I often feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of great books to read. Part of the reason that I wanted to be an English Major in the first place is that I wanted someone to tell me which to read, because I couldn’t make up my mind. And for the longest time, I felt that this was somehow shameful. We are taught to not judge books by their covers, and as I alluded to in The Academic vs. the Purely Edifying, I at least feel that we often judge books differently by what we have already heard about them from others. But I don’t think that is all bad. You read stuff like this, saying that you really can’t get even close to even a small fraction of all the books in the world, and it puts things in perspective.
You have to decide what you want to read somehow. The cover, what your friends tell you, or, in the case of English Majors, what generations of people who have built piles of critical opinions establishing a canon of worthwhile texts tell you. I think it’s fair to say that the second two ways of deciding are probably better than the first.