There are a lot of self-care trends flying around the internet these days. You could create a vision board, do some meditation, or take a walk in nature. And these are all great ways to take care of your mental health. But, one of the best ways to care for your mind and get a little smarter at the same time is something that people have been doing for centuries: reading a book. Reading has been proven to reduce stress, increase your ability to focus, and some studies even suggest that reading can help you become more successful. Indeed, some of the wealthiest people in the world have stressed the importance of reading every day.
With all that being said, not all books are created equal. You have your romance novels and your fantasy novels. You have your comic books and your mangas. And, if you enjoy it, reading those types of literature is amazing. However, you should take some time in your life to read the classics. So, to get you started on your literary journey, I’ve created a list of some of the books that everyone should read before they die. These books will make you laugh, cry, learn, and feel inspired. And, most importantly, they’ll give you some valuable takeaways that you can implement into your everyday life. So, here are the 8 books you absolutely need to read:
#1: East of Eden
Now, John Steinbeck is undoubtedly one of the greatest American authors of all time. And, while most people have probably heard of Of Mice and Men, I would recommend that you read his masterpiece East of Eden as your first priority. The novel is set in Salinas Valley, California just after World War I, and centers around a family born to a pair of Irish immigrants. There is also a parallel plotline that follows a girl named Cathy who uses her beauty and innocent appearance to scam people.
Steinbeck himself considered this novel to be his magnum opus and the entire novel is a reimagination of the Book of Genesis from the Bible, specifically the story of Cain and Abel. The story is a work of philosophical genius and will completely change the way you look at the world and the people who inhabit it.
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#2: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
While Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind isn’t considered a classic because it was originally published in 2011, it is certainly still a book that you should read before you die. And, if you’re more into nonfiction, this is probably the first book on this list that you should read. Written by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari, this book lays out the origins of the human species in a way that even non-science-minded people can understand. This book is extremely informative but is also most definitely a page-turner.
The book is separated into four major parts. The first, the Cognitive Revolution, details the evolution of the human imagination. The second, the Agricultural Revolution, talks about the development of agriculture and its importance to the human species. Next comes the unification of humankind, which basically involves humans consolidating and collaborating in political organizations. The final section, the Scientific Revolution, talks about the importance of the development of objective science. By the end of this book, you’ll have been thoroughly entertained and have a far greater understanding of the history of humanity.
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#3: Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest science fiction writers ever and has numerous amazing books; however, my very favorite of his has to be Fahrenheit 451. This is a book about, well, books! But, there’s so much more to this dystopian novel and there are plenty of things to take away from this book about power structures, mass media, and the importance of reading.
This story will keep you enthralled and on the edge of your seat with every single page. Bradbury is a master of suspense capable of writing interesting and complex characters that you will relate to despite the fact that they live in a dystopian future. The world that Bradbury creates also feels incredibly real and immersive. It does seem at times like Fahrenheit 451 could be an accurate image of the future.
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#4: Lord of the Flies
Most people have already read Lord of the Flies by William Golding at some point in school but, if you haven’t, you should absolutely pick up a copy (or download it on your Kindle) and start reading. The book follows the story of a group of British boys who get stranded on an uninhabited island and figure out how to survive. One of the biggest issues on the island is their struggle to create a system of governance.
This novel deals with the tensions between individuality and groupthink, and how people can be convinced to do things they would never normally do by peer pressure. William Golding also has a very unique writing voice and keeps his readers engaged with fruitful descriptions and thrilling action. By reading this book, you can learn a ton about society and group psychology.
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#5: Brave New World
One of the best social science fiction books ever written, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is an absolute masterpiece of futuristic imagination. Indeed, the universe that Huxley creates in this novel is unbelievably complex and brilliant, yet still easy to relate to and draw insights from. Among the many imagined technologies in this novel are sleep-learning and artificial reproduction, and the entire “World State” is built upon the principles of Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly lines.
This novel deals with government control and censorship as well as myriad other concepts and themes. At the time that this book was written, philosophical discourse shifted from the belief that humanity would eventually solve all of its problems to acknowledging that humans will always create problems for themselves. In Brave New World, Huxley shows how human beings always find ways to screw things up despite access to every technology they could ever need.
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#6: Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is considered by many to be a manifesto of conservative political philosophy. However, even if your own political philosophy doesn’t align with Rand’s, this novel is still totally worth a read for the incredibly realistic characters that she writes and her ability to write in such a grandiose and thrilling style. Plus, it’s always worth opening yourself up to different people’s ideologies as a way of rethinking your own.
The story in Atlas Shrugged is about a group of exorbitantly wealthy titans of industry who suddenly start to disappear. You have the owner of a train company and a steel company who start as mere business associates and later stir up a romantic relationship, which gets complicated later down the line. Ultimately, this book has some fascinating philosophical monologues (even if you don’t agree with them) and a whole lot of gripping action and dialogue. Ayn Rand spent years working on this book, which is often considered her best work, and it really paid off.
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#7: Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life
Many of the most successful people on Earth swear by the book Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life by English author George Eliot (who was really a woman by the name of Mary Anne Evans). This fictional story takes place in the fictional town of Middlemarch; however, the story deals with real historical events such as the 1832 Reform act, the building of the earliest railways in England, and the ascension of King William IV. The story alternates between a series of several characters, all of who have unique and interesting perspectives and personalities.
Among the themes that Middlemarch touches upon are political and religious hypocrisy, the status of women in society, the institution of marriage, and the effectiveness of education systems. This is a book for free thinkers, those who carve out their own path and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, which is a major reason it can be found in the libraries of some of the most influential people in the world.
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#8: In Cold Blood
Another amazing book for those who prefer nonfiction, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was an instant classic the moment it was published in 1966. The book follows the events surrounding the tragic murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote learned about the murders before the murderers were even captured and traveled to Kansas where he conducted interviews with local Holcomb residents and police investigators. Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were eventually captured six weeks after the murders were committed. Truman Capote spent a total of around years to finish In Cold Blood.
The murderers were ultimately after some cash that they’d heard the Clutter family kept in a safe but, with Perry Smith being violent and unstable, things turned violent when the thieves were discovered. After killing the four members of the Clutter family, the killers fled across the United States, evading the police up until the point that they were caught in Las Vegas. Capote does a great job of reporting these crimes and the subsequent manhunt truthfully and dramatically.
Buy your copy of In Cold Blood on Amazon!