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25 Books to Read in a Lifetime (At Least Once)

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

How many of these have you already read?

Books have the power to transport us to new worlds, ignite our imagination, and broaden our horizons. They offer solace, wisdom, and inspiration, and have the ability to change our lives. With countless literary masterpieces out there, it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to read. To make your selection a little easier, we have compiled a list of 25 books that we believe everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. Whether you're a seasoned reader or just starting your literary journey, these books are sure to captivate, enlighten, and resonate with you.

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1. "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1960) by Harper Lee:

Set in the 1930s, this powerful novel follows Scout Finch, a young girl in Alabama, as she navigates racial injustice and prejudice. Through the eyes of Scout, we witness her father's fight for justice and moral integrity in the face of deep-seated discrimination.

2. "1984" (1949) by George Orwell:

In a totalitarian society ruled by Big Brother, protagonist Winston Smith rebels against surveillance, propaganda, and thought control. Orwell's dystopian masterpiece serves as a chilling warning about the dangers of authoritarianism and the importance of preserving individual freedom.

3. "Pride and Prejudice" (1813) by Jane Austen:

A beloved classic, this novel revolves around the spirited Elizabeth Bennet and her tumultuous relationship with the proud Mr. Darcy. Austen skillfully explores themes of love, marriage, and social class, while providing sharp social commentary on 19th-century England.

4. "The Great Gatsby" (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Amidst the glamour and excess of the Roaring Twenties, Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire, longs to reunite with his lost love, Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald's lyrical prose paints a vivid portrait of the Jazz Age while exploring themes of love, illusion, and the corrupting influence of wealth.

5. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez:

In this epic novel, Márquez chronicles the Buendía family across seven generations in the fictional town of Macondo. Blending reality and magical realism, the book explores themes of love, solitude, and the cyclical nature of human existence, leaving an indelible mark on world literature.

6. "To the Lighthouse" (1927) by Virginia Woolf:

Woolf's experimental novel takes readers on an introspective journey through the lives of the Ramsay family during two separate visits to the Isle of Skye. Through the stream-of-consciousness narrative, Woolf delves into the complexities of human relationships, the passage of time, and the elusive nature of artistic creation.

7. "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) by J.D. Salinger:

Narrated by the iconic Holden Caulfield, this coming-of-age novel follows his turbulent experiences in New York City after being expelled from prep school. Salinger's candid portrayal of adolescent alienation and disillusionment continues to resonate with readers of all ages.

8. "Moby-Dick" (1851) by Herman Melville:

In this sweeping adventure, Ishmael joins Captain Ahab and his crew on the whaling ship Pequod in their obsessive quest to hunt down the legendary white whale, Moby-Dick. Melville's epic novel delves into themes of obsession, fate, and the complex relationship between humans and nature.

9. "The Lord of the Rings" (1954–1955) by J.R.R. Tolkien:

Tolkien's epic fantasy trilogy follows the journey of Frodo Baggins as he battles the forces of darkness to destroy the One Ring. Filled with richly imagined landscapes, mythical creatures, and profound themes of heroism, friendship, and the struggle against evil, this timeless tale has captured the hearts of readers worldwide.

10. "Crime and Punishment" (1866) by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

Dostoevsky's psychological masterpiece centers around Rodion Raskolnikov, a troubled former student who commits a heinous crime. As Raskolnikov grapples with guilt and the pursuit of redemption, the novel delves into the depths of the human psyche, morality, and the consequences of one's actions.

11. "Beloved" (1987) by Toni Morrison:

Set in post-Civil War Ohio, this haunting novel tells the story of Sethe, a former slave haunted by the memories of her past. Blending history, magical realism, and profound storytelling, Morrison explores the enduring legacy of slavery, the power of memory, and the search for identity and freedom.

12. "The Odyssey" (8th century BCE) by Homer:

This ancient Greek epic poem chronicles the perilous journey of Odysseus as he attempts to return home from the Trojan War. Filled with adventure, mythical creatures, and divine intervention, "The Odyssey" explores themes of heroism, fate, and the triumph of the human spirit.

