Literature carves human behavior, and in turn, the physio-psychic environment we live are portrayed in literature. Here we list the 20 must read books for everyone to read before they die. One cannot deny that an individual who reads good books has a greater understanding of humankind. Mechanized human life needs emotions.
But in the ocean of literature which includes all languages, it is a herculean task to trace out and pick the best classics of the world that one should read before they die. You may struggle to fidget your hand among the books to look for a proper fiction to read. And may end up every time with a popular one and miss out the important one. So, here you will get a very authentic collection which may flabbergast your mind.
Book and a cup of Coffee beside make the weekend worth remembering!!!
List of 20 Must Read Books are:
1. To Kill A Mocking Bird
It is difficult to kill a Mockingbird from the forest of Atticus Finch, the protagonist of the story. You might be thinking what has Harper Lee induced within the plot but you will know when you read it. The whole story is from the viewpoint of the two children Scot and Jem; who are growing up in a cataclysmic society prevalent with inequality. Few people in this world are like the mockingbird,
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.”
Catch hold of this riveting work of art and enjoy your weekend.
2. Heart of Darkness
With an enthralling enigmatic narration of the journey into the darkness of the Congo river, metaphorically into the hollow heart of Kurtz, Marlow yarns gloomy space in the Nellie the ship and induces the reader to think about the savageness of human heart.
Joseph Conrad in symbolically features the hegemonic eastern world and criticises how the insatiable soul can never be civilized. There will always remain to avoid even though there the human civilization envisages the great achievements.
A critic of the colonial world. Must read… Human Darkness lit.
3. Wuthering Heights
Anne Carson writes that love is a sweet bitter experience elucidating Sappho’s poems. One loves and hates at the same time. The story of Heathcliff and Cathy that of an intense love ensnared in revenge. A mysterious gypsy-like person, Heathcliff defines the love not being within the bounds of any stratification. The three Bronte sisters fascinated by the Moor will symbolically make you love this geographical feature and Emily Bronte mysteriously has featured this as a signifier in the narrative.
Now it depends on you to grab a copy and read the enthralling book and be charmed by it.
4. Old man and the sea
The great allegorical work of 20th century that won the Nobel published after a long time tells the story of an old man who is a fisherman and struggles every day to catch a fish to earn his livelihood but always fails. How he overcomes the problem of and struggle of his living is very authentically challenged in the novel. Hemingway after a long time writing a novel of such acclaim. Some experiences remain in mind and it takes a long time to give it a shape of proper worth. And it took 16 years for Hemingway to write the story of the old man fishing in a skiff. And the book was dedicated to his recently deceased friend.
Just can’t get away reading it because as William Faulkner said-
“He wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. It’s all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.”
Those who have missed out read it. It will just take a day to complete as it is a small novella.
5. Things fall apart
Chinua Achebe’s work is an important read because of the decentralization of the English language from the European hegemony. The “Things Fall Apart” borrows the title from the words of the poem by William Butler Yeats, Second Coming and is influenced by its theme of realizing the hope as the basis of all living. It the midst of all the ebullience that embraces Umofia, a village in Nigeria which celebrates its culture and tradition deeply involving itself into it suddenly things are falling apart in the life of the leader Okwonkwo, and later disrupted the whole village life due to the arrival of the missionaries from the European countries.
It is vivid in its language and incorporates the imageries and dictum of the African culture that spells Africa. Being a historical novel, it reads the atrocities on these people which they had to face in their own land questioning the legibility of the colonization. The sentiment of loss and damage is heightened and one seems to remorse the action of a human.
There is nothing seemingly inordinate in his narration which calls for a must read.
6. Mother by Maxim Gorky
“Mothers are hardly pitied” are the words from the seminal work of Gorky. This work reads the struggle of the Russian proletariat especially of the women section. It was influenced by two major real events the May Day demonstration of the workers at Sormovo in 1902 and subsequent trial of the arrested members of the revolution. The protagonist of the novel- Pelagia Nilovna, is the mother of Pavel Mikhailovich, an anti-tsarists activist is the pivot of the plot. Pelagia, although being illiterate and unaware of the political thoughts, seeing the good cause of his son, starts involving herself in the revolution in various ways.
You will get an idea after reading the novel, that although the son is a center of all the revolutionary activities his mother becomes an important connection with the working class.
The poignant description of the current condition of the novel makes it a narrative of dissent against any such atrocities.
7. Lolita by Nabokov
A kind of inverted detective novel (horrifying) dealing with the life of an American girl Dolores “Lolita” Haze and middle-aged European figure, Humbert Humbert. A post-war lyrical narrative of Odyssey like a revered man who is apparently a pedophile allegorically representing the European relationship with America. Nabokov so fearlessly gives such an intense complex empathy to the readers through his style that still haunts us. With the use of linguistic pyrotechnics, the enigmatic narrator incites a spell bounded rapture. Although with an illicit love affair the novel presents a different love story one has ever read.
The name itself has many connotations. The real name of the girl is not Lolita but Dolores which in Latin means dolor– inner name relates to sorrow and anguish and with innocence. Lolita is lightheaded seductive and airy name. The crisis was this that the girl had both the nature of her. And here Nabokov played the trick. Humbert stole the childhood of Lolita.The sanctity of personal freedom is symbolized when Humbert realizes that he has overruled her power to create her own life and her own future.
A significant line in the work- “The worst thing about dying is how alone you are.”
The finest novel published in English by a non-native speaker, after Conrad is this. Nabokov was of the view that “all beauty is anguish because all beauty must die but we make it eternal– through writing about it and imagining it”. And Lolita has turned eternal.
An article in The New York Times said in a report that this novel became the “shot No.1” in the Amazon bestseller list. The dystopia described in the 70-year-old novel suddenly becomes too familiar nowadays. History repeats itself just as the fashion and taste of reading. It illustrates the plot that it is the governments’ role to control and dominate the life of a citizen even in a democratic state.Absolute horror in the society with coerced conformity to the authority of the government, the novel presents the truth and reality which is harrowing.
Orwell presciently argued that “there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark.”
It is a deep inquiry about the state we live. One has to have the taste of the book which has one of the major themes of the shrinking of a language ( English in this context) limiting the independent thoughts. His basic aim was to delineate his thoughts about power, an important element to live in this world.
9. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Although a gargantuan work suffused with an existential angst, the novel has its fragile touch in the description of its emotional eloquence.
A mirror of our turbulent present times revisiting the past, laying Russia and its politics open to you. It is chocked full of moments about the war and battlefield but it shows that the world is full of mystery which one has to decrypt. The readership of this book has never fallen down. It has a perennial existence.
A good vacation read, which has been favorite of Nelson Mandela, the plot will surprise you.
10. Divine Comedy
A long narrative epic by Dante wrote during his exile the book has not lost its relevance, it is still fascinating and gripping journey through Paradiso Purgatorio inferno. It deals with the human behavior not just relevant during the 14th century. With its diversified range of emotions, the work presents before us the history, theology, and philosophies of living.
The great English writer T.S. Eliot had said: “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them – there is no third.”
Every time you will acknowledge the worth of the work you read. Its aesthetic beauty is still unmatched.
A surrogate father finds a surrogate son. If you love to challenge yourself then you should pick this work right now. As the name suggests the novel is an analogy of Homer’s Odyssey, which resonates with an epic ambition within it. Despite the similarity of the name, the three characters are just the opposite as that of Homer’s Odyssey, Telemachus, and Penelope.Making an ironic commentary on Odyssey. Banned when published for its obscenity the work, risks the linearity of time and configures the human experience in accordance with it.
By the use of stream of consciousness through the characters; it delineates the way we conceive the world which induces free yet chaotic ideas in the mind. Joyce has given a great work in the 20th century. The novel had a historical context showing the struggle of Ireland’s ambivalence towards modernism. The Dublin life has been captured just by the three main characters.
It has a humanistic urge with a variety of food for thought.
Did you know that Joyce tried to subvert the language, English by suffusing it with Irish touch?
12. Tess of D’urbervilles
The epic tale telling of the life of a woman, Tess Durbeyfield and her disasters in love, her efforts to overcome death and to grow into a woman, Hardy is able to develop a complex character that will always remain in your mind. The language although being in unusual traditional English makes it hard to understand at first go. But if read patiently this difference will add to the enjoyment of the work. It reveals the myth of pure woman and the sexual hypocrisy of his time.
The work celebrates the vernacular and with a subtle humor, he is able to develop an environment that pushes us to question the relevance it today also. It is a rare gift of the history to have such a work at hand. And the readership will never ever decline.
13. Unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera
Oh! the first line in the first page of the book has the name of Nietzsche with the idea of Eternal return. The novel of love and politics coincidentally fleets with zeitgeist making it an indispensable read. The plot revolves around two men, two women, a dog and their lives in 1968, Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. Published in the year 1984, the novel hears the dystopic fear of Orwell’s novel 1984 with a postmodern rendering. The comradeship views of the author happen to disturb the mind a bit –“The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a basis of kitsch.”
Yet his work is so engaging in terms of art that one is forced to forget the moralistic, and political weight the novel provides.
14. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
The plot captures the beauty of Russia giving a perfect account of the Russian folklore and the splendor associated with their belief. Within a huge length of nine hundred pages, the novel evolves the aristocratic character of Anna Karenina into a revolting figure defying the societal norms because of the calculative boredom of her husband. She asserts her passion for Count Vronsky forsaking her honor and pride.
The Russian splendor is immortalized in the book reading the authentic aristocratic lifestyle. Tolstoy tacitly employs a psychological approach enunciating the complexity of the art. The stream of consciousness is used as a tool to endure the development of the characters and the converge our sympathy towards them. The myriad touch of the modernism and the detailing in the novel never looks irrelevant to any space and kind.
One has to read the book to appropriate the fluidity of the narration of the writer.
15. The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy’s the Booker Prize winner is an art within itself. The oeuvre of the writer lies in the intricate delineation of the emotions where the whole story is in the perspective of the two children– Esther and Rahel. Who is the God of small things? remains a question in the novel. It is unnoticed minute little things that influence one’s life is negotiated often. But the tragedy occurs when it certainly has a devastating psychological impact.
The Christian family comes back to Kerela, their native land after the retirement of Esther’s maternal grandfather. Set in the backdrop of the Dalit movement and the clearly exhibiting the class, religion and regional distinction the novel portrays the destruction of innocence. The childhood experience of the kids is ruined because of the ensnaring grasp of the “love laws” which they have to face throughout. It lays down the limitation elucidating “ whom should be loved, how. And how much?”
It is through the perceptive eyes of the reader that you will have the essence of the intricate and delicate description of the nature relevant in an individual’s life is celebrated within the novel. The novel became my favorite one because of the way of expression the use of words in the novel which carries millions of emotion with it, whether it is in the drops of the rain or in the feel of the lover’s skin.
The poetic tragedy in the disguise of a novel is an art at an epoch of the 20th century India. The metaphysical state of mind the reader transgresses all the boundaries and the unexpected realm is felt within it.
The subtlety and the simplicity yet call for attention. Do read the book if you haven’t.
16. Great Gatsby
Read the work if not for the narration but for the character Jay Gatsby. There has been multitudinous of character in the world of literature which has left a mark on the human civilization but this character is unique, typical and more than a human being; he is the American dream that has established America. His story poignant yet being absurd is the essence of the eponymous work.
You will appreciate the prose style of Fitzgerald which is marked by art and beauty of its own. The metaphors and the lyric of the prose are so compelling that you will fail to find any banal attachment to it. Every part of the narration is suffused with dramatic eloquence. The idiosyncrasies are so fresh and appealing which engages your imaginative skills and the meaning is subtly conveyed.
Nick Carraway reminds of the good narrators of the world like Marlowe. This advantageous position is possible to accuse of the style of the writer. The work has an allure of the playwright Tennessee Williams.
Within just three thousand words the novel has weaved the yarn of American lifestyle and the vision of the nation as such. So one has to read the work so as to enjoy the story. The spectacle needs a proper concentration.
17. A House for Mr. Biswas
” A work of great comic power qualified with firm and unsentimental compassion.”- Anthony Burgess
The narrative of the novel corresponds a living of today’s struggle propelling a clear goal- To acquire a titular house which becomes apparent and can only be achieved by an exhaustive torturous route.
A novel which is as enormous as an epic but is peculiar because of the known domestic setting, unusual in an epic, the geographical location being Trinidad. It can be read as an autobiographical novel of his experience of the struggle with his father, where the character destabilizes the heroic character of the protagonist which makes him look smart yet funny often petulant and unsympathetic towards anything.
Living most of his life in a series of houses Mr. Biswas is able to buy a house of his own giving the novel a picaresque and an existential tradition. The poor fit of this knowledge makes him feel the futility of living. A life of a writer as a journalist and the knowledge that the son to has the potential of a writing are few moments of happiness of his life. Literature provides a second form of protection. And this dream is very relevant to the development of the character. Mr. Biswas has “the endurance and uncomplainingness of inanimate objects” which he houses has actually trapped him.
Build up against all the struggle of life the novel presents the determined life of Mr. Biswas and unyielding unravellings in the book. This makes this book an important read.
So, read the enormous work and connect with it if you can.
18. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
The narrator of Waugh’s masterpiece fall not in love with a person but the whole family and their privileged way of life. Such a description reminds me of the story of Cinderella. Here, Charles, a middle-class man was mesmerized by the happy lifestyle of the aristocracy, grateful to gain the attention of Sebastian and his family.
It a story of religion and social struggle to climb up the ladder of sophisticated living. You would be amazed to note that certain portion of the book prefigures the 15 years later life of John F. Kennedy.
This book holds an admiration because of brilliant and hilarious details for which the writing of Waugh is known for. The decay of the Roman Catholics in England is realistically depicted in many instances in the novel.
19. A Suitable Boy
Vikram Seth has convoluted the story just like an Indian family relation tree. The poetic prose employed to evolve the plot makes it an encapsulating long read. If you are enjoying a vacation and are planning to read something enigmatic in space yet fluid and simple in the plot then you should pick this work.
Set in a Post Independence and Post Partition era of India, the book initially tries to establish with a simmering pace a deep relation with the characters. The search for a suitable boy for Lata is the pivot around which the plot revolves. You will feel Jane Austen’s theme of marriage and Dickins’ criticism of the society with gilts of his own style. The political and societal issues faced by the Indian families.
Within the sprawling 1474 pages, the novel hasn’t left a minute emotion unexplored and no character left misunderstood giving the universal touch to it through its way of narration. Such a frivolous work yet with such a depth and sensitivity is unclaimed by anyone till now.
Do read the book for its stupendous prose style !!! you will remember it for a lifetime.
Toni Morrison’s this work is a work is mystical in its own ways. It is a difficult read because of the fragmented narrative and beastly characters. Yet the reader gives you thrills with its description of the slavery -prevalent in the society. For its artistic eloquence, an appreciator of art will definitely feel the specter of slavery that haunts a family questioning the dichotomy of human existence – savagery and civilization. Sethe, the slave around which the story moves shows the glitches of the human existence.
The description is so horrific that the reader sometimes fear the existence of humankind. The emotional narrative like “Beloved” extract a flesh out of us. For such an education is essential and valuable to read.
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
So these are just a few of the works that I would suggest every one to read before their demise, as they are the rare ones which were written years ago.