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What Books Should People Read Before They Die?

Updated on November 11, 2014

If you are like me, you are already thinking about what New Year's resolutions you want to set for 2015. One of my resolutions will be to read a lot of the classics, something I haven't done, but meant to. I'll list 51 of the books I want to read, but sound off in the comments below if you have any other suggestions. I really am interested in your opinions. Also, let me know if you think one of the books on my list is a bad choice and why.

1. "19 Hours" by Lee Child

2. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

3. "Dessert Solitaire" by Edward Abbey.

4. "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov.

5. "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway.

6. "Hamlet " by William Shakespeare.

7. "Bible" by various authors and/or God.

8. "Leave of Grass" by Walt Whitman.

9. "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James.

10. "People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn.

11. "The Book Theif" by Markus Zusak

12. "The Diary of Anne Frank" by Anne Frank.

13. "Steppenwolf" by Herman Hess.

14. "Cloud Atlas" David Mitchell.

15. "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift.

16. "Emma" by Jane Austen.

17. "Frankenstien" by Mary Shelley.

18. "Sybil" by Benjamin Disraeli.

19. "The Count of Monte Crisco" by Alexandre Dumas.

20. "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens.

21. "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte.

22. "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

23. "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert.

24. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy.

25. "Men Without Women" by Ernest Hemingway.

26. "Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger.

27. "Charlotte's Web" by E. B. White.

28. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens.

29. "1984" by George Orwell.

30. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy.

31. "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carrol.

32. "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.

33. "Dracula" by Bram Stoker.

34. "Dog Soldiers" by Robert Stone.

35. "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Stienbeck.

36. "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding.

37. "The Good Soldier" by Ford Max Ford.

38. "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner.

39. "The Iiad" by Homer.

40. "King Lear" by William Shakespeare.

41. "The Odyssey" by Homer.

42. "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway.

43. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.

44. "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren.

45. "Don Quixote" by Miguel De Cervantes.

46."Robinson Crusoe" by William Defoe.

47. "Gulliver's Travels" by Johnathan Swift.

48. "Little Women" by Louisa M. Alcott.

49. "The Portrait of Dorian Grey" by Oscar Wilde.

50. "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville.

51. "Dante's Inferno" by Dante.


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    • Gary Malmberg profile image

      Gary Malmberg 

      3 years ago from Concon, Chile

      Props for War and Peace and Animal Farm. Not a fan at all of People's History or Zinn, but after sifting through the hyperbole, I did learn from it. Maybe I would replace it with The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I read Moby Dick in its entirety only because I'm compulsive about finishing books I start. A tedious read. The only two books I'm unfamiliar with are up at the top of your list: 19 Hours and Dessert Solitaire. I'm headed to Amazon to check the reviews. Anyway, a fun Hub. Two thumbs yup.

    • tony55 profile image


      3 years ago from Nigeria

      On your list should be one by an African legend- Professor Chinua Achebe called Things Fall Apart.

      An amazing book I read as a teenager that has stuck with me till date.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I have read a lot of the books on your list and have really enjoyed them. I especially liked books by Ernest Hemingway, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and the Bronte sisters. I have already read Wuthering Heights and would suggest reading "Jane Eyre" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" written by Ann Bronte and her other sister who wrote "Jane Eyre". I would also read "Of Human Bondage" by Somerset Maughm as well as Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn."


    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      B asic

      I nstructions

      B efore

      L eaving

      E arth

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      4 years ago

      Excellent Rose. The selection speaks of your values. Will try to go through your preferred list. Thanks for the read.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you Dr Harris!

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Vkwok, you are lucky, I didn't!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      I remember reading some of those books for high school.

    • Dr Harris profile image

      Dr Harris' Perspective 

      4 years ago from Washington, D.C.

      Hello Ali, thanks for posting this wonderful list. I love that you included "People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn because you have ventured beyond the traditional canon.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      4 years ago from The Great Midwest

      I have read and recommend numbers 2, 22, 32, 35, 41, 45 and 50 from your list. I would add, in honor of your veteran status, " Miracle at St.Anna" set in WW2 Italy and written by James McBride. Oh by the way, your number 7 should be read every day if possible.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      1 and 43 ?

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I have read 9 of the books, and have seen 2 of the movies.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Betsy, those are some good ideas, I never heard of them before. Thanks!

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Hi Jodah, that's awesome. Thanks for the tips!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Alli, have read 12 of the books in your top 51. I guess that's not bad but I have a long way to go. A few aren't my type of reading but that doesn't mean they aren't great. I'd probably add Tom Sawyer or Hucklebury Finn by Mark Twain and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.

    • Betsy Scott Fitzm profile image

      Betsy Scott Fitzmeyer 

      4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia

      I have read a lot of books on the list. "Ivanhoe," and "Waverly," by Sir Walter Scott, and "Dear and Glorious Physician," by Taylor Caldwell are others you might consider.


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