As an avid reader and generally good student, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read a good number of books they say I should have read by now. The “they” in question here includes teachers, writers, philosophers, literature experts, friends and many of the Internet’s anonymous list-makers.
Certainly, these books are classics. But, beyond their literary status, these are books I feel I should have read—for their impact on society, culture, literature and even history. Some time ago, I’d vowed to read only classics until I felt satisfied that my self-directed literary education was approaching satisfactory. I actually did this for a while, until I joined a book club and started reviewing books professionally. Since then, I’ve read a few “must reads,” but not many. The next time I pick one up, it will be one of these.
Animal Farm | George Orwell, 1945 | Using animals in place of humans, this controversial novel satirized the Russian Revolution under Stalin’s regime.
To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee, 1960 | This Pulitzer Prize-winner is beloved for its examination of a town’s crisis of conscience.
The Little Prince | Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1940 | Le Petit Prince in its original French, this story follows a young boy who leaves his planet to explore the universe.
The Joy Luck Club | Amy Tan, 1989 | A revered examination of the immigrant experience, this novel centers around four Chinese women who form a mahjong club.
Great Expectations | Charles Dickens, 1861 | This coming of age novel follows an orphan named Pip, who rises through society’s ranks thanks to an unidentified benefactor.
The Old Man and the Sea | Ernest Hemingway, 1952 | The story of a young man, an old man and a giant fish that won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Catch-22 | Joseph Heller, 1961 | A novel so notable that it named and immortalized the concept that there are some dilemmas that are truly inescapable.
One Hundred Years of Solitude | Gabriel García Márquez, 1967 | Through the story of a single family, the author portrays the rise and fall of an entire town.
BOOK CLUB NOTE: We will be discussing Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane next Thursday, August 29, on the blog. Come prepared to share your thoughts and questions. If you haven’t started yet, you can easily read it over the weekend. Details here.