Books everyone needs to read

I don’t mean “these should be federally mandated reading” or anything like that, just that they are  fun, interesting, revealing, thought-provoking, deep, evocative, and other things that literature should be.

  • The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros): an easy-t0-read but meaningful tale of inner city poverty and childhood. You probably read it in about 6th or 7th grade. Read it again.
  • The Book Thief (Markus Zusak): not your typical Holocaust story, and I don’t want to spoil anything else. I started crying about 120 pages before the end and didn’t stop until I finished it.
  • Paradise of the Blind (Duong Thu Huong): gives faces and names to the cost of Communism in Vietnam. Tragic and beautiful.
  • Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky): I know, it’s about 600 pages long, and Dostoevsky gets a bit dreary sometimes, but you’ll be rewarded by the philosophical debates and the semi-uplifting ending.
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton): the imagery and emotion in this book are astounding.  An apolitical plea against hate and violence.
  • Use of Weapons; Player of Games; Feersum Endjinn; other Culture novels (Iain M. Banks): For too long, sci-fi has been largely ignored as a serious, thought-provoking genre. Banks has managed to create an intergalactic society of great diversity and depth, and…just read the books. They’re awesome.
  • Hamlet (Shakespeare): Need I say more?
  • Mac—-(the Scottish Play, by Shakespeare): If this doesn’t make Scotland cool, I don’t know what does.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard): Frequently hilarious musings on death, life, theatre, God, probability, and being on boats. But read Hamlet first, or you’ll be really confused. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent movie adaptation with Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss.

Wow, that was long, and I’ve already been reminded of about 10 books I should have included. Have more ideas? Comment! I’ll probably do another post like this in the near future.


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