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The 50 Books to Read Before You’re 50

A good book never goes out of style. Consider this mix of contemporary and classic titles a personal challenge of must-reads before you hit the half-century mark.

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The Goldfinch: A Novel

Come for Donna Tartt's ever-so-elegant prose, stay for the angst, heartache, and dysfunctional characters. It's not surprising this coming-of-age story won the author a Pulitzer Prize. In The Goldfinch, readers will meet Theo, a 13-year-old who loses his mother in a tragic accident and must navigate life never feeling quite whole.

 

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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

We'd be remiss not to include the historically significant real-life diary entries of Anne Frank, the young girl whose family hid in the secret annex of an office building in the Netherlands for two years while the Holocaust raged around them. The looming danger of being discovered coupled with Frank's candid, adolescent voice make this a must-read at any age. These are ten of the best autobiographies you really should have read by now.

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Gone with the Wind

A passionate tale of love and loss set against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone with the Wind earns every ounce of its "great American novel" status. Author Margaret Mitchell manages to make the reader as frustrated and angry with her main character Scarlett O'Hara as much as she makes them root for her in the end. Come for the romance, stay for the history lesson. It even made it on our "stuck on a desert island" book list—find out which other titles join it.

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Lord of the Flies

If you didn't pick up Lord of the Flies in high school, there's no time like the present. An exploration of human nature and the lengths one will go to survive, William Golding's iconic tale of school children stranded on an island after a plane crash continues to captivate generations. It's one of the seven classic novels we'd love to see in 3-D.

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A Man Called Ove: A Novel

You know that elderly neighbor who always appears to be in a bad mood? That's Ove and this is his story. A heartfelt tale of human connection and friendships blooming in the unlikeliest of ways, A Man Called Ove will touch your soul. It made our list of ten books to read after binge-watching Friends along with some other "friendly" titles.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Yes, this would be the same Wild upon which Reese Witherspoon's critically-acclaimed movie was based. When author Cheryl Strayed felt like she had lost everything, she threw caution to the wind and did the unthinkable—traversed 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with zero knowledge of wilderness skills. If you're feeling lost, have felt lost, or have ever wanted to leave it all behind, this is a must-read. Check out these 14 quotes from books every woman should read once.

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir

If you think your family is dysfunctional, you'll fully appreciate this memoir from Jeanette Walls. The Glass Castle, another best-seller turned feature film, follows the unpredictability of the Walls family, whose nomadic life was led by their father, Rex, who could be as colorful as he could be destructive, and their mother, Rose Mary, whose was interested in the arts, not raising a brood. Your next familial gathering will likely feel like a walk in the park compared to the rocky road endured by this crew. Have you read any of these bestselling books of the decade? 

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Jane Eyre

Considered one of the greatest romance novels of all-time, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is more than a tome about passion. The author provides us with a strong female lead who perseveres despite significant odds. Here are more unforgettable, timeless novels according to our readers.

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The Grapes of Wrath

Although this John Steinbeck novel (considered by many critics as his finest) focuses on a family's plight during the Great Depression as they migrate from Oklahoma to California, it's another example of a classic that resonates just as profoundly today. The great divide between those who don't have enough and those who appear to have too much continues to affect our country in countless ways.

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The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton did an amazing job creating a cast of characters with which the reader immediately feels a strong emotional connection. Ponyboy, Darry, Sodapop, Two-Bit, and Johnny jump off the page in ways that make one want to protect them and share in their impenetrable loyalty. Even if you read The Outsiders in high school, revisit this coming-of-age tale for a dose of nostalgia.

 

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