100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die
If you want to fill your shelves with classic titles and tomes that will open your mind to many worlds of fancy, facts, and fiction, these 100 books are the place to start.
1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell certainly couldn’t have known how prophetic his words might have been when he wrote the dystopian novel 1984 in the mid-twentieth century. Great Britain has fallen and given way to Airstrip One, a province of the fictional superstate Oceania. Airstrip One is ruled by a perpetual war and Big Brother, a mysterious leader who uses omnipresent government surveillance and a cult of personality to enforce law and order. Winston Smith, the book’s leading character, must navigate the Party, Big Brother, and his own thoughts, which grow more criminal by the day.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Most science books, even well-written ones, read a bit too much like a textbook, but renowned English physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking manages to turn some of the world’s most profound questions—How did the universe begin? What happens in the end?—into captivating reading in A Brief History of Time. A modern physics guide for general readers, this book manages to make the most mysterious universe elements, black holes and quarks, regal, ethereal, and entirely accessible.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
First released in 2001, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius quickly became a national bestseller and heart-warming classic. Eggers’ book tells the story of a high school senior, on the verge of blossoming toward the rest of his life, when he loses both of his parents in a span of five weeks and soon finds himself the guardian of his eight-year-old brother. Despite that ominous start, the book manages to be wildly funny with an irreverently honest take on learning to live with death.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
It’s a story so painful you’d prefer to think it is fiction. However, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is an entirely true recounting of his years as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, West Africa. With this book, you get a first-hand look at what life is like for the world’s 300,000 child soldiers, many of whom are stolen from their homes and forced into a world of drugs, guns, and murder. It’s heartbreaking in its revelations, but it manages to also be uplifting in Beah’s hope for the future.
The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! by Lemony Snicket
As the first book in the children’s novel collection, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! is an absolutely enthralling read for bookworms of all ages. This book starts the wild tales of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, who are orphaned and sent to live with a conniving and murderous relative, Count Olaf. As he plots ways to swindle their inheritance, the trio unearths mysteries of their own with regard to their parents’ deaths. It’s witty, sarcastic, and often quite absurd, but it’s worthy of every minute you’ll spend reading.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
While this book is getting a fresh look because of the film starring Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and others, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has long been held as a must-read for its fantastical telling of splitting the fabric of time and space. A Newbery Medal winner, this science-fantasy novel follows troublesome and stubborn Meg Murry as she confronts her father’s mysterious disappearance with a collection of her equally peculiar neighbors, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Elements of love, trust, and overcoming fear are interwoven with this enchanting coming-of-age story. Don’t miss these 10 books everyone lies about reading.
Selected Stories, 1968-1994 by Alice Munro
Alice Munro, one of the most prolific writers of the modern era, captures life’s most honest feelings and moments in this magnificent collection of 28 short stories, Selected Stories, 1968-1994. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, these stories will never cease to surprise you for their eloquent storylines, captivating characters, and endlessly wonderful realism. Take these stories one at a time—read, digest, and read again. Her stories are best relived a second, even third, time around.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carrol
If all you know of Lewis Carrol’s Wonderland is the zany but sanitized version in the 1951 Walt Disney animation, it’s time to flip your perspective on its head—much like the Cheshire Cat might flip himself. Scholars have tried to apply political, historical, and ideological theories to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, but it’s quite simply the dreamlike story of learning to grow (or shrink) and explore, told through the eyes of a curious child.
All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Political junkies of all stripes will relish the words of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they recount the experiences and events of Watergate in All the President’s Men. Published just months before President Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation, this book outlined all the evidence against Nixon and his cohort of political operatives the two accomplished reporters unearthed during their investigations. This book also marks the genesis of Deep Throat (later revealed to be Mark Felt the associate director of the FBI), the secretive government informant who helped take down Nixon in the end.
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, author Frank McCourt recounts his childhood spent in the slums of Limerick, Ireland: “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” McCourt battled poverty, near-starvation, neglect, and cruelty but manages to tell his story with humor, compassion, and self-perpetuating power.