100 Books To Read Before You Die! Sounds morbid, doesn’t it? But it isn’t meant to be so. You can also call it 100 Books to Read in Your Lifetime or the Ultimate Book Bucket List or 100 Must Read Books. Whatever!
I think any book reviewer worth their salt must have such a list, and I have been working on this for quite a while. Believe me, this list wasn’t made in a day. And this post certainly is not going to be written lightly.
So why should you read my list when there are so many others? I add my two cents’ worth to each book instead of just a picture. And I have included popular fiction along with the classics. So my favorite authors like Jeffery Archer, Agatha Christie and yes, P G Wodehouse, have a place on it.
The oldest of these books was written over 400 years ago, and the newest less than 4! Many of these are super hit movies, or TV series. Almost all these books have cult status.
So Let me kill the suspense and take you to my list of 100 books to read before you die!
These are fiction books, and this list is in a random order. No favorites!
This is a long list with a 100 images…so please be patient while the page loads!
100 Books to Read Before You Die or 100 Must Read Books in this Lifetime
Many of these books have a free edition for the Kindle platform and I will try to tell you which ones.
1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I fell in love with Jane Austen after reading an abridged ‘young readers’ version of this book. Since then I have watched TV series, movies, read modern adaptations and then read the book many times over. The story of Liz Bennet and Mr. Darcy will never get old. The dashing Bingley, garrulous and common Mrs. Bennet, slightly callous Mr. Bennet, foolish Lydia, shy Georgiana, the Lucases – every character comes alive as you read Pride and Prejudice.
*free for Kindle
2. The Thorn Birds – Collen McCullough
Collen Mccullough’s Thorn Birds is the ultimate romance. Some find it ridiculous. I have always thought there is something desperate about Meggie’s love for Ralph. Inspite of knowing how the book ends, I always hope and pray that Ralph will give up the church for the sake of his love. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate sacrifice? The massive Drogheda plantation inspired awe and was probably the first time I read about Australia. Mary Carson and Meggie’s mother are both partly responsible for her fate.
The Thorn Birds has firm place on any list of 100 books to read before you die.
3. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
Arrogant and silly Scarlett O’ Hara, the dashing Rhett Butler, and a country torn by civil war. The glory of the South is depicted by Tara, The O’Hara plantation. Scarlett’s hankering for the weak willed Ashley Wilkes, and Rhett Butler’s impassioned love for Scarlett come to a head. But Scarlett believes she will sort it out sometime. After all, tomorrow is just another day!
4. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
A mid nineteenth century novel, this is a tale of action, adventure and revenge. The book is quite big but once you start, you won’t be able to put it down. Young Edmund Dantes is unjustly imprisoned and later comes back as the Count of Monte Cristo to seek revenge on the three men who betrayed him.
5. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
This classic by Robert Louis Stevenson is a must read for everyone. Long John Silver, young Jim Hawkins, pirates and treasure! You cannot get more adventure than that. I reviewed Treasure Island earlier this year. A lot of the terms and imagery used here like talking parrots, tropical islands, treasure maps, schooners etc. have become legendry and part of ‘pirate lore’. This is a coming of age story every preteen should read, and the cultural references will stay with you for a lifetime.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn or ‘Huck’ who first appeared in Tom Sawyer is a vagabond and a motherless child. Huck lives a carefree life without many familial restraints, ‘borrows’ stuff from people and doesn’t go to school. This itself is enough to endear him to any child. He fakes his death and seeks refuge on Jackson’s Island and meets runaway slave Jim. The rest, as they say, is history. I am so glad I had a childhood hero like Huck Finn who inspired many a game for a lazy summer afternoon.
7. Kane and Abel – Jeffery Archer
Jeffery Archer’s Kane and Abel spans 60 years and stars two people from the opposite sides of the world. The poor Polish immigrant who goes on to become a wealthy business icon, and the blue blooded Boston Brahmin born with a silver spoon in his mouth. They spar for decades but destiny joins them in the oldest way possible. Jeffery Archer is arguably my favorite author, and although I like almost every book he ever wrote, Kane and Abel seems to be the benchmark for a lot of his works. It certainly sparked off a trilogy with Prodigal Daughter and Shall We Tell the President?.
8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes defines detective fiction as we know it. Slightly eccentric but highly intelligent, Sherlock Holmes and his ‘Watson’ are iconic. The latest TV series ‘Elementary’ is a play on the whole Sherlock – Watson thing, and Robert Downey Jr. seems to be happy making Sherlock movies. Most people have said ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’ at least once in their lives.
Novels like The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet, stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles, are something I have read and gone back to several times over the years. This pipe smoking, hat clad gentleman of dark London streets, living at 222 Baker Street is someone you must meet at least once in your lifetime.
*there is a free version of this for Kindle readers
9. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
I am an Agatha Christie fan and also a Poirot fan, so it is hard to choose one particular book for a bucket list. The Belgian detective with his penchant for the ‘little grey cells’, shiny patent leather shoes, aspiration to grow marrows, and love for sirops embarks on the luxurious Orient Express. A millionaire traveler is found dead and the train is stuck in snow. Poirot must catch the murderer before he strikes again. There is a whole bunch of characters who sound guilty. But who done it, really?
10. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand introduced us to Howard Roark and preached selfishness as a virtue in The Fountainhead. Atlas Shrugged is my book of choice though, and is the story of a man who stops the motor of the world.
The book tells the story of railroad tycoon Dagny Taggart, playboy Francisco D’Anconia, steel baron Hank Rearden and many more – a set of highly skilled righteous people who are sick of the mediocrity they are surrounded by. What irks them more is the universal acceptance of this mediocrity. They come together to form a world where ability and intellect is rewarded.
20 years after reading this book, I still find the need to say ‘Who is John Galt?’
Atlas Shrugged is a must read and an integral part of any book bucket list.
11. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables tells the tale of ex convict Jean Valjean’s redemption and is made up of 5 volumes. This is the book to read on France and tells many stories through its sub plots.
12. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho is the original Gothic novel. Jane Austen’s characters read books by Anne Radcliffe, which is how I first came upon this 18th century author. The impoverished heroine who doesn’t know whom to trust sets off for Italy with her aunt. Castle Udolpho with its eerie atmosphere and secret passages beckons Emily.
*free for Kindle readers
13. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A woman hungry for love and attention marries a country doctor who is busy taking care of his patients. Bored and hankering after the kind of passion she had read about in books, Emma takes on a young lover. Deceit and debauchery follow. Flaubert’s novel evoked quite a scandal at the time, but the character of the bored young wife leading an empty life transcends centuries.
*free version for Kindle
14. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Little Women has enough pathos to last you a lifetime. Four sisters who are very different from each other lead a simple life with their mother, barely scraping by, and waiting for a father who is off fighting a war. They befriend the local rich gent and his grandson who bring some change into their lives.
Many say that Little Women portrays a world that does not exist anymore. I say there are still many people in the world who have to go without. This is a story of timeless emotions and sentiments, and the affection that holds together a family in times of adversity.
15. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte`
Wuthering Heights is hailed as the ultimate romance. The story of Cathy and Heathcliff has been adapted into movies, and interpreted by many. I am still not sure what I feel about this book. Cathy’s callous nature shines through, and so does Heathcliff’s hatred. Would they ever have lived happily ever after? Heathcliff lives a life as desolate as the moors, and his lack of forgiveness destroys his life. Wuthering Heights is a must read on any list.
*free version for Kindle
16. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
There is no doubt that Grapes of Wrath is an American classic. This Pulitzer winner is the story of a family’s migration to the west against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Those were hard times and Steinbeck hoped to crack the veneer off those who were responsible for the widespread plight of the people.
Maybe we need a similar book that portrays the hardships faced by people because of the subprime mortgage crisis?
