Reading is one of life’s great pleasures, and there are few things as rewarding as getting lost in a good book. Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge, challenge your worldview, or simply escape into a different world for a while, there are certain books that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. These books have stood the test of time, offering timeless insights into the human experience that are just as relevant today as they were when they were first written. From classic novels to epic poems, from masterpieces of literature to genre-defining works of science fiction and fantasy, these 20 books are essential reading for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons, deepen their understanding of the world, and appreciate the power of great storytelling. So without further ado, here are the 20 books everyone should read before they die.
1)“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee:
Set in the deep South during the 1930s, this powerful novel tells the story of a young girl named Scout and her family, as they confront the harsh realities of racism, injustice, and the courage to stand up for what is right. Through the eyes of Scout, readers experience the harsh realities of segregation and the importance of empathy, kindness, and compassion.
2)“1984” by George Orwell:
In this chilling dystopian vision of a totalitarian society, the government controls every aspect of citizens’ lives, and individuality is ruthlessly suppressed. The story follows Winston Smith, a man who rebels against the oppressive regime, and his journey to maintain his humanity and free will in a world where they are forbidden.
3)“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen:
This witty and romantic novel follows the trials and tribulations of the Bennett family, as they navigate the social and cultural expectations of Georgian England. Elizabeth Bennett, the novel’s protagonist, must navigate her way through societal pressures, misunderstandings, and her own prejudices, all while trying to find love and happiness in a world that often feels at odds with her true self.
4)”The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Set during the Roaring Twenties, this novel is a masterpiece of modernist literature. Through the story of Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the wealthy and beautiful Daisy Buchanan, Fitzgerald explores themes of love, class, ambition, and the darker side of the American dream.
5)“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:
This sweeping epic novel tells the story of the Buendía family over seven generations, tracing the rise and fall of their mythical town of Macondo. With magical realism and lush prose, Garcia Marquez explores themes of family, history, and the cyclical nature of human experience.
6)“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger:
Narrated by the iconic Holden Caulfield, this coming-of-age novel captures the teenage experience with honesty and humor. With its timeless themes of alienation, identity, and the search for meaning, it has become a beloved classic that continues to resonate with readers of all ages.
7)“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville:
This epic tale of obsession and revenge follows the whaling ship Pequod and its captain, Ahab, as they pursue the elusive white whale. With its deep philosophical themes and unforgettable characters, “Moby Dick” is a masterpiece of American literature that continues to inspire and captivate readers.
8)“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy:
This sweeping historical novel follows the lives of five Russian aristocratic families during the Napoleonic Wars. With its vivid depictions of war, romance, and social change, Tolstoy’s masterpiece is a timeless exploration of the human experience.
9)“The Odyssey” by Homer:
One of the foundational works of Western literature, this epic poem tells the story of Odysseus and his journey home after the Trojan War. With its vivid characters, stunning imagery, and timeless themes of heroism and cunning, “The Odyssey” remains a classic that continues to inspire and fascinate readers.
10)“The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
This complex and philosophical novel explores themes of faith, doubt, and the nature of morality through the story of the Karamazov family. With its unforgettable characters and deep insights into the human condition, “The Brothers Karamazov” is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature and a must-read for any serious reader.
11)“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien:
This epic high-fantasy trilogy follows the journey of hobbit Frodo Baggins as he seeks to destroy the One Ring and defeat the evil Sauron. With its rich world-building, memorable characters, and timeless themes of good vs. evil, “The Lord of the Rings” has become a beloved classic that continues to inspire generations of readers.
12)“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
Set in 19th century Russia, this psychological thriller explores the depths of human nature through the story of Raskolnikov, a student who commits a brutal murder and must confront the consequences of his actions. With its deep exploration of morality, guilt, and redemption, “Crime and Punishment” is a timeless masterpiece that continues to challenge and captivate readers.
13)“The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri:
This epic poem is a classic of Italian literature and one of the most influential works of the Western canon. Divided into three parts (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), it follows Dante’s journey through the afterlife, exploring themes of sin, redemption, and the human condition.
14)“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte:
This gothic romance novel tells the story of the tempestuous relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, two characters whose passion and intensity captivates readers to this day. With its haunting atmosphere and unforgettable characters, “Wuthering Heights” is a classic that continues to inspire and challenge readers.
15)“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde:
This classic novel explores the dangers of vanity and the pursuit of pleasure through the story of Dorian Gray, a young man who remains forever youthful while a portrait of him ages and reveals the true corruption of his soul. With its witty dialogue and sharp satire, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today.
16)“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck:
Set during the Great Depression, this novel tells the story of the Joad family as they struggle to survive and find a better life in the face of poverty and discrimination. With its vivid characters and powerful depiction of the human cost of economic inequality, “The Grapes of Wrath” is a classic of American literature that remains relevant and inspiring today.
17)“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte:
This beloved novel tells the story of Jane Eyre, a governess who falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester, and must confront the secrets of his past in order to find true love and happiness. With its strong-willed heroine and unforgettable romance, “Jane Eyre” is a classic that continues to inspire and delight readers today.
18)“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”by Mark Twain:
This classic coming-of-age novel follows the adventures of Huck Finn and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, as they travel down the Mississippi River in search of freedom and adventure. With its humorous and poignant exploration of race, identity, and the search for meaning, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a timeless classic that remains a favorite of readers of all ages.
19)“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley:
This gothic horror novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a living creature from dead body parts, only to find that his creation has become a monster. With its haunting atmosphere and exploration of the dangers of science and ambition, “Frankenstein” is a classic that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
20)“The Canterbury Tales”by Geoffrey Chaucer:
This collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral in medieval England offers a fascinating glimpse into the social, cultural, and religious life of the time. With its vivid characters, bawdy humor, and timeless themes of human nature and morality, “The Canterbury Tales” is a classic of English literature that continues to delight and engage readers today.
Each of these 20 books offers a unique and timeless perspective on the human condition, exploring themes of love, loss, morality, identity, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned reader or just starting to explore the world of literature, these books are sure to captivate and inspire you, and leave a lasting impression on your mind and heart.