Books Everyone Should Read:
There are an abundance of lists and sites that include their opinions of what books they consider “must reads.” Businessinsider.com recruited the help of a librarian from the New York Public Library to compile a list of classic American literature that they believe should be the top books everyone should read.
“The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales” by Edgar Allan Poe; publishing dates began in 1833
Poe is most noted for his macabre themes and mysterious style of telling short stories. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is regarded as Poe’s best work, in the tale Roderick Usher experiences the collapse of his life after his fate is joined with his sister Madeline’s fate along with that of their estate.
“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain; published in 1884
Rebellious young man Huck Finn and runaway slave Jim travel down the Mississippi River together. The novel is widely recognized as Mark Twain’s masterpiece.
“The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson” by Emily Dickinson; published in 1890
This compilation of the reclusive poet’s works largely focus on death and immortality. Dickinson was a pioneer in her poetry, since she often didn’t name her poems and she is known for using unusual punctuation and capitalization.
“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin; published in 1899
Set in Louisiana in the late 1800’s, Edna Pontellier attempts to blend her unconventional opinion on being a woman and mother with the traditional social norms of the deep south.
“The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton; published in 1905
Lily Bart is living in upper-class society in New York during the 1890’s. Lily is in love with one man, but must marry another in order to maintain her social standing. The portrait examines her struggle against what is expected of her in society and what she really wants from life.
“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck; published in 1939
Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel follows the Joad family as they attempt to survive during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s. The Oklahoma family is forced to leave their farm and travel to California. The novel is an insightful and stunning representation of the conflicts present between the powerful people who have everything and the common people who have little and are relatively powerless.
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith; published in 1943
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is commonly classified as a coming of age story about Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. The novel follows three generations of Francie’s family as they go about living in an urban setting right after the turn of the century.
“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller; premiered in 1953
Arthur Miller delivers a compelling perspective on the dangers of group hysteria in society. Set during the Salem witch hunts and trials, Miller captures the ruthlessness present in the society as the town puts women on trial under the accusation that they were practicing witchcraft.
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury; published in 1953
Bradbury’s story about book burner Guy Montag is set in a dismal era in the future. His young neighbor Clarisse shows him a different side of life leading Guy to question his existence and his actions. After he is caught hiding books in his house instead of burning them, he’s forced to flee his home in order to save his own life.
>”Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand; published in 1957
As Dagny Taggart fights to manage a transcontinental railroad amidst bureaucratic red tape, she encounters a group seeking to end government and a utopian society. This mysterious thriller is also a philosophical revelation.
“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac; published in 1957
Kerouac travels around North America with his friend as they seek experiences and to attain self-knowledge while they explore the country.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; published in 1960
Scout and Jem Finch watch as their father lawyer Atticus Finch, defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in the deep south in the 1930’s. Lee captures the irrational attitudes about race and social standing through humor and a compelling story.
“Slaughterhouse-five” by Kurt Vonnegut; published in 1969
Vonnegut’s novel is regarded as one of the best anti-war books in the world; it centers on protagonist Billy Pilgrim and the fire-bombing of Dresden.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou; published in 1969
Maya Angelou’s debut memoir and most famous work tells the story of Maya and her brother after they were abandoned by their parents. Facing bigotry and prejudice the siblings attempt to navigate through life. Maya survives a brutal attack by a much older man when she is only eight, and the assault generates consequences Maya must face her whole life, but despite it all Maya discovers her strong spirit and the works of famous authors that set her free from being imprisoned in her tumultuous past.
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker; published in 1982
Set in the south between 1900 and the mid 1940’s, the Pulitzer Prize winning book is told through the letters of Celie. Celie expresses her isolation and misery because of constant brutality and mistreatment by men in her life, especially her controlling husband.
*Visit Barnesandnoble.com for summaries and reviews of these published works.
Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read:
Nonfiction books give us a glimpse into the thoughts, feelings, and happenings of real-life people and events throughout history. These pieces are often of significant historical and social importance. These nonfiction titles should be on a list of books everyone should read at least once.
Tom Brokaw: “The Greatest Generation”
Dee Brown: “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”
Truman Capote: “In Cold Blood”
Richard Carlson: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”
Sigmund Freud: “The Interpretation of Dreams”
Elizabeth Gilbert: “Eat, Pray, Love”
Steven Hawking: “A Brief History of Time”
Dalai Lama: “The Art of Happiness”
Richard Rhodes: “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”
Virginia Woolf: “A Room of One’s Own”
Classic Books Everyone Should Read:
Most people will read many of the following books in high school or during college, but if you somehow manage to graduate both without picking up on of these pieces, you should definitely add them to your list of must-reads. The characters, storiesk, and relationships presented in these stories are timeless and remain relevant even as the dates of their original publication move farther and farther into the past.
“Little Women” by Louisa M Alcott
“Emma” by Jane Austen
“Persuasion” by Jane Austen
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
“Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
“David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens
“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
“Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas
“Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis
“Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
“1984” by George Orwell
“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque
“The Harry Potter Series” by J.K. Rowling
“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
10 Books Everyone Should Read:
According to the New York Times, the following ten works are the best novels of all time:
“The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
“Ulysses” by James Joyce
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce
“Darkness at Noon” by Arthur Koestler
“Sons and Lovers” by D.H. Lawrence
“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov
“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
How many of these books have you read? Would you agree with their inclusion on their must read lists? Did you notice any works missing that you would include on your list of books to read?