As an avid fan of literature, I would read all day if the daily grind of life wasn’t there to stop me. However, this isn’t a shared opinion amongst the masses. In fact, an overwhelming amount of people in my generation doesn’t read at all. Book readers will always be very forthcoming with the books you should read next, and some could go on for days with new selections. I realize that some people don’t have the time to read beyond what they must for work or school. I’m here to give five historical type books that I believe everyone should read before they die. I could have included several reference type books or self-help type books, but I wanted to focus on the story. These will not only entertain but give the reader a stronger understanding of the world around them. Obviously, this list like any is subjective, but I believe this list provides a strong batch of styles and topics that remain relevant years beyond the publication date. Here are my recommended five books you must read before you die:
John Steinbeck -The Grapes of Wrath
The American dream can be a scary thing, and no other book to my knowledge displays this better than the Pulitzer-winning 1939 novel by the master of the American dream himself. A lot of novels are regarded as the Great American Novel, but this one does a lot to back it up. It is rough around the edges; it’s not polished to the level of Moby Dick or The Sound and the Fury. However, the novel does an excellent job at using the protagonist family The Joad’s as a representation of the working class. This book has never stopped being relevant, and it brings enough drama to satisfy the biggest Netflix junkie.
George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four
Back on the bestseller list in the wake of the election, George Orwell’s sci-fi dystopian novel that has published in 1949 has predicted a great deal about the future of the government and social issues. The biggest thing that can be said of this novel is that it reads more and more like nonfiction as the years past. This may not bode well for personal freedom, but it sure does make Orwell’s story all that much more impactful.
D Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye
Before John Hughes and John Green, the master of the coming of age story was J.D Salinger. A teen novel written by one of the literary greats of the period, the story of Holden Caulfield is just as poignant now as it was hitting the shelves in 1951. Holden is caught between youth and adulthood and has carved out a character mold for some of the greatest teen films of all time. Holden is profane, aggressive, and immature. However, anyone reading the novel will be able to identify with Holden at some point, and it’s a fantastic story.
Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
Censorship is an age long debate in each society. Religions with power will often use influence to eliminate or censor other religions. Governments often promote propaganda against a movement that is promoting resistance. Bradbury’s novel presents the story of a society that burns all books, and our protagonist is one of the firemen. American values can often differ, but the idea of being censored or told what to say or read is about as horrific as it gets for our ideals. This novel tells a fantastic story and gives us a reminder of the dangers of censorship.
Elie Wiesel – Night
This is the only non-fiction book on my list, but I felt it had to be included. The narrative of a young teenager in a Nazi imprisonment camp with his father touches on every ounce of humanity within all of us. The story is complex; it deals with the sorrow, shame, guilt, and hope that exists within the darkest of places. The fact it is a harrowing true story adds a limitless weight to every single word. The book is often required reading in schools, but it should be required reading throughout our lives. Empathy is often dulled through age and life experience, but a book like this can renew a sense of love for our fellow human being.
This list is open for debate. Anyone can provide five examples of must-reads, and I encourage anyone to at least find five books that are required reading. It will engage discussion, open up a new world of understanding, and it can often prepare us for the future.