Books that should be read at least once in this lifetime

Written by Sarah Mukaddam

An engineer turned content writer, Sarah is a self-proclaimed bookworm. Armed with a keen sense of story and the gift of the gab, she works as a content writer at UniAcco.

May 19, 2020

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” ― Jane Austen. I really do want to agree with this quote, but that would be highly judgemental and rude of me, hence for the sake of the readership, I won’t. I will go with “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it” ― Oscar Wilde. 

I have always believed that as food is nourishment to the body, knowledge is nourishment to the soul. There are so many ways to gain understanding; you can simply attain knowledge by observing life, paying attention to your surroundings, getting a proper education, hearing your elders out, reading books. Knowledge may not be beneficial sometimes, but it isn’t harmful too, at least not in its own right. As long as the intention behind gaining that particular knowledge is pure, it will always benefit, and the vice versa is true too. 

Reading a book can be your escape from your daily mundane life, as George R.R. Martin rightly said “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” he also said “… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” which happens to be so true. By reading, you can learn new words, you can spark your imagination by reading someone else’s. Reading can be a way to deal with a lot of the stress and anxiety our generation feels nowadays. 

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down, and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them, and they always love you back.” ― John Green; I wholeheartedly believe that. Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s most loyal companion and friend, not only I but these are Ernest Hemingway’s words too. Books are portable magic in the words of Stephen King. 

Mark Twain once classified that a classic is a book well known but not well-read, how true was he. It is upsetting to know that many of today’s youth do not know some of the authors and poets who have changed the course of history and the way the world thinks. I am a fan of the classics, and I’d like to introduce to you some of the ones I think everybody must read once in their lifetime; if I honestly contemplate what books a person must read I’d go with every ever written it just so difficult for me as a bookworm to name only a few, but I’ll try for sure, here goes nothing. 

I’ve listed 15 books out of my exhausting list of books you should read. 

To Kill a Mockingbird

It was written by Harper Lee and was published in 1960. It quickly became an American classic and also won the Pulitzer Prize. The primary theme of the novel involves racial injustice and the destruction of innocence, it also deals with the severe issue of rape.

This read is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. The story revolves around a middle-aged widowed lawyer named Atticus and his 2 kids, 6-year old Jean (Scout) and her older brother Jeremy (Jem) and their friend Dill. It pens the accounts that follow when Atticus decides to defend a coloured man wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a white girl. His taking up the case sparks a lot of racial tension and hatred and leads to violent outbursts.

The Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter Series was published in 1997 by J. K. Rowling. Since the release of the first novel, the books have found immense popularity, critical acclaim and commercial success worldwide. 

The story revolves around a young wizard called Harry Potter who unexpectedly learns of his identity and journeys to the wizarding school of Hogwarts where he becomes friends with Ron and Hermoine and learns all about the wizarding world and magic and also faces all the obstacles set for him by Voldermort, who incidentally makes him popular by leaving him with a scar that becomes his identifying mark. It touches the aspects of friendship, honour, virtue, resilience and hard work. 

Pride and Prejudice

It was published in 1813 by Jane Austen and is a classic irrespective where in the world you study English literature or have a love for reading. The book follows Elizabeth Bennet’s character development. She learns about the repercussions of hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between actual goodness and superficial goodness. Its humour lies in its honest portrayal of marriage, manners, education and money during the Regency era in Great Britain.

Mr Bennet of Longbourn estate has 5 daughters, but his inheritance is entailed and can only be passed to a male heir. His wife also lacks an inheritance, so his family will be destitute upon his death. Thus at least one of the girls must marry well to support the others, which is the motivation that drives the plot. The book revolves around the importance of marrying for love and not for social prestige or money, despite the communal pressure to make a wealthy match.