13. "Brave New World" (1932) by Aldous Huxley:

Set in a future society where genetic engineering, social conditioning, and mind-altering drugs control every aspect of life, Huxley's dystopian novel challenges the notions of individuality, freedom, and happiness. A thought-provoking exploration of the dangers of a dehumanized society.

14. "The Count of Monte Cristo" (1844) by Alexandre Dumas:

Dumas' thrilling tale follows Edmond Dantès, who, after being wrongly imprisoned, seeks revenge on those who betrayed him. Filled with adventure, intrigue, and themes of justice, forgiveness, and redemption, this swashbuckling classic is a masterpiece of historical fiction.

15. "Jane Eyre" (1847) by Charlotte Brontë:

In this gothic novel, the fiercely independent Jane Eyre navigates love, societal expectations, and her own sense of identity. Brontë's enduring work explores themes of morality, class, and the power of love in the face of adversity.

16. "The Brothers Karamazov" (1880) by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

This philosophical novel delves into the lives of the Karamazov brothers and their father, exploring themes of faith, morality, and the existence of God. Through complex characters and gripping storytelling, Dostoevsky raises profound questions about the nature of humanity and the choices we make.

17. "The Alchemist" (1988) by Paulo Coelho:

Coelho's allegorical novel follows Santiago, a young shepherd who embarks on a quest to find his personal legend. Through his journey, readers are encouraged to follow their dreams, listen to their hearts, and embrace the transformative power of self-discovery.

18. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1890) by Oscar Wilde:

Wilde's novel tells the story of Dorian Gray, a young man who remains forever young and handsome while a portrait ages in his place, capturing the effects of his immoral choices. Exploring themes of beauty, morality, and the pursuit of pleasure, Wilde's work is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition.

19. "Slaughterhouse-Five" (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut:

Vonnegut's anti-war novel follows Billy Pilgrim, a World War II soldier who becomes "unstuck in time." Blending elements of science fiction and black comedy, the novel reflects on the absurdity of war, the concept of free will, and the impact of trauma on the human psyche.

20. "Anna Karenina" (1878) by Leo Tolstoy:

Set in 19th-century Russia, Tolstoy's masterpiece tells the story of Anna Karenina, a married woman who embarks on a passionate affair. Through Anna's tumultuous journey, the novel explores themes of love, morality, societal norms, and the consequences of one's actions.

21. "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985) by Margaret Atwood:

In this dystopian novel, Offred, a handmaid in the totalitarian Republic of Gilead, navigates a world where women's rights have been stripped away. Atwood's chilling tale serves as a powerful critique of gender oppression, political extremism, and the importance of individual agency.

22. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939) by John Steinbeck:

Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning nove follows the Joad family as they leave their Dust Bowl-ravaged farm and embark on a journey to find a better life in California. Through their struggles, the novel exposes the social and economic injustices faced by migrant workers during the Great Depression.

23. "The Little Prince" (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

This enchanting novella tells the story of a young prince who travels from planet to planet, meeting various inhabitants and learning valuable life lessons. Through its whimsical narrative, Saint-Exupéry's work explores themes of friendship, love, and the importance of seeing the world through a child's eyes.

24. "Wuthering Heights" (1847) by Emily Brontë:

Brontë's gothic masterpiece unfolds on the windswept moors of Yorkshire, as the passionate and volatile love story between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw unfolds. Exploring themes of love, revenge, and the destructive power of obsession, the novel has left an indelible mark on literature.

25. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884) by Mark Twain:

Twain's iconic American novel follows the journey of Huck Finn and Jim, an escaped slave, as they navigate the Mississippi River and confront the prejudices and injustices of their time. With its sharp social commentary and memorable characters, the novel explores themes of race, morality, and the pursuit of freedom.


Embarking on a literary journey through these 25 books will undoubtedly enrich your life, broaden your perspectives, and ignite your imagination. Each of these works has left an indelible mark on literature and continues to resonate with readers across generations. Whether you find solace in the pages of a classic novel, explore the depths of human nature in a philosophical masterpiece, or get lost in the realms of fantasy and adventure, these books will transport you to different worlds and touch your soul. So pick up a book, lose yourself in its pages, and embark on an extraordinary literary adventure that will last a lifetime.


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