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50 Books You Need To Read Before You Die

July 1, 2014 | No Comments » | Topics: Books, List

50.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote —“ Considered by many critics to be the original non-fiction novel, this 1966 book details the brutal 1959 murders a farmer, wife and two children in rural Kansas. Capote deftly takes the reader into the minds of the two parolees who committed the crimes and describes the effects of their actions on the local community.

49. The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Casteneda —“ First published as a work of anthropology, this mind-altering journey documents Casteneda’s apprenticeship with the Yaqui Indian Sorcerer Don Juan. It is almost impossible to not feel totally transformed about the true meanings of reality after reading this sometimes shocking story.

48. Animal Farm by George Orwell —“ This is a novella with a very large message. Although it was first published in 1945, Orwell’s allegorical tale about a group of pigs that take control of a farm and attempt to shape a new society still creates haunting comparisons to present day political struggles throughout the world.

47. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka —“ This 1915 novella is consistently cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction. Kafka deftly takes the reader inside the mind and life of a traveling salesman who awakens one day to find that he has been transformed into a horrible creature.

46. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens —“ It’s hard to pass up reading a book that has sold over 200 million copies since its 1859 release. A gripping tale that is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution defined by the often brutal historical events that caused the pheasant’s revolt against the aristocracy.

45. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer —“ This was Mailer’s first published novel that has been in consistent demand since its 1948 release. A well-crafted story blending military action with deft character development.

44. Deliverance by James Dickey —“ After reading this novel, many people will probably never want to go canoeing in the Georgia wilderness. A disturbing look into brutality, survival and the psychological aftermaths of lives that have been traumatically altered forever.

43. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy —“ There are few living writers today who can match the mastery of the English language and prose that Conroy presents in this 1986 novel revolving around the traumatic events of a South Carolina family. There are numerous passages in this book that people will want to reread just to experience the sheer joy of words well-written.

42. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley —“ The futurist themes in this novel are still relevant today even though the book was published in 1932. Huxley sought to deliver a frightening vision of the future and did so with stunning clarity.

41. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking —“ This landmark science masterpiece is surprisingly readable given its exotic realms that range from the big bang theory to what happens when the universe ends. As should happen with all great science essays, the reader is forever altered after reading about how creation works and what the concept of time really means.

40. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo —“ This sweeping 1892 French novel contains both factual and historic events while following the lives of several characters over a seventeen-year period in the early nineteenth century. The main focus is on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his path to rebuilding his reputation in a time of both excessive wealth and crushing poverty.

39. Lord of the Flies by William Golding —“ This story about a group of British boys who attempt to govern themselves on a deserted island is absolutely chilling. Its controversial themes earned it a position on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books during 1990-1999.

38. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein —“ Although this is a collection of children’s poems with simple illustrations, even adults can enjoy its fanciful tales of innocent wonder about the world.

37. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller —“ A truly landmark novel in that it led to obscenity trials testing laws about pornography after its American release in 1961. Combining autobiographical facts with fiction, this story centers on Miller’s life as a struggling writer.

36. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner —“ A wide-ranging novel that is narrated by 15 different characters through 59 chapters. Faulkner’s technique has consistently ranked this work among the best writings of the 20th century.

35. Storming Heaven by Jay Stephens —“ A mind-altering account of American social history from the Forties through the Sixties. Whatever you think you know about this culturally transforming time period is probably wrong until you read this book.

34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury —“ For any avid reader, this 1953 novel about a future America where reading is outlawed and books are burned will send chills through the spine. Bradbury’s predictions that future information would be distributed through factoids devoid of context has proven to be strangely real in this age of the Internet.

33. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy —“ Widely considered to be the prime example of realist fiction. This sweeping story of Czarist Russia is nothing less than breathtaking.

32. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll —“ This 1865 novel is still considered to be the prime example of the nonsense and fantasy genres. A fun read that continues to be loved by all generations.

31. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain —“ Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy’s adventures in the Mississippi Valley-a sequel to Tom Sawyer-the book grew and matured under Twain’s hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity.

30. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald —“ This novel was the last completed work by Fitzgerald and considered by many to be his bleakest. A moving story about a young psychoanalyst and his wife that was written during a time when Fitzgerald’s own wife was undergoing treatment for schizophrenia.

29. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain —“ Widely considered to be the best work by this very prolific author. Huck’s adventures through a Southern antebellum countryside bring to life a society that Twain mocks for both its entrenched attitudes and overt racism.

28. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger —“ Attesting to its literary importance, this 1951 novel still sells approximately 250,000 copies per year and has realized more than 65 million copies sold worldwide. Unquestionably the definitive story of modern teenage angst and rebellion.

27. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee —“ Winner of the Pulitzer Prize after its release in 1960, this novel about life and racism in a Southern town was an instant hit. The protagonist of the story, Atticus Finch, has become one of the best known characters in modern literature.

26. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell —“ What more is there to say about a novel that is so deeply entrenched in the American lexicon. It is worth the read if for no other reason than to experience a Southern culture that disappeared after the Civil War.

