The Top Six Books/Series You Should Read Before You Die
These are the top six books/series that I believe one needs to read before one dies. They are in no particular order of my favorite to least favorite, and are each fantastic in their own particular ways. I will list the book/series, a brief synopsis of each, and why I think that each should be read. Believe me, they are all worth reading!
1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Set in 1959, a Baptist minister named Nathan Price drags his four daughters and wife into the Congo in the hopes of enlightening the people of Africa and converting them to Christianity. They soon figure out that converting the people of the Congo is not as easy as they had hoped. Through fighting disease, starvation, and the local government, this family struggles and strives to understand and engulf themselves in the culture they have been planted in.
The Poisonwood Bible is a must-read. The story is told through the eyes of the five women of the family; Orleanna, the mother, fifteen year old Rachel, fourteen year old Leah, Leah’s fourteen year old twin sister Adah, and five year old Ruth May. The voices of each of these characters are so strong and precise, when opening to a random page and reading a few sentences, one can tell exactly who is narrating the story at the time. It is also an amazing story of danger, the struggle for independence (for some characters as well as the Congo itself), growth, maturity, and love. The writing is so detailed and vivid that reading the book is like watching a movie. I loved every page of the book!
2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Nuclear war has broken out in the Northern Hemisphere and everything is gone. In the Southern Hemisphere, the people wait slowly for the radiation to reach them and to destroy everything they have. They know they are going to die, so they do whatever they want with the rest of the time they have. Some drink endlessly, some seek solace in their religion, some have lots of sex, and others drive fast, expensive cars not caring if they have a chance of getting into a wreck. They were going to die anyway.
“In the end, when the sickness could not be stopped, the government would issue cyanide pills to those who waited, hoping they would not have to use them, knowing they would” (Nevil Shute).
On the Beach is a fantastic book that not only frightens me to death, but makes me think about what I would do in a situation like this. If I knew I was going to die and that everyone else in the world would also, what would I do with my time? The main character is Peter Holmes, a Lieutenant Commander of the Royal Australian Navy. He and his family do things they would normally do; have friends over, do some gardening, go sailing… but the inevitable is always lurking in the backs of their minds - they were going to die. What makes this book so great is that this seems very realistic. Most people probably would not want to think about their world ending. Nevil Shute writes this book as if he has been to the end of the world and survived to describe what it is like. This is a book that needs to be a mandatory read for anyone entering a government position. We need to avoid this situation at all costs.
3. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is a lonely boy who was emotionally abused by his aunt, uncle, and cousin. Until of course he discovers that he is a wizard and is thrown into a magical world he could only ever dream of. His adventures take him through finding out about how his parents were murdered, making life-long friends, learning spells, taking classes at a magical school, learning dark, magical secrets, and discovering how he is the only person who can save the entire world against the darkest wizard of all – Voldemort. Through seven books, this magical story unfolds and features the classic battle of good vs. evil, hardship, loyalty, love, growth, humor, and friendship.
I absolutely love the Harry Potter Series! I grew up with these books. Waiting for the next book to come out was always difficult, but always worth it. These books are superbly written in amazing detail. There are characters to love, hate, and love to hate. It may be categorized under Young Adult Fiction, but it is definitely for adults as well. The characters are relatable, funny, witty, and perfectly realistic. There is just the right amount of humor, danger, adventure, love, mystery, and action in every book. The story is gripping and these are definite page-turners. If you have seen the movies and love them, then read the books! I promise you the books are way better than the movies!
4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This is a story about a young girl in 1943 during the Holocaust of the Second World War, trying to save her best friend and other Danish Jews from being taken by the Nazi soldiers. The young girl, Annemarie, and her family take part in the effort to help the Danish Jews leave Denmark so that they are not taken away and killed. Through many struggles and setbacks, Annemarie, her family, and the rest of the Resistance, try the best they can in order to free their friends and family from the horrors of the Third Reich.
I had to read this book a long time ago, and it touched me then and still touches me now. This is a perfect telling of some of the horrific events that happened to Jews during the Nazi rule, but the bonds of friendship and family and freedom keep the characters going in order to achieve justice. The characters are very realistic and easy to fall in love with. The story is told beautifully and flawlessly and pulls at my heartstrings every time I read it. Even though it is a children’s book, everyone needs to read it.
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, is about a boy from Afghanistan named Amir. It is set in the pre-Taliban rule of Afghanistan where Amir and his friend Hassan grow up and try to find their places in the world. It is a story of right and wrong and the nature of evil. Violence, love, redemption, sacrifice, and cruelty are major themes in this book. Will Amir ever find his place in society?
I could not put this book down. As tragic and heartbreaking as it was, I had to keep reading. I had to know if everything was going to turn out okay. I was crying, laughing, and maddening through the entire thing. This is not just a coming-of-age book; it is about good vs. evil and redemption. When Amir realizes he did wrong, he spends his life trying to fix it. The historical aspect of this book also adds greatness to it. People really did suffer through the events that happen in this book, making it even more realistic (and only adds to why I was crying). This is a definite must-read.
6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This lovely story centers around Elizabeth Bennet, a young girl who lives in Britain with her four sisters, mother, and father. Her mother’s main ambition is to marry off her daughters so that they will have happy lives before their father’s estate becomes entailed to their cousin. Elizabeth meets a Mr. Darcy, a proud, rich man who seems to dislike everyone except the people he is familiar with. When the militia is stationed in Meryton (a town outside of where the Bennet’s live), the girls occupy themselves with getting to know the men and Elizabeth finds herself having a fancy for Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham have a past though and no one knows who is telling the exact truth. Throughout this story there is fancy, class, love, loyalty, sisterly bonds, and heartbreak.
I love this book! Pride and Prejudice has to be one of my all-time favorite books that I have ever read. The love stories are heartwarming and enticing. The bond between Jane and Elizabeth is unbreakable. The humor of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Lydia, Mary, and Mr. Collins is just the right amount. And each character is unique and loveable. I do not know how many times I have read this book. The way in which it is written is also beautiful. The sentences flow so naturally and the vivid detail is incredible. It is one of the most beautifully written stories I have ever read.
Other great books include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, ASeries of Unfortunate Eventsseries by Lemony Snicket, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
I hope you enjoy these books!