10 books to read before you die
The Handmaid’s Tale (of course)
It’s no surprise, that sales of Margaret Atwood’s novel witnessed a 200% increase after the inauguration of America’s 45th President. Alongside the Emmy award winning Hulu series, this dystopian novel set in a distant future where women are viewed with the sole function of reproduction and under the complete subjugation of their male counterparts, is a novel more pertinent in today’s society than ever before.
The Girl on the Train
This psychological thriller by British author Paula Hawkins debuted No.1 on the New York Times Fiction best sellers of 2015, and in 2016 was made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring the likes of Emily Blunt and Justin Theroux. The book itself is split between the lives of three women, all of whom’s lives become entangled in many plot twists and turns. If you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ this is definitely one for you.
The Great Gatsby
A favourite of mine, Fitzgerald’s novel is set during the glitz and glam (and corruption) of the Roaring 20’s. The plot is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale Graduate who befriends his charming and multi-millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby. Despite the lavish parties and the materialism which is at the heart of the novel, the narrative is entwined in a love story which is perhaps, as devastating as that of Romeo and Juliet. This novel is definitely one which leaves the reader having a changed perspective on life, or at least some extra philosophical and inspirational quotes that would look great on your wall.
To Kill a Mockingbird
This classic is a novel set in Alabama and focuses on Atticus Finch, a town lawyer who works tirelessly to acquit a black man accused of raping a young white woman. Despite the repercussions which Finch and his children feel in their defence of a black man within a racially divided society, Finch has strong beliefs that all people no matter race or religion ought to have a fair trial. This book is one that pushed the boundaries of its era, with Harper Lee boldly critiquing the segregation and injustices taking place within America, perhaps a lesson that all of us can learn from.
Heller’s novel, which is often cited as one of the most significant novels of the 21st Century, is set during World War II and follows the life of Captain John Yossarian, a US Army Air force bombardier pilot. However, despite my neat summary the novel itself is much more complex, dealing with topical themes like the power of bureaucracy, the impotence of language and the inevitability of death (a good Friday night read).
Another classic and an equally good film, Rebecca is a thriller novel by English author Daphne Du Maurier. The beginning of the novel conforms very much to the stereotypical black and white films, girl (who we never learn the name of) meets boy (Maxim de Winter), they get married but then another dimension is added to the plot. After their marriage, the mysterious death of Maxim’s ex-wife lives on, haunting the young naive Mrs de Winter and ultimately leading to an unexpected plot twist.
The Catcher in the Rye
Although J.D Salinger’s novel was published over half a Century ago, the book has become a modern phenomenon amongst teenagers for its relatable themes of teenage angst, rebellion and struggles with identity. The narrator is a 16 year old Native New-Yorker named Holden Caulfield, who leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York for three days. With Haulden Caulfield having been voted one of the best-loved fictional characters in American Literature, this is definitely a novel you’ve got to give a try.
If you’re one for history and feudal systems, this book may be the one for you. The tragic story by renowned Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, is about Countess Anna Karenina, a married noblewoman and her affair with the affluent Count Kronsky. Besides the love story, this novel stands the test of time in its exploration of themes like that of gender, social class, and morality; themes which still remain huge issues in the 21st Century.
L’Étranger (The Stranger)
Compared to the other books listed, this may not have the most plot twists or love affairs (there is a relationship, but it is far from romantic) BUT it is definitely one of those books that you have just got to read in your lifetime. On the surface, the novel gives the appearance of being an extremely simple book about a man, Meursault, who leads a very banal life. However, in reality Camus fills it with dense philosophical meaning, posing existential questions like ‘What is the meaning of life?’. Disclaimer: Make sure you read the English version, makes life a lot easier.
Similarly to the fame that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has recently been met with, George Orwell’s classic novel about a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime has seen a recent surge in sales. It would seem that these dystopian novels of the past have somewhat predicted the present societies in which we currently live…
AND on that happy note, get reading!