25. Native Son by Richard Wright —“ This story about an African-American living in Chicago during the 1930s challenges every perception about poverty, racism and societal conditions. A very thought-provoking read.

24. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez —“ This Spanish novel was translated into English in 1988 and quickly received critical praise for its engrossing exploration of a love-sickness so deep that it could be considered an illness. Garcia Marquez does a masterful job of forcing the reader to question much of his characterizations by introducing unexpected elements that continually turn the plot inside out.

23. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams —“ A novel that is an adaptation of a BBC radio show of the same name. This comedy science fiction story takes the reader on a ride that is both fun and surreal.

22. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. —“ Recognized as Vonnegut’s most influential work, this satirical novel is structured around his experiences during World War II. The major themes about fate and free will are masterfully woven into a story that leaves the protagonist “unstuck in time”.

21. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison —“ Winner of the 1953 National Book Award, this was the only novel published by Ellison during his lifetime. The story addresses many of the social issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century.

20. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas —“ Covering the period of 1815-1838, this story traces the life of a man wrongly imprisoned who eventually escapes, acquires great wealth and then seeks revenge against the men who falsely accused him. The historical setting is a prime element of the overall storyline.

19. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf —“ Woolf was lifted to the top of modernist novelists with this 1927 novel. Although the prose can be hard to follow, the story is masterfully crafted in a method where the plot is secondary to the philosophical introspection of the main characters.

18. On the Road by Jack Kerouac —“ A largely autobiographical novel that has been consistently hailed as the seminal writing of the “beat” generation. A free-wheeling road trip across 1950s America.

17.  Inferno by Dante —“ The first part of Dante’s epic poem, the Divine Comedy, that describes a journey through a medieval representation of Hell. A thought provoking read through a Hell that is depicted as nine circles of suffering on earth.

16. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien —“ Originally published as a children’s book in 1937, this fantastical tale has come to be embraced by people of all ages. A story containing all of the aspects of a great action adventure.

15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller —“ A 1961 satirical novel that is frequently recognized as one of the greatest literary works of modern time. The time line of the plot is extremely unique in that events occur out of order and are described from different points of view.

14. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad —“ A 1903 novella that explores the dark side of Belgian colonization in Africa. Best known for its wild settings and Conrad’s portrayal of human cruelty.

13. Dracula by Bram Stoker —“ It is amazing that this 1897 novel has proven to be the fore-bearer of the current worldwide vampire craze in books and movies. More than just a tale about Count Dracula, this work touches on broad cultural themes that range from the role of women in Victorian culture to colonialism.

12. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess —“ This 1962 novella is more than a bit strange in both language and surreal scenes, but that is the whole point. Burgess masterfully turns reality inside out.

11. Moby Dick by Herman Melville —“ An epic tale of a battle between man and a white sperm whale that is still considered to be a true treasure of world literature. Melville’s themes about good versus evil and the outcomes of obsessive revenge ring true even when compared to many modern day events.

10. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson —“ Name any branch of science and Bryson brilliantly explains it in plain terms in this dazzling work. The subject matter focuses on not only what we know about the universe, but also how we know it.

9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck —“ Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. It is hard not to be moved by this story of a poor family forced to move from their Oklahoma land during the Great Depression.

8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov —“ A creepy, yet sophisticated story of the main character’s sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl. Highly noted for both Nabokov’s stylistic prose and his delicate handling of a controversial subject matter.

7. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevski —“ Although this story was written in the late 1800s, it still defines the ongoing question concerning whether a crime is permissible when committed in pursuit of a higher social purpose. This novel brings to the surface many philosophical dilemmas.

6. The Trial by Franz Kafka —“ Known for his unique writing style where one sentence can span an entire page, Kafka has proven to be a literary giant against whom other writers are often compared. This story about a man who is arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority is considered by many to be the prime example of Kafka’s genius.

5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway —“ This semi-autobiographical novel revolves around events during the First World War. Although much of the plot is bleak, Hemingway was immediately elevated to the top ranks of modern American writers after its 1929 release.

4. Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington —“ This 1901 autobiography provides thought changing insights into what it was like to be a man raised as a child slave who later strives to make a mark on American history. A true lesson about black history after the Civil War.

3. Ulysses by James Joyce —“ A heavy read that people seem to either love or hate due to Joyce’s experimental prose. Yet this novel is consistently in the top ranks of “must reads” because of the masterful way Joyce crafts a 650 story where all of the events take place within a single day.

2. 1984 by George Orwell —“ A 1949 novel that is sure to receive greater attention in our present age of terrorism. Orwell’s themes about a society defined by perpetual wars, heavy government surveillance, thought control and an oppressive dictatorship have proven to become a harsh reality in many countries throughout the world since 9/11.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald —“ Widely regarded to be the prime example of the Great American Novel. Fitzgerald’s soaring tale about American society during the spring to autumn of 1922 exemplifies the meaning of storytelling at its best.

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