Incredible books can remain with you long after turning that last page. In some cases, they may even alter your perspective on life!
To make your life easier, we’ve assembled 25 must-read books from Amazon’s list of 100 novels to read in a lifetime, Goodreads user recommendations, and some of our favorites. With this selection, you won’t miss out on any classic literature!
If you’re looking for a captivating read, why not choose one of these 25 awe-inspiring books? Their exploration into politics, history and the human condition is so perceptive that it has stood up to time’s trials. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity for an intriguing adventure!
[Related: Bookshelf: 5 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s]
1. 1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell’s cautionary tale of a dystopian future, first published in 1949, is just as compelling today as ever before.
His book is the source of Big Brother, a concept that has become pervasive in our society. Even after over sixty years since its publication, his warnings about oppressive government remain incredibly relevant and thought-provoking today.
Orwell’s captivating vision of a haunting world enthralls readers from the start to finish.
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley’s literary masterpiece is an insightful and captivating work of speculative fiction, in which a society controlled by “World Controllers” has been crafted to embody perfection.
As the majority of society is content in a world where their desires are met through genetic engineering, brainwashing, and recreational pursuits, there is one individual who seeks liberation.
Huxley’s captivating story transports readers through an unsettling and thought-provoking portrayal of society.
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who creates a being out of human body parts and then abandons it in fear due to its frightening appearance, is the subject matter of Mary Shelley’s renowned novel Frankenstein.
This emotive Gothic thriller captures the hearts of readers with its profound messages about science and mankind’s errors. In this tale, an innocent creature is left alone in anguish and misery only to retaliate against his maker.
4. The Trial by Franz Kafka
Published in 1925, one year after Franz Kafka’s passing, The Trial is a haunting account of Josef K., an ordinary bank officer facing charges he can’t comprehend or defend. Written in 1914 and full of suspenseful terror, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat as you read through its pages!
Despite Franz Kafka’s request that his work is destroyed after he passed away, Max Brod refused to honor this wish and instead chose to ready the piece for publication.
5. Neuromancer by William Gibson
Neuromancer made history as the first novel to win the esteemed science-fiction trifecta—the Nebunal Award, Philip K. Dick Award, and Hugo Award.
The Matrix, as depicted in the book, is a fascinating realm within a realm: where every single byte of digital information exists.
When the world’s most talented data thief is tasked with infiltrating a powerful AI in orbit around Earth, he embarks on an incredible journey.
6. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Through its thought-provoking exploration of war, recollection, fantasy, and the potency of narrative, The Things They Carried has revolutionized how we perceive literature.
O’Brien weaves a powerful narrative about the men of combat, derived from his own harrowing experiences in Vietnam between 1969 and 1970. His use of metaphors helps to create vivid imagery of war-torn landscapes and characters that linger long after the story is told.
O’Brien masterfully crafts a style that skillfully blends fiction and nonfiction, crafting characters rooted in his own life experiences.
7. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Hailed as one of the world’s most iconic antiwar novels, Slaughterhouse Five follows Billy Pilgrim on his captivating and life-altering journey filled with aliens and the bombing of Dresden.
This book chronicles Pilgrim’s life journey while exposing his and Vonnegut’s devastating struggles as American prisoners of war.
This captivating narrative is even more impactful due to its basis in sorrowful reality, adding a sense of poignancy and depth to the story.
8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury expertly crafts a nightmarish vision of the future – where books have been abolished and replaced by an oppressive authoritarian regime.
Initially, everything seemed normal to Montag; however, it all changed the day he encountered a glimpse of what life used to be like.
The riveting plot and engrossing characters of this book will captivate readers, transporting them to a mesmerizing alternate reality.
9. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Over a decade after the tragic passing of John Kennedy Toole, his beloved novel A Confederacy of Dunces was finally published.
The eccentric Ignatius J. Reilly, a 30-year-old living at home with his mother in New Orleans, embarks on an unpredictable journey of self-discovery as he seeks employment throughout the charming and peculiar French Quarter.
Reilly’s character is infused with a blend of comedy and sadness, which John Kennedy Toole so masterfully crafted that it earned him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.
10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s famous work, In Cold Blood, recounts the brutal slayings of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas which took place in 1959.
With no clear explanation behind the criminal act and a minimal amount of clues, Capote undertook extensive interviews with local citizens and investigators to compile his groundbreaking article.
He is renowned for his eloquently crafted writing, meticulous attention to detail, and layered storylines.
11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies quickly gained traction in the 1960s, becoming a must-read for grade schoolers and college students alike. This captivating novel narrates the story of several young boys who find themselves deserted on a coral island–a tale that continues to stir emotions today.
As soon as adversity strikes, our darkest inclinations are revealed.
The book has sparked debate and criticism over the years, thus earning the 8th spot on the American Library Association’s notorious list of frequently banned classics.
12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Follow the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy as he embarks on a quest for earthly riches and discovers his true self in The Alchemist – an unforgettable tale of personal growth.
His ambition propels him towards unimaginable wealth.
An inspiring illustration of how pursuing one’s aspirations can unearth amazing revelations, “The Alchemist” is a captivating read overflowing with sagacity.
13. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie is an emotionally-driven true story of Mitch Albom and the priceless bond he has formed with his mentor, Morrie Schwartz.
Many of us might have lost track of our mentors, as Mitch did, with their insights slowly fading into memory. When Mitch gets a second chance to meet his mentor in the last few months of the man’s life, he begins to visit him every Tuesday.
The two rekindle their relationship as they discuss life lessons, which he finds will make a world of a difference in his own life.
14. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Upon its initial release in July 1890, Wilde’s philosophical novel was distributed as a serial story within Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. Unfortunately, fearful of the tale’s controversy, editors removed 500 words before publication.
In response, Wilde chose to revise and expand the magazine version of his work, ultimately publishing it as a novel.
The plot of the timeless story revolves around a man who made an irreversible deal for eternal youth and beauty. As this novel has captivated readers since its first publication in 1890, it continues to remain relevant and powerful today.
15. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
With his classic novel of the 1960s, Burgess paints a vivid portrait of an apocalyptic future in which criminals reign free after dark.
Exploring the themes of good and evil and what true freedom looks like, A Clockwork Orange follows its protagonist Alex as he recounts his tumultuous journey with corrupt state authorities determined to shape him into a different person.
Stanley Kubrick brought the book to life on the silver screen in 1971, producing an unforgettable cinematic experience.
16. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Drawing from decades of groundbreaking psychology research, Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow eventually won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
By exploring the two systems that control our way of thinking – System 1, which is instinctive and emotive, and System 2, which is more methodical and rational – Kahneman reveals the flaws and biases in certain thought processes.
This book pushes readers to contemplate their cognition, prompting introspection of reactions, evaluations, and decisions.
17. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco’s debut novel was an instant global hit and sold a stunning 50 million copies across the world.
Lurking within the abbey of wealthy Italy in 1327, a tale of heresy unfurls. Brother William of Baskerville is summoned to investigate and unravel its secrets.
Baskerville employs the philosophies of Aristotle, theology from Aquinas, and astuteness from Roger Bacon to decrypt hidden symbols and ancient manuscripts.
18. The Stranger by Albert Camus
Through the account of a man caught in a murder, The Stranger unveils Camus’ concept of “the nakedness of man confronted with the absurd”.
This captivating and stimulating work dives into the intricate ideas of existential philosophy, uncovering topics such as detachment, fear of obscurity, spiritual uncertainty, and the fundamental traits that define someone’s personality.
19. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell delves into the mysterious lives of some of the world’s most exceptional and famous individuals to uncover what sets them apart from the rest.
As his argument develops, he stresses the importance of analyzing the formative years of highly successful people. He provides captivating insight into how some tech moguls achieved their success as well as what made The Beatles such pop culture powerhouses.
20. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card presents a militarized science fiction world where children are groomed to become soldiers through the use of various games, all in preparation for an alien invasion.
Ender Wiggin stands out among the other children due to his tactical genius, and as you advance further in this captivating story, it becomes evident that he is only getting better with each turn of a page.
In Ender’s world, where he is surrounded by competitive and intimidating young soldiers, feelings of despair plague him due to the pervasive atmosphere of seclusion, rivalry, pressure, and fear.
21. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller’s iconic novel chronicles the waning of faith in a world increasingly dominated by bureaucracy.
As World War II rages through Italy, Yossarian finds himself in an impossible position as a hero bombardier being attacked by ever-increasing opponents. With the odds becoming increasingly stacked against him, he must find ways to survive and keep fighting despite these overwhelming numbers.
If he dares to break away from the tasks given, he will be subjected to a malicious administrative code known as Catch-22 – leaving readers breathless in suspense.
22. Animal Farm by George Orwell
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an exquisite political satire that unflinchingly criticizes corrupted ideals, revolutions, and class conflicts. This timeless masterpiece originates from Stalin’s era of the Soviet Union yet remains relevant to this day.
Tired of their human overlords, animals on the farm revolt and seize control. However, as time passes by they soon discover that circumstances aren’t turning out quite as they’d anticipated.
Although it may appear as a straightforward tale of farm animals, the story is an intricate political commentary.
23. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
In Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer outlines his captivating story of a year-long transformation to bettering his memory. Blending new studies in the field, stories from times past, and techniques from mentalists alike, this journey is truly remarkable!
He has resurrected antiquated methods used by medieval scholars to commit entire books to memory and is tapping into largely forgotten techniques that unveil the possibility of significantly enhancing recollection.
This captivating book of journalism reminds us just how much our recollections shape who we are.
24. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Illustrator)
Considered numerous to be the finest graphic novel of all time, Watchmen continues to stand out from its peers.
The Hugo Award-winning narrative paints a picture of the devastation and despair endured by several once-honored superheroes.
Considered to be the entranceway into other iconic graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, this series breaks down the superhero concept in a way that resonates with readers long-term.
25. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys
Flowers for Algernon is an iconic tearjerker that poignantly examines the difficulties faced by those with mental disabilities, and how one’s past can shape their future.
Charles Gordon, who has an intellectual disability, is selected to be a part of an ambitious experiment that will remarkably boost his intelligence – something that was only tested on animals prior.
By agreeing to be the initial human guinea pig, he soon discovers that his intelligence is increasing. However, heightened intellect brings with it some unexpected consequences.
[Related: Bookshelf: 12 Must-Reads by Female Writers Who Broke Boundaries]
This article was originally published on Business Insider.
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