Top 10 books everyone should read at least once
“A Reader Lives a thousand lives before he dies”. That’s a quote that I can quite attest to. I’ve been an avid bookworm my entire life and I’ve proudly lived through a thousand worlds and delved into fantastic adventures. I’ve fallen in love, battled dragons, flown around castles and fired magical spells…And I never had to leave my room. Books are adventure. They contain murder and mayhem and passion. They love anyone who opens them.
While I know reading isn’t for everyone (being the only avid reader among my siblings) we can all agree that, as readers we have come across some books that have to be read by everyone. After some researching, I found and compiled a list of 10 books that are always included in any top lists of books you should read before you die. It wasn’t easy, compiling such list because I would love nothing more than adding a couple of 100 others, but for the sake of avoiding people inevitably falling asleep while reading this, I decided to keep it at ten books and not delve (much!) deeper into the subject.
Well, without further ado, I bring forth the top 10 books EVERYONE should read before they die.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This wonderful Historical-fiction gem was written and published in 2005 by Markus Zusak, an Australian Author. Set in War-ridden German in 1939, The Book Thief follows Liesel; a young orphan who rescues books from the tyrannical Nazis. Meanwhile, her foster family deals with and secretly hides a Jewish Fighter in their Basement. One of the things that makes this story a bit special is that the narrator is Actually Death, whose piquing interest in the life of Liesel makes the premise of the entire book extremely interesting. This book explores bravery in a time where bravery can and will lead you to death and a wonderful friendship that blossoms in the most unlikely situations.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It is a fact universally acknowledged that every list of great books must include Jane Austen’s famed classic. Pride and Prejudice, is, to this day, one of Austen’s most popular novels. Originally published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice, which is set in in Victorian England, follows the courtship and eventual relationship woes of Elizabeth Bennet, who comes from a middle-class family as well as the trials and tribulations of all the Bennett Sisters’ love lives. Elizabeth and Darcy’s story which was, prior to its publication named first Impressions, was, true to its original name, a story that slowly teaches us how first impressions can be very misleading and how one’s pride can literally destroy their eventual happiness. The two main characters; Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are two of the most complicated yet enticing characters that truly capture the nature and essence of the different social classes in Victorian England.
Anything I write about Pride and Prejudice won’t do it justice. So everyone should do themselves a favor and jump down to any bookstore and read it.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Considered one of the most heartwarming portrayals of people of color, particularly the ones working in White Households during the early 1960’s. Published in 2009, The Help, which tackled the prevalent racism and bigotry against African Americans in the 60’s and the 70’s, painted us a picture of the truth of race relations in the ’60s without drowning readers in the hopelessness of it. Unlike other novels about racism, this novel presents reality without emotional manipulation or regard for shock value. Through its richly conceived narrative and characters, The Helpshows how profound change begins small — in the hopes, dreams, and courageous choices of both African Americans and whites. It easily became a favorite of mine and upon finishing it, I was sure to recommend it to many friends and acquaintances.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Considered as Margaret Atwood’s claim to fame, The Handmaid’s Tale deserves a very-well earned spot on this list for its vivid and brutal descriptions alone. Atwood manages to envision and capture a dark world where women have lost all right to their autonomy as well as their rights to reproductive freedom. Published originally in 1985, the story centers on the outcome of the restrictive and continuous oppression of women in a male centered society where all women have lost the freedom to even vote and own land. The Feminist inside of me was at first horrified by the premise of that novel, but after reading it for the first time, I realized that the premise, while terrifying (and terrifyingly plausible), it instilled in me, more than ever, resilience and strength to continue to fight. Much Like in the case of Offred; the main character, we as women can still find that novel as relevant today as ever; feminist backlashes continue to wax and wane, but women's rights remain in the spotlight. And despite its scenarios of great despair, The Handmaid's Taleis ultimately a hopeful book — Offred, and others, simply cannot be human without the possibility of hope, and therein lies the strength of the resistance
Harry Potter and The Philospher’s Stone by J.K Rowling
The Potterhead inside of me was practically jumping up and down in glee every time J.K Rowling’s claim to fame was mentioned in any list. The very first book of Harry Potter was published in 1997 and claimed the hearts of thousands of children around the world in the process. Suddenly, the young messy-haired Scarred Boy was everyone’s hero. A Story that teaches us that love does indeed conquer all and how it’s the closest thing to magic we have, Harry Potter touched the hearts of millions of people and continues to inspire a lot of people to this day.
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
One of the very famed timeless pleas for justice, famously set in America’s racist south during the great depression. Lee’s most famous, Pulitzer prize winning novel caused quite a sensation when it was first released in 1960. Tackling pretty sensitive content, To Kill a Mocking Bird has a long history of Censorship and has been banned multiple times because of its portrayal of rape and its strong language and the otherwise usage of the n-word in its context. To Kill a Mocking bird continues to face problems to this day but remains a strong, unforgettable story of the world through the eyes of a six-year-old, in this case, Jean Louise Finch, whose father is a lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. This story is pretty notorious for shedding a light on a pretty dark time in America’s history and the racism people of color faced in the early 20th Century.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Keep the tissue box right next to you when you finally decide to open The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for the first time. Originally published in 2003, Hosseini’s heartbreaking tale of friendship is set during one of the turning points of Afghanistan’s turbulent history. It focuses on the friendship between a wealthy, young boy from a high social class and the son of his father’s servant. This lovely, tragic tale explores the bonds and power of friendship and the lovely relationship between the fathers and the sons.
Wuthering heights by Emily Brontë
A tear-jerker from the very first page, Emily Brontë’s first and only novel is a dramatic tale about the ill-fated (some would add, twisted) relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy which shocked readers when the book came out. Today, the story about the lovers on the English moor is so well known, it’s iconic. Originally thought to be a romantic novel, while in fact, it’s actually a gothic one, the genre itself doesn’t matter because the premise alone is so much more than that. Brontë plays with many themes, largely expressed through a range of opposites: outsiders and insiders; civilization vs. wilderness; home and exile; escape vs. imprisonment; heaven and hell, good and evil; legitimate vs. illegitimate and educated vs. illiterate; age vs. youth and death vs. life. The list goes on and the novel itself has to be peeled away, layer by layer so you can finally reach the culminating depth and conclusion of it. I originally read Wuthering heights as 7th grader and I haven’t been the same since. It’s a magical story that really does have a profound effect on anyone who reads it.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Another Winner of the Pulitzer’s prize and also another book that depicts the racism of people of color, Alice Walker’s The Color Purpleis a devastating and captivating story that tackles the lives of colored women in 1930’s America. Published originally in 1985, this book that has been continuously censored and challenged, will shock you with the harsh reality displayed in and it will leave you shaken to the core. It’s the story of Celie, a young African American woman who faces life’s hardships with unwavering grit and determination. The Color Purpleis more than an award-winning novel, it’s a cultural touchstone and a literary masterpiece by one of the finest writers of our time.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
One of Orwell’s better-known works, Animal Farm is an allegorical take on the inciting events of the Russian Revolution depicted in the form of an army of animals who plan a revolt against their human owner and eventually manage to take over the farm. Published in 1945, this famous satire examines the realistic risks of revolution as well as a harsh reality that was represented in just one sentence: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”
Bonus: The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
Unforgettable and deeply influential, Anne Frank’s diary is a raw account of a young girl’s life as she hides from the Nazis. Despite her circumstances, Anne believes that people are still good at heart and that the world is full of beauty: she will change your life. Originally published by Anne Frank’s father; the only surviving member of the Frank family in 1952, The Diary of A Young Girlstands as a stark reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and the millions of lives that were lost. Anne’s diary is filled with the exuberance of her youth and the harsh and horrific realities of her experience. An unforgettable and profound memoir about the heartbreaking life — and untimely death — of a young girl caught up in the Nazi occupation, The Diary of a Young Girlis a book everyone should read.
I firmly believe that reading can and will change your life. Even if you don’t particularly like to sit and visualize the words coming to life, you should at least try to read, one book a month. You’ll definitely find your thoughts and ideas challenged after a particularly good book, and you’ll go places you’ve never gone before.
Written By: Salma Eissa