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50 Books You Absolutely MUST Read Before You Die

Dr. Nikki Martinez, Lead Contributor
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Wondering which books to read next?

We all have different tastes when it comes to books and other reading material.

However, no matter what your regular interests, there are books that have stood the test of time – and are still coming out on top.

These are the books that you have to read at some point in your life because they are that good – they will leave a permanent mark on you.

**A special thanks to our friends at Good Reads for sharing the information they have compiled.

I could list 100 (but I won’t).

Here are 50 of the best books to read in your lifetime.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

to kill a mockingbird

Touching and heart-breaking.

A lesson that life is not always fair, and not every story has a happy ending.

You will also enjoy our article on best books for men.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

A story about trailblazers and strong women.

One of my personal favorites.

You will also enjoy our article on Great Gatsby quotes.

3. The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank.

anne frank

Read this book and immediately hop on a flight to Amsterdam to put it all in perspective.

4. 1984, by George Orwell

1984 george orwell

This book was not prolific, and a little too close to the mark on some issues, but still worth a read.

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

I have no shame in admitting that I love this series.

Also read these classic Dumbledore quotes.

6. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings

A series that I did not think I would like, but could read and watch over and over again.

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

A tale that will touch your imagination and break your heart.

It challenges who you think people truly are.

Don’t forget to also check out our collection of A Course in Miracles quotes from the iconic book.

8. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B White

Charlotte's Web

I picture myself reading this over and over as a child.

A real lesson in friendship and sacrifice.

9. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

A much needed book about what it means to be strong, independent, yet dedicated all at once.

10. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

A story that shows us that we are all beautiful in our own way.

11. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind

A tale of waste and opulence, to struggle and sacrifice.

Related  10 Books Every Woman Should Read About Following Your Passion

12. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A classic by Mark Twain that gives us some of the greatest quotes of our time.

13. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

The Hunger Games

Another series I assumed I would not like, but was not able to put down.

14. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

The Help

An example of what it really means to have courage and conviction.

15. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, by C.S Lewis.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I remember reading this in 4th grade, and being given one of the greatest gifts of imagination I could hope for.

16. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

Lord of the Flies

This book tests the human will and spirit.

It makes us question what we would do if we were faced with this degree of adversity.

Also see these Lord of the Flies quotes for more insights.

17. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare - Hamlet

Whether you are forced by a High School English teacher or not, no one should make it through life without reading this at least once.

18. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.

The Wrinkle in Time

A tale of true imagination and possibilities.

19. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

Of Mice and Men

Just simply a classic.

A book that is rare enough to make you think you know what is coming next, when you have no idea.

20. A Tales of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.

A Tale of Two Cities

All I can think of is, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.”

21. Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet

A story that has it all.

Love, sacrifice, vengeance, grudges, and impulsivity.

22. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, By Douglas Adams.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Simply a great read.

Creative and thought-provoking.

23. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden

One of those books that truly transports you, and stretches your imagination.

24. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

A Christmas Carol

You must read the original to understand the true meaning.

While there are a million movies made, all with their own spin on things, nothing beats the original.

25. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, by J.K Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I will say it again: I am not afraid to admit how much I love the creativity and lessons about good and evil, friends and enemies, in these books.

26. The Giver, by Lois Lowry.

The Giver

One that everyone should read and reflect upon.

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There should be a little of this in each of us.

27. Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein.

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings

I can remember hiding in a nook of my home and reading this over and over again as a child.

I still own the originals as an adult.

28. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.

Wuthering Heights

No adolescent experience would be complete without this book!

29. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

The Fault in Our Stars

A touching book of strength, will, and acceptance.

Also check out our collection of quotes from The Fault in Our Stars.

30. Anne of the Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Anne of Green Gables

I can’t imagine being a young girl and not read this at least once.

Some will read it until it is rugged and worn.

31. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Another great by Mark Twain that is bound to give wisdom, which we will carry with us throughout our lives.

32. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare - Macbeth

This is not just for High School English classes; it is a classic that is not to be missed.

33. The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larrson.

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

I genuinely find this entire series to be amazing.

It is thought-provoking, has a strong female lead, and shows us that anyone can overcome adversity.

34. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.


I can’t even imagine anyone going through their lives without reading the original Frankenstein.

Also check out our collection of thought-provoking Frankenstein quotes.

35. The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker.

The Color Purple

A touching and too true story of what life was like for so many people during this awful time in our history.

In many cases, it shows us how to deal with adversity with human spirit.

36. Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.

Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I really can’t out my finger on how many things I love about the creativity and lessons of this book.

One that every child, and adult, must read.

37. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote.

In Cold Blood

A gripping and true story that lets us see into the minds of a killer.

38. The Stand, by Stephen King.

The Stand

Yes it will scare you – but in the most amazing way.

39. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I am sure you are seeing a pattern, but I can’t help it if she kept writing great books!

Related  10 Best Business Books That Will Develop Your Success Mindset

If you’re enjoying this article, be sure to check out our collection of the best motivational books for personal development.

40. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.

Anna Karenina

Know that you are in for a good long read, but that it will not be one that you will regret the time commitment.

41. Watership Down, by Richard Adams.

Watership Down

One of those books that touches you in a way, and exposes you to feelings and experiences you may not otherwise have had at that age.

42. Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.

Memoirs of a Geisha

A wonderful book that lets us into a world that we would not have otherwise imagined.

43. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R Martin.

A Game of Thrones

If you think that you know the show and love it, the books will blow your mind.

44. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.

Great Expectations

A true classic by Dickens.

A book of adversity, dreams, and what we can all overcome.

45. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

The Old Man and The Sea

I don’t think I need a reason aside from the fact that it was written by Ernest Hemingway.

46. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Any of the books in this series are thought-provoking, humorous, and show you the meaning of genius and friendship in a way they are rarely seen.

47. Harry Potter andthe Half Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Shocker! Another Harry Potter Book.

Get the series and you will get me.

48. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.

Life of Pi

While the movie was amazing, the book is that and a 100 times more.

You are really missing out if you do not give this a read.

49. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Scarlet Letter

A classic book that gives a glimpse at how one life has changed.

What used to be forbidden and punishable is now commonplace and disposable.

50. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S Lewis.

The Silver Chair

I feel like this entire series is a rite of passage for childhood.

Among these must-read books, which ones have you already read?

Reading is more than a pastime – it’s how we experience life through different lenses.

Imagine every story, every song, woven through time.

Then envision a life without it.

Wouldn’t it be very sad?

Reading doesn’t need to feel like a chore.

A few minutes everyday should be enough.

So pick from among these best books to read and fill your life with wonder today.

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  1. Frederick Beiderbecke

    March 7, 2020 at 8:59 PM

    There’s a bookmark put out by Barnes and Noble that has their choice of 50 books. Personally, couldn’t you have just listed the Harry Potter series as a whole to clear the way for a few more choices for those of us who prefer not to read Harry Potter? Otherwise, I like your choices, and some of them intrigued me, which is good; however, I’m puzzled as to why you didn’t pick Hamlet…but then I suppose a list like this should have some surprises. I started to read the Harry Potter series, but somehow the witchcraft element bothered me, so I stopped. That’s not to say they aren’t great books, it’s just at this stage in my life I’d rather read about something else.

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