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To “kick the bucket” is still used as an English-language slang term meaning “to die”. Its origins can be traced back to medieval times when large animals were slaughtered suspended over buckets to catch their blood. Often, in its death throes, the beast would kick over the bucket with a dangling, convulsing leg.


Conversely, Catholic etymologists argue that the bucket kicked was the one full of holy water that was placed at the feet of a corpse when it was washed. Final muscle spasms in the legs sometimes overturned the pail.


Historians of 18th century literature say that this term was first recorded in 1785 in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. It was the bucket kicked aside by a person bent on suicide at the end of a rope.


Early this century someone coined the term “bucket list” as in a list of things an individual wants to do before they shuffle off this mortal coil, pass away, peg out, are promoted to glory, push up daisies — to pick out a few of the euphemisms that soften the sound of the inevitable death rattle.


The 1001 Series


In 2006 Quintessence publishers decided to make bucketloads of cash and began publishing the 1001 Before You Die series that began with 1001 Movies to See Before You Die which sold 1.5 million copies before it was updated in 2015.


The original concept was to title the series 1001 Things To Do Before You Kick the Bucket. The series now has 29-plus titles that cover most areas of popular culture.


Any idea that succeeds has its imitators, but none in the kick-the-bucket vein have surpassed the Quintessence-ial originals, mainly because the original reference books are edited by respected experts in their subject areas and are each contributed to by up to 100 researchers. Introductions to editions are supplied by well-known personalities.


As a bibliophile and bookshopophile my favourite in the series is 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, also published in 2006. One book lover I know, who is more obsessive and more anally retentive than I am, will not read a novel that isn’t included — even though I keep on pointing out recently published, potential, future inclusions.


My second favourite — and the perfect reference for parents and teachers who know the importance of kids becoming immersed in stories — is 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, which will also suit a proportion of adults who refuse to do so.




Extending the Series


I’m a person who loves to take walking holidays and who is optimistic that the view around the next bend or from the top of the next hill will be brilliant. Hence I often salivate through 1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die.


I often sip my way through 1001 Beers You Must Taste etc. and I was initially pleased to see that my favourite black brew, Cooper’s Best Extra Stout, is included. Effective categorization and regional details — also in its sibling volumes, 1001 Wines You Must Taste etc. and 1001 Whiskies You Must Try etc., will please connoisseurs.


Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed non-reader, is catered for with 1001 Golf Holes You Must Play and game-addicted kids and stay indoor fiends will avidly peruse 1001 Video Games You Must Play.


There are books in the series for bicycle aficionados, guitar collectors, garden lovers, and gastronomes; world travellers; lovers of architecture, art, inventions and philosophy; serious fans of TV series; boppers to pop music and others who adore classical more. Comic book and manga fans are catered for, as are those who wet their pants whenever a luxury or unusual car crosses their paths. And if you’re one of those who dreams of resort holidays, take a dip into Escapes You Should Experience.


In fact, even those annoyingly difficult people you know who seem to have too much of everything may be catered for this Christmas with a thick tome from the 1001 list.


The inspiration for the series was surely the fictional beauty, Scheherazade, the heroine in the harem, and her One Thousand and One Arabian Nights which featured Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad.


Our fall-back dinner party topic when things grow tedious is to guess the titles of future 1001 editions. Our favourite thus far is a Kama Sutra-inspired 1001 Sexual Positions You Must Try Before You Die or Die Trying. Second place is 1001 Ocean and River Cruises You Must Take Before You Die and the 1001 gastro bugs you might think you’re going to die from while onboard.


Truong Hoang is behind the bookshop, Bookworm. For more info click on or visit their shop at 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi