Books can be anything you want them to be. If you want they can be your relief from the world around you; they can be an outlet to the outside world for you; they can make you see things that you never imagined existed; they can take you to a different time period; they can make you experience a completely different world. It is said that if a person decides not to read books then he is depriving himself of the pleasure to experience a plethora of wonderful things, feelings, and emotions. Therefore, here is a list of 31 book to must-read in your lifetime:-
1. 1984 BY GEORGE ORWELL
George Orwell’s 1984 is a dystopian novel that was published in 1949. Interestingly, this novel has no connection whatsoever with the year 1984. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith who is a low ranking member of ‘the Party’. He is frustrated by the omnipresence of the Party and Big Brother. Big Brother sees everything, controls everything and those who do not obey him are sent to the dreaded Room 101 where they are punished. Orwell’s novel explores the themes of mass media control, government surveillance, totalitarianism, and the unescapable manipulation of a dictator. The novel is a warning to the human race highlighting the importance of resisting mass control and oppression. Though published back in 1949, the novel is highly relevant in the current scenario and will always be relevant.
2. JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte chronicles the life of the protagonist, Jane Eyre from her childhood to her adulthood. It deals with the fundamental conflicts that every young woman faces between love and independence, conscience and passion, and the most important struggle of a young girl and woman to maintain her self-esteem. This is an engaging novel of a young woman rising above difficult circumstances to find her place in the world. Jane’s independence, fortitude, and intelligence make her one of the most-powerful feminine characters in the history of literature. As a cherry on the cake, the romance between Jane and Rochester is a romance for the ages. This is a book to read must for young women.
3. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD BY HARPER LEE
To kill a mockingbird is the story of widower Atticus Finch and his two children Jen and Scout. The major theme of morals is present throughout the novel especially in the context of religion and perception of sin. The book focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong. The book written in 1960s America features the gradual overcoming of social inequality between the blacks and the whites. The setting of the book is of the 1930s when America was suffering from the Great Depression. As of today, Atticus Finch’s message should be heard in the midst of all global conflicts that we hear about. The book points out the myriad forms of inequality set in so deep in our society that it starts feeling natural but we as humans need to question these inequalities and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird makes us do exactly that.
4. LOLITA BY VLADIMIR NABOKOV
Lolita is the story of a middle-aged literature professor who is obsessed with pre-pubescent girls and his destructive relationship with 12-year-old-year-old Dolores Haze. The book leaves open-ended questions for the readers like was the protagonist really in love with Dolores or was he just trying to cover up his perverted behavior and awful actions by his beautiful language? Humbert’s unreliable narration further adds to the reader’s list of questions. The novel discusses the rampant practice of child abuse with witty dialogues which makes the readers feel sorry for Humbert towards the end. The author coaxes his readers into normalizing the gruesome practice of child abuse. This is a book to read must book as child abuse is like a canker eating into the very roots of humanity.
5. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE BY J.D. SALINGER
The book written in 1951 will still be relatable to many teenagers in the present generation because of the various themes present in the book. The main character, 17-year-old Holden Caulfield, the rebellious protagonist, with him retelling the readers all the events over a three -day period from last December. The story is mostly written in one long flashback scene with little references to the present. The novel is strictly recommended to people above the age of 14 because of the heavy and frequent usage of profanity in the story along with its themes centered around the idea of morality. J.D. Salinger’s novel is a wake-up call to all the teenagers to be true to themselves and to be hopeful. Many teenagers will relate to it because of its themes of rebellion, identity, and independence.
6. WUTHERING HEIGHTS BY EMILY BRONTE
Everything in Emily Bronte’s story of passionate and obsessive love is pushed beyond the edges of jealousy, hatred, and revenge. Bronte explores the themes of jealousy in Heathcliff and Catherine’s life. Her narrative is a fragment and discordant. Emily passionately explores a fatal yet regenerative affair. Wuthering heights is the most famous Gothic novel.
7. THE GREAT GATSBY BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
The novel set in the roaring 20s in America, narrated by Nick Carraway, who is just out of fighting a war and looking to sell some bonds. He moves into a place across the Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is this super-rich person who throws extravagant parties but is never seen himself in those parties. No one knows him completely for he is holding a dark secret about his past. The Great Gatsby is more than a love story, it is a reflection on the hollowness of a life of leisure. Fitzgerald’s book highlights the horrors of being a careless person. The characters in the book are not ideal but flawed. The realism of this book makes it a must-read novel.
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The novel is set in the early 1800s in the fictional town of Merton. The Bennett family lives there who are comfortably well- off with five daughters except for one misfortune- they do not have a son. Their mother, Mrs. Bennett is obsessed with getting her daughters married so that they can inherit the house. Jane and her sister Eliza want to marry for love. Jane meets Charles Bingley at a ball and they both fall in love with each other. The plot is very witty and interesting and provides a great insight into the lives of women of that time. The novel is a fun read but raises serious questions about the time in which it is set where the woman needed to marry a man to claim her own property.
9. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN BY SALMAN RUSHDIE
Midnight’s Children is a biography of Saleem Sinai, a child with unusual psychic and olfactory powers. He was born on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. His destiny is linked to the destiny of India. The narrative is full of contradictions, digressions, deliberate false steps, and allegorical insinuations. The novel takes in religious divisions, linguistic battles, Indira Gandhi’s repression, the tragedies of partition, the painful birth of Bangladesh. The novel has more than 100 characters of different backgrounds who are put together by Salman Rushdie to create one of the greatest stories written in post-colonial Indian literature.
10. THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS BY ARUNDHATI ROY
The book is a tragic reality of two twins who do not believe that they belong to a world that is not willing to listen to them. Arundhati Roy was able to capture the scenic beauty of the Ayemenem and at the same time juxtapose it with the family’s inability to act in a manner suitable to their surroundings. The book discusses the themes of pedophilia, untouchability, communism, the effect of being abroad-return, casteism, and a lot of other things. It is a book to read must if you want to know the reality of Southern India.
11. THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL BY ANNE FRANK
The Diary Of A Young Girl is an actual diary of a Jewish girl, Anne Frank, who begins making entries from the day of her thirteenth birthday when she gets a diary. It narrates the story of her family who live in Frankfurt, Germany, and suddenly have to go in hiding because of Hitler and his Nazi Party’s treatment against the Jews before the second world war. The book has many important messages but the most important is that everyone has a right to live and no one can or should try to snatch away that liberty. If a person belongs to a different race or caste does not mean that the person should be treated differently. Anne Frank’s diary is a memoir of the brutal persecution of Jews by the Nazis on account of their belief of racial superiority. It discusses how the ideology of a single person can aim towards the desired extermination of an entire race.
12. THE BOOK THIEF BY MARKUS ZUSAK
The Book Thief tells the story of a little girl Liesel who is taken to a new home because her mother can’t afford to take care of her. The story is narrated by Death. The narration of the story puts the story into an odd perspective. The setting of the novel is in Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War 2. On the journey to her new home, Liesel’s brother dies and she steals her first book. Haunted by the memories of her younger brother, she tries to adjust her life with new parents. It is a book written during the war from the point of view of the German people. While reading this book one realizes that so many people in Germany became the victims of war and that they were not as evil as portrayed by the world. The book will leave you with a sense of guilt for the German people.
13. THE COLOR PURPLE BY ALICE WALKER
The Color Purple depicts the lives of African-American women in the early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Sisters Celie and Nettie, who were separated as girls, sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through letters that span twenty years, Celie first addresses God, then her sister. The novel breaks the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience, and bravery.
14. GREAT EXPECTATIONS BY CHARLES DICKENS
The story is of an orphan, Pip, who from the beginning of the novel is not an ideal protagonist as he is neither emotionally or mentally strong not does he have any heroic powers. It is a tale written in the first-person narrative about his great expectations. As a young boy, Pip lives with his sister and her husband of whom he is fond of. One day his presence is demanded by a strange lady who lives in a grand house with her niece. The novel, to a great extent, is a reflection of Charles Dickens’ own life. Social class is the main theme of Charles Dickens’ classic novel.
15. THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD
The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic. It narrates the story of Offred- her patronymic name given to her by the new oppressive parallel regime of America in the future- and her life as a handmaid. The Handmaids are compelled to provide children by proxy for infertile women of a higher social status, the wives of Commanders. They undergo several medical tests and in some ways become invisible, the sum total of their biological parts. Offred remembers her life before the Gilead where she had a husband and a daughter. She has seen the dissolution of old America into a totalitarian democracy. The novel is fiercely political and bleak, witty, and wise. Atwood has always maintained that the novel is not to be classified as science fiction. This novel seems very vital in the present day where women in many parts of the world lead similar lives dictated by biological determinism and misogyny.
16. BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON
As the novel opens, Sethe, who is thirty-years-old is living with her eighteen-year-old daughter Denver, in a house that the neighbors avoid because it is haunted. The setting is of the 1870s, right after the dislocations of the civil war and its aftermath. Sethe and Denver live with an uneasy truce with the ghost until Paul D walks into their lives and exorcises the ghost but then a strange female turns up who calls herself “Beloved” and is strangely unmarked with no lines on her palms and feet. The novel is great because it is full of sensations and meanings. The characters are complex. Morrison makes the readers shocked at the sufferings of the black characters and the brutality of the whites.
17. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE BY ANTHONY DOERR
Marie- Laure is a little blind French girl, motherless, with the freckles of Pollyanna and Green Gables. Her loving father, a talented locksmith, goes to extraordinary lengths to help her compensate for the loss of her eyesight. Her father oversees all the locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. After his daughter goes blind at the age of 6 because of cataracts, he develops tiny intricate models of the places she must go to, so that she learns to navigate by touch followed by memory. The book opens in 1944 just 2 months after D-Day. The motif of self-protection in life, specifically during war runs throughout the novel.
18. FRANKENSTEIN BY MARY SHELLY
Frankenstein is an old classic novel about a scientist who creates a monster and sets into action various awful events. Victor Frankenstein is a hard-working young man at university who discovers the art of giving life to an inanimate body and used his knowledge to create a man-monster. Along with being a horror story, this book is a sad one. The writing of the novel is complex and vivid and it expresses in detail the anguish of both the monster and the creator. It is hard to believe that this novel came from the imagination of an eighteen-year-old girl writing in 1818.
19. Tess of d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
It is an epic tale telling the tragic life of Tess Durbeyfield and her disasters in love, her tear-wrenching experiences with death and her painstaking efforts to grow into a ‘proper’ woman. Tess Durbeyfield is the main character of the book and the readers will see her grow over several years. The book is written in traditional English with the author using complex sentence structures and unusual English language. It discusses all the problems which a young girl faces.
20. ANNA KARENINA BY LEO TOLSTOY
Anna Karenina is a classic novel about life. It provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenina and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfill her passionate nature with tragic consequences. Tolstoy has a surprisingly strong grip on the female psyche which has helped him in the creation of holistic female characters in his book.
21. CATCH-22 BY JOSEPH HELLER
The novel is set on a made-up island off the coast of Italy during the second world war where an American bombing group is stationed. Colonel Cathcart keeps on increasing the number of missions his men have to fly in order to impress his superiors. The hero, Yossarian, has flown 50. He wants out now but he cannot because of the clause Catch-22 which states that pilots do not have to fly if they are certified as insane. Heller delineates the foolishness of war and bureaucracies, he creates a whole universe of folly. The comedy in the novel has all along been an expression of horror.
22. THE TRIAL BY FRANZ KAFKA
The novel is a deeply disturbing account of a man who is placed at the mercy of law courts. Although K. maintains that he has committed no crime, at no point in the novel does the author suggest to the readers whether K. has committed any crime or not or the nature of his crime. Therefore the readers cannot judge whether K. will be acquitted or convicted. Kafka presents a bleak world where a bank employee is suddenly persecuted for no reason at all and does not even have the liberty to have an effective lawyer who can represent him. The novel is deeply thought-provoking in its uncomfortable representation of the world.
23. THE HARRY POTTER SERIES BY J.K. ROWLING
Who does not know about the fascinating world of Harry Potter? All the books in the set are a must-read for all age groups. His adventures, the revelation of his birth, and the world of magic make it a great read.
24. THE LORD OF THE RINGS BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN
Just like the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings does not need any introduction. Before you watch the movie, read the book. J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent English language will keep you hooked for a very long time.
25. LITTLE WOMEN BY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
Four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, are a part of a poor but loving family. With heir father off to war, they only have their mother to encourage them to be their best version of themselves. As they go through love and loss, they truly become little women. Alcott’s writing is elegant yet poignant and haunting at moments. The sister’s personalities are intricately described throughout the book. The book describes as to what was a normal family in the 1800s and the feelings of each sister in extreme detail.
26. GONE WITH THE WIND BY MARGARET MITCHELL
It is a story about starvation, slavery, rape, civil war, murder, and heartbreak. Scarlet O’Hara is one of the most optimistic characters in English literature. Mitchell analyses the nature of human resilience and holds up usefulness as a critical tool for getting through various times. This is a hopeful book with a hopeful female protagonist which is why it is a must-read book because of the bleakness of the future for most of the young people.
27. THE KITE RUNNER BY KHALED HOSSEINI
The Kite Runner is the story of Amir and Hassan, the closest of friends, as good as brothers and both of them great at flying kites. The two of them live in Kabul, Afghanistan, and have decided to put in their best efforts to win the kite flying tournament that year as this is Amir’s only hope of winning his father’s love. But then, war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes an extremely dangerous place. The story is fast-paced and introduces the readers to live in Afghanistan which is strange, fascinating, and oddly familiar at the same time. The novel has a sense of fate and justice, good overcoming evil.
28. A TALE OF TWO CITIES BY CHARLES DICKENS
After serving as a political prisoner for eighteen years, Doctor Manette is released and reunites with his daughter, Lucie. She has captivated the affections of two suitors, each from London and Paris. The novel is about three lovers twisted in a self- sacrifice plot twist. The book intermingles the personal and political and shows the causes and effects of violence. In his novel, Dickens focuses on two sets of relationships: a father-daughter relationship and the relationship between state and subject.
29. THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS BY JOHN BOYNE
This book is about a nine-year-old boy named Bruno, who has to leave his five-story house in Berlin to move to an isolated house out of the country. He is extremely annoyed as he will be leaving all his friends behind and he will have no one to play within the new country. However, he meets a boy named Schmuel, a Jew who lives on the other side of the ‘fence’ with many people, and where they are treated badly and are not given much food. They quickly become friends and Bruno sometimes smuggles food for Schmuel. This book is a must-read for everyone as it is set against the backdrop of the creation of the Berlin wall.
30. GONE GIRL BY GILLIAN FLYNN
The novel opens as Nick finds that Amy has gone missing on the day of their fifth anniversary. Their front door is open, the coffee table shattered, books scattered, and Amy, a trust fund New Yorker who has been miserable since Nick dragged her to his Missouri home town to take care of his dying mother, is gone. The narrative moves back and forth from Nick to Amy as the hunt for Amy is continued. Flynn has managed to confirm a re-read for her novel by the readers because of her expert writing skills and the weaving of a perfect thriller. The novel’s conclusion makes the reader come back for more as the author leaves it on an open-ended note.