The Diary of a Young Girl

This is an extraordinary book since it’s an autobiography of a 13-year old girl who is hiding in the annex of her father’s company building for two years with her family and 4 other jews for 2 years. She was later apprehended and sent into a Nazi concentration camp where she died of typhus. The original diary and notes of hers were preserved by the family friend who helped them hide; she later gave them to her father, who was the only surviving member. The book depicts her life from 1942 to 1944, she stopped writing after she was captured. Her father published her diary post mortem in her memory. Its a tale of courage, hope, strength, dreams, and so much more. It has translated to several languages and has been made into plays and movies. 

The Monk who sold his Ferrari 

This book gently offers answers to life’s biggest questions as well as a practical process to help you create vitality, prosperity, happiness and inner peace. This inspirational tale provides a step-by-step approach to living with tremendous courage, abundance, joy and balance. It narrates the story of Julian Mantle, a lawyer who is forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his out-of-balance life. He sets out on a life-changing odyssey to an ancient culture, he discovers wise, powerful and practical lessons that also teach us to: Cultivate Self-Discipline and Act Courageously, Develop Joyful Thoughts, Follow Our Life’s Mission and Calling, Value Time as Our Most Important Commodity, Live Fully, Nourish Our Relationships, One Day at a Time.

It’s not about the bike

It’s not about the bike, it is the autobiography of the great cyclist, Lance Armstrong, the winner of 7 Tour de France. It is a retelling of his battle against cancer, against the accusations made on him, against everyone who said he couldn’t. The story revolves around his determination to prove himself and finding his life without the bicycle. It’s an inspirational tale of a relentless will to live. The book shares his story from childhood to the 1999 Tour and the birth of his first child. A subsequent autobiographical instalment, entitled ‘Every Second Counts’ continues the narrative until his 2003 Tour victory; following investigations into doping allegations against him, Armstrong was stripped of all his seven Tour titles on October 22, 2012. In Jan 2013, he confessed that some of the allegations were true. In light of Armstrong’s confession, the passages about doping in the book are false or doubtful.

The book thief 

In 1938, young orphan Liesel arrived at the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa. When Hans, who is a kindly house painter, learns that Liesel cannot read, he resolves to teach her the wonders of the written language. Liesel grows up loving books, even going as far as rescuing one from a Nazi bonfire. Although Liesel’s new family barely scrape by, their situation becomes even more precarious when they secretly shelter a Jewish boy, whose father had once saved Hans’ life.

It is Narrated by Death, who throughout the book proves to be a morose yet caring character. It was published in 2005 by Australian author Markus Zusak. 

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a novel by Charlotte Brontë, published under the pen name “Currer Bell”, on October 16 1847. Jane Eyre is divided into 38 chapters. It was initially published in three volumes in the 19th century, comprising chapters 1 to 15, 16 to 27, and 28 to 38. It is a first-person narrative from the point of view of the title character. The novel is set in the north of England, late in the reign of George III (1760–1820). It goes through 5 stages: Jane’s childhood at Gateshead Hall (she is emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins here); her education at Lowood School(she gains friends and role models but suffers privations and oppression here); her time as a governess at Thornfield Hall (she falls in love with her mysterious employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester here); her time in the Moor House (her cold but earnest clergyman cousin, St. John Rivers, proposes to her); and lastly her reunion and marriage to Rochester. Throughout these sections, the novel provides insights on several important social issues and ideas, many of which are critical of the status quo.

The catcher in the rye

The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. D. Salinger. The novel was initially intended for adults but is often read by adolescents for its themes of alienation and angst, and as a critique on superficiality in society. Seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield lives in an unspecified institution in Southern California in either 1949 or 1950. It details 2 days in the life of Holden Caulfield after he has been expelled from prep school. Holden searches for truth and rails against the “phoniness” of the adult world.

A Thousand splendid suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a 2007 novel by author Khaled Hosseini. Kite Runner is the more known and more popular read, which is well deserved. But this read is no less captivating. 

