, so it could be considered supplemental to all three).

Finally, there's the fifth table, "showing the distribution of the best literature in time and space, with a parallel reference to some of the world's great events." The works included here do not always correspond to those in table I or III.

While the list of table V, and perhaps those of I and III, meets the requirements of this project, it consists mostly of authors' names. So does table I. Table III, on the other hand, goes to the other extreme, focusing on individual poems, or speeches, and excerpts of works, or even particular sections. Whether just transcribing table V, or combining all three (or five, to the extent tables II and IV don't overlap with the others), this list would take up an excessive amount of time, and offer a surfeit of authors' names.