17 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die

Everyone has a bucket list of things they want to experience before they die and as such, we’ve created a book bucket list of 17 novels that everyone should read at least once before they die.

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

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Even the most casual reader will have heard of Orwell’s 1949 dystopian classic, 1984. As well as being an interesting read, this book is incredibly informative, chartering the dangers of a totalitarian state and its grip on the general public. The theme of humanity is even more poignant, making this book an absolute must-read.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

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This is arguably Jane Austen’s most famous novel, and for good reason. As well as being a gorgeous romance with a strong-willed female protagonist, it’s a deep dive into human nature, our relationships, and the dangers of preconceptions. If you’re looking for an accessible classic to begin with, Pride and Prejudice is the book for you.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

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There are so many important texts about the Holocaust that must be read, and this book is at the top of the list. It chronicles two years during the Holocaust when thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and her Jewish family went into hiding. It’s a personal account of an incredibly tragic time, chronicling Anne’s feelings of isolation, love, fear, and adolescence.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

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To Kill a Mockingbird is considered a defining book of the twentieth century, so everyone should read it at least once. It explores life in 1930s southern America through the innocent eyes of a child, telling the story of a black man accused of a crime that he didn’t commit, facilitated by the horrific real-life racism of the time.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003)

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The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, and it made an immense impact when it first came out. The book’s significance is timeless, chartering a story of friendship that tragically falls apart against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan. Themes of guilt plague the protagonist, guiding him through the book’s harrowing events on a quest for redemption.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

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The ‘roaring twenties’ are endlessly fascinating, so if you’ve been searching for a fabulous novelization of the period, give The Great Gatsby a try. While the glitz and glamor of the 20s are a huge part of the plot, Fitzgerald also dives deeper into how dysfunctional and corrupt people can become when engulfed by that kind of society.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)

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As far as thrillers go, Gone Girl is highly regarded as one of the best. Gillian Flynn creates compelling characters that beg to be analyzed, exploring both male and female perspectives within themes of sexual politics, morality, and power. It relies on its excellent suspense, which proves that it’s still possible to write something original in the twenty-first century.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

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This classic has been adapted time and time again, but nothing can ever beat the original. Mary Shelley’s novel is the original creation story, utilizing themes of gothic horror to tell a much more poignant story of ethics, morality, and the twisted forms that love takes. Throughout history, Frankenstein has been used as a source in many important ethical debates.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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The most terrifying thing about The Handmaid’s Tale is that it was inspired by actual events. The novel is set in a fictional version of the United States, where women have been forced into sexual servitude, reproducing against their will to repopulate the state. This book is shocking, disturbing, and all too relevant in the present day.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-1949)

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Everyone knows the films, but not everyone has read the books they’re adapted from, which is a mistake you should rectify. Tolkien is an incredible wordsmith, weaving important themes of friendship, power, and mortality into his more expansive fantasy lore. Across three books, he creates an incredible tale of adventure, as well as several original languages and dialects.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

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Named after the temperature at which book paper burns, Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian future where books are banned and destroyed. It unashamedly confronts themes of censorship and the importance of free speech, which are acutely relevant now when many books are still being censored or banned. Any lover of reading will appreciate this book.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

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This book is a fictional account inspired by the very real reality that black Americans lived in the early 1900s. Alice Walker tells a tale of womanhood, violence, and race, achieving a very personal style through its epistolary form. The Color Purple suffered censorship in the 80s, making it even more critical that the book is read now.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

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This novella has many adaptations, but there is a certain magic to the original that Dickens achieves in under 100 pages. Set in just one night, it tells the tale of Scrooge, a miser who hates Christmas but rekindles both his festive cheer and his love for humanity after being haunted by a series of ghosts and their moral teachings.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

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The first published book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, this is a children’s fantasy novel that can and should be read by all ages. Many people name this as the book which inspired their love for reading. It stimulates the imagination, telling the story of four siblings who discover a magical world and strive to protect it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

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Wuthering Heights scandalized readers when it was first published, and it has aged very well since. It is a dark love story that explores the depths of human nature and the lengths people will go to to get what they want. The famous main characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, grapple with their destructive desires and ambitions, at their own expense.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006)

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The Book Thief is another story about the power of words and the solace they provide. This tale is set against the haunting backdrop of Nazi Germany, with the young protagonist’s family hiding a Jewish man and subsequently putting themselves at risk. Both the book itself and the stories inside it teach the significance of words in teaching us humanity.

The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

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Stephen King is one of horror’s greatest authors, for good reason. Of all his novels, The Shining stands out because of its delve into psychological horror, which has been hugely influential within the genre. It also inspired one of the most famous horror movies ever, but the original material is absolutely worth reading.

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