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Top 10 books to read before you die

Updated on November 11, 2015

I found picking just 10 books for my list of: top 10 books to read before you die, a daunting task. I mean there are just so many great books out there. The ones I ended up with are more than just great, they have it in them to change lives.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War was written more than 2,000 years ago and it still relevant today. It's a manual for Chinese generals with strategies and tactics for winning wars.

So how can this help you? Well it turns out the logic approach to strategic situations can be applied just about everywhere.

This is a book about winning in war, business and in life.


Catch 22 is a black comedy about the madness of war. It is at the same time the funniest and most tragic book I have ever read.

The book tell the story of second world war American bomber pilots. In it the writer explores the logic of the illogical, and asks the reader to try to rationalize the irrational.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Dumas, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo, has a deep understanding of people. This has enabled him to create some of the most compelling characters ever. Every page of The Count of Monte Cristo is packed with adventure, passion and drama.

The book is about injustice, betrayal and vengeance. It reminds me think of the saying: "Vengeance is a dish best served cold".

The Count of Monte Cristo is a 1,000 page book that you won't be able to put down.

A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time was written by the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking. In it he tries to answer some of the big questions about space, time and everything. The thing that makes the book special is that he does it in a way which is understandable to everyone.

He explains the answers to questions like: Where did the universe come from? How and why did it begin? Will the universe end, and if so, how?


It should come as no surprise that one of Shakespear's plays made it to the list of top ten books ever.

Macbeth is about how the lust for power can destroy you and everyone around you. The book is so scary because it shows you how even a generally descent guy can become a monster.

Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness explores the dark side of the human animal.

The book is set in colonial African Congo. The writer takes the main character on a journey through sin, taking personal responsibility and finally achieving redemption.

I, Robot

The book has very little to do with the movie of the same name. I Robot is about the evolution of machine intelligence and about how man relates to machine.

I, Robot was written in the 1950 when computers where in their very early days. It is chilling how many of Asimov's predictions have come to pass and how many may yet do so.


The subject of pedophilia is rarely discussed in modern life and even then, it's not done well. Lolita takes a rational look at this part of humanity we chose to ignore.

The author does not try to sugarcoat the act or the damage it does to the lives involved.

War and Peace

War and Peace is an exploration of the human condition. As there is much to cover the book has many characters and sub plots, making the book a long and difficult read. As you progress through the book all the separate stories start to pull together into one.

Having said that the understanding you can gain from this novel can change your life.

Madame Bovary

Madam Bovary is one of the most perfectly written and influential books of all time.

After this book there where many dealing with the fall of an adulterous woman. But this is the original and best one.

If you enjoyed top 10 books to read before you die you should also read top 10 vampire romance books and top 10 books for teenage girls.

Top 10 books you should read before you die
Top 10 books you should read before you die
Top ten books to read before you die
Top ten books to read before you die


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      Ranajoy 3 years ago

      Nice taste indeed! Now that I have the list in front - I think I would just add "Lust For Life" instead of Madame Bovary", and am not sure how it would look if I had not started with a frame of reference.

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      Laurel 6 years ago

      The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird must be added to the list! I agree that Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.

    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

      Good list. I have not read Madame Bovary yet, but will make it a priority.

    • alqx profile image

      alqx 7 years ago from Singapore

      I've not read any of the above books, though I've ever wanted to read Isaac Asimov's and Stephen Hawking's. My favourite two books are 'Of Human Bondage' by William Somerset Maugham and 'The Story of Philosophy' by Will Durant.

    • TheBookWorm profile image

      TheBookWorm 7 years ago from Manchester, United Kingdom

      As commentated by previous hubbers, creating a list of just ten books is all relative; instead of forcing books on people; we should instead be thankful that in today's modern age, people are still reading. Ninetten Eighty Four has already been quoted, so I will just have to come up with another - how about one of my personal favourites, Silas Marner by George Eliot. Now there is a book that can change your life...

    • Sean Fullmer profile image

      Sean Fullmer 7 years ago from California

      Wow: great, succinct critiques. Well done! I was especially drawn by the line about War and Peace which tantalizingly read: "the understanding you can gain from this novel can change your life."

    • wade11hicks profile image

      wade11hicks 7 years ago

      The Art of War is an amazing book. I believe everyone should read it before we die.

    • profile image

      Mom 7 years ago

      I DID read these books, but have been reading for 65 years so it was inevitable. Did like The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov, think I read where every single Russian person loves this book, plus a lot of the rest of us! To Kill A Mockingbird certainly now a classic. A recent hoot of a memoir is called Little Heathens. Cheers!

    • profile image

      charmainpr 7 years ago

      Oh my goodness!! It is so nice to hear from someone that appreciates good, classic literature. Excellent job in narrowing down some great books. There are so many to choose from!

    • Butterflylady2010 profile image

      Butterflylady2010 7 years ago from UK

      I have not ready any of those books which is quite depressing!! My fav book of all time has to be the Merchant of Venice - I think it should have made your list :)

    • pinkhawk profile image

      pinkhawk 7 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

      ...interesting! I'm familiar with Macbeth and The Count of Monte Cristo but I'm still curious on the others..thank you very much for posting!^.^

    • profile image

      kaka 7 years ago

      I think that the you should read all of the Franklin books before dieing.


    • BeBrown profile image

      BeBrown 7 years ago

      The Count of Monte Christo - Great book

    • brandyBachmann profile image

      brandyBachmann 7 years ago

      I find it very difficult to make a list of 10 must-read books before I die, there's so many books that one must read he/she dies.

    • profile image

      Mohamed Mughal 7 years ago

      Great selections!

      Also consider: Slaughterhouse 5, by Vonnegut; The Great Gatsby, by Fitzgerald; The Stranger, by Camus.

    • claudialepo profile image

      claudialepo 7 years ago from Firenze

      You included War and Piece, so I must start it (I`ve read only few pages and then I watched a movie based on), before it could be too late! I`m going to spend some years to do such a thing! Your list it`s brilliant. The art of war it`s something to be read by everybody, I wouldn`t say the same for Madame Bovary, I prefer the Sentimental Education. Thanks you gave me some good titles for my next reading!

    • Elefanza profile image

      Elefanza 7 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

      Good list. I would have to agree with adding Lord of the Rings though. And you can't miss the Bronte sisters! Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are a must!

    • jellydonut25 profile image

      jellydonut25 7 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      I haven't read many of this list...i'd throw 1984 into the mix though...

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      Nicks 7 years ago

      What about Herodutus and Gibbon, Jane Austen and Dickens - so many writers have produced wonderful works that I would be daunted by even attempting a top 10...

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 8 years ago from NJ, USA

      Great list - there are so many others that could be added too! Lord of the Rings, Animal Farm, Grapes of Wrath, Twilight (*grin*)

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      scheng1 8 years ago

      Read Art of War before you die, and practice the strategy in heaven or hell! That's one way to prepare for the after-life.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I've only read two of these books but want to read the rest. Without question, they certainly are classics. Great list! Thank you for sharing this.