This book is set in Kabul, Afghanistan. It portrays the deplorable state of women under the thumb of the religious terrorists and malice in this patriarchal society. Mariam is an illegitimate child who suffers from the stigma surrounding her birth, and with the abuse, she faces throughout her marriage. Laila, born a generation later, is comparatively privileged during her youth until their lives intersect and she is forced to accept a marriage proposal from Rasheed, Mariam’s husband.

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, published in December 1884. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, also the narrator of 2 other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer, Detective and Tom Sawyer Abroad). It is a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The book is famous for its colourful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. It is an often scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. 

Set in a Southern antebellum society; it is about a boy named Huck who escapes from his abusive father and journeys down the Mississippi River. He runs into Jim, a runaway slave, and travels with him downriver. Eventually, they pick up 2 conmen. After exposing them, they turn Jim over to another slave owner. Huck, along with his friend Tom Sawyer try to rescue Jim unsuccessfully. Later it is revealed that Jim’s previous owner died, allowing Jim to be free. Huck decides to not return home and to keep wandering instead.

The immortals of Meluha

This is the first series published by the Indian Author Amish Tripathi in 2010. It is a book where the mythology and lore meet philosophy and science. Amish decided to base his story on a radical idea that all Gods were once human beings and that it was their deeds in human life that made them known as Gods.

The story is set in the land of Meluha and begins with the arrival of Shiva. The Meluhans believe that Shiva is their fabled saviour Neelkanth (blue-throated). Shiva resolves to help the Meluhans in their war against the Chandravanshis, who had joined forces with cursed Nagas; however, during his journey and the fight that ensues, he learns how his choices actually reflect on who he aspires to be and how they have lead to dire consequences. 

Life’s Amazing Secrets: How to Find Balance and Purpose in Your Life

In the midst of navigating their way through Mumbai’s traffic, Gaur Gopal Das ( the author) and his wealthy friend Harry get talking; delving into concepts like the human condition to finding one’s purpose in life is the key to everlasting happiness. Whether you are looking at discovering your true potential, strengthening your relationships, even how you can give back to the world or understanding how to do well at work, the author takes us on a journey with his precious insights on these aspects of life.

Das is amongst the most popular and sought-after monks and life coaches in the world. This book distils his experiences and lessons about life into a thought-provoking and light-hearted book that will help readers align themselves with the life they want to live.

Essential Wisdom From A Spiritual Master

Often there comes a moment in people’s lives when full stops fall away, question marks and commas surface; vast yawning commas. At this point at which the individual becomes a seeker. This is a book for seekers. It encompasses the gamut of questions that have arisen in every seeker’s mind at some point. Questions about suffering, commitment, fear, desire, free will, love, morality, self-deception, determinism, God, faith, doubt, karma, the body, disease, healing, the spiritual path, the mind, madness, death, dissolution and more. The answers are by Sadguru, a profound mystic and living master of our times. Anchored in inner experience, he remains unaffiliated to any organized sectarian, religious or ideological tradition. Witty, forthright, unconventional, provocative, but deeply compassionate, these answers were shared with close disciples over ten years on various occasions.

The Tempest

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, written probably in 1610–1611, and is said to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote on his own. The first scene takes place on a ship at sea during a tempest, the rest of the story is on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, a contradictory and complex character, lives with his daughter Miranda, and his 2 servants—Ariel, an airy spirit, and Caliban, a savage monster figure. The play contains songs and music that evoke the spirit of enchantment on the island. It explores many themes, including betrayal, revenge, family and magic. In Act IV, a wedding masque presents a play-within-the-play and contributes allegory, spectacle and elevated language.

Though The Tempest is in the First Folio as the first of Shakespeare’s comedies, it deals with both comic and tragic themes. 

Wondering about the absence of many books that you feel should be here. Art, literature, taste palette are all so subjective. There’s no denying the greats like The Great Gatsby, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Kite Runner, all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, Wuthering Heights, and so many more. Everyone must read as much as they can because it only helps never hurts. 

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