17. The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
The Narnia movies have made the books even more famous. The story of three children living in a great old house, a wardrobe or closet that leads into a magical land, animals that talk, an evil queen – the magic of Narnia is endless. Read it for the Christian symbolism or read it just for fun. Either way you will be swept away into a fantasy world you will not want to return from.
18. The Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling has created a pot of gold, in more ways than one. There must be hardly anyone who is not familiar with the world of Hogwarts, of swishing wands, fire breathing dragons, friendly ghosts and of course, Quidditch. Harry Potter is a must read and has a firm place on any bucket list. And the movies are not to be missed either!
19. The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
The DaVinci Code should come with a warning, because it can certainly hurt Christian sensibilities. But treat it as the work of fiction it is, and just enjoy the ride.
Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is caught in the chase of his life as he decodes clues left for him by the head of a secret society. Thrilling beyond imagination, this is a page turner that can easily keep you up at night. Definitely read the book first, and maybe never watch the movie.
20. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
I was enchanted by the Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels as a child. And even after all these years, the book holds its charm. The adventures of a ship wrecked man who first encounters people as small as his thumb, and then encounters giants as tall as trees. I am yet to read a full version of this book, but it is definitely on my list. Hopefully I will now be able to understand the satire that the book is known for.
21. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The story is narrated by Amir, an Afghan who has lived in California for several years. He tells us about Hassan, his best friend while growing up in Kabul in the 1970s. A tragic event splits the two friends and drives a wedge between them. There is a nostalgic tone prevalent through the book and people either love it or hate it.
Read The Kite Runner as the story of two friends, and maybe get a glimpse of the totally different world Afghanistan was before war ravaged it.
22. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
This early eighteenth century novel is the original castaway story. Robinson Crusoe is ship wrecked and finds himself on a remote island with only a knife and some tobacco as his possessions. He has to learn to survive, and live a life of solitude for almost a quarter century. The premise of the book might seem inconceivable in this day and age, but it is still not impossible.
23. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
The book that inspired writers narrates the exploits of the chivalrous Don Quixote and his faithful sidekick Sancho Panza. Enchanted by tales of knights, Don Quixote declares himself as one and sets off to save the world.
Don Quixote was written over four centuries ago with more than double the number of pages. You will have fun reading this book, and maybe end up with some quixotic traits yourself. Yes, that’s a word. Now read the book that led to it.
24. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
The journey of the Nautilus is legendary. And perhaps more legendary is its dashing Captain Nemo! I am a big Verne fan, and I love revisiting the marvels of the underwater world that Professor Aronnax discovers. You can get lost reading about the different ocean currents traveling in an ancient submarine from pole to pole. What amazes me most was the time this book was written. And the sheer knowledge and imagination Jules Verne must have possessed.
Twenty Thousand Leagues gets twenty thousand votes from me for being a must read book!
25. The Godfather – Mario Puzo
The Godfather has cult status both as a book and as a movie. The saga of the Corleones is the original mafia tale that gave us a glimpse into a world of crime, where loyalty is valued more than life itself. As always, I vote for the book over the movie.
26. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
This is perhaps the one exception I make to not including non-fiction in this list. The day to day account of the life of a 13 year old Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis can give you a new perspective on life. Anne faces some important life events while hiding in a small space for two years.
I read this book at a similar age and it got me hooked onto journal writing. Anne Frank is a must read on any list of 100 books.
27. Aesop’s Fables
Aesop’s Fables is the collection of stories we grew up reading, when we didn’t know what allegory meant. Can anyone not have heard of at least one of these stories? The lion who is scared by his own reflection, the hare and the tortoise, the cat and the birds, the dancing monkeys – all of them have a moral and I still find this book soothing. It is the most thumbed book in my collection.
28. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and their motto ‘All for One and One for All’ are alive almost two centuries later. There is adventure and deceit, but this is a tale of how the Musketeers manage to overthrow a coup planned by Cardinal Richelieu.
The Three Musketeers is enjoyable for readers