The more essential list I see, the less I more I question their bias. I understand that making an essential list of books, no matter the size. The smaller ones I think, since you have to narrow it down from possibly several hundred or several thousand, depending on the subject. Some of list are clearly meant to be strict, limiting it to a genre of writing or a publisher. That at least makes sense to an extant. Of course others are much less strict with their content.
Take for example the list made by telegraph.co.uk . While it does note well known works by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle,H.G. Wells, and many others. Some of the works and writers they mention, I have never heard of. Of course other lists, like the one made by librarything.com for example have some books in common.Both have The adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark twain on their list, as well as Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. There are a few more books that are on both lists, but several that are placed on only one of the lists. They may share several authors in common, but what book(s) they choose with the author vary.
Even when they narrow the genre, or medium they still share this problem. Since I have a major love of graphic novels, and comic books I will use that as a genre, ignoring the publisher and category completely. For this I stuck to list of 50, since it makes things even so to speak. I will be using two lists for this, since the other ones I have found refer to them.The lists I’m using are from abebooks.com , forbiddenplanet.com .The contrasting thing between these two lists is one focuses on graphic novels as a whole, while the one from forbidden planet focuses on superheros for the most part. Between the two of them they have about a dozen or so novels in common including Watchman by Alan Moore, Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman, and a handful of others. Outside of the ones they have in common, they are different lists despite sharing a similar focus.
It amazes and slightly frustrates me that people value essential lists, no matter how reputable the creator of the list may be. I guess in the end it all boils down to personal taste. Yet the question remains, why are essential lists used as resources? Have you ever used an essential lists to get into genre or do you go by personal taste? What are your thoughts on essential lists? Are they useful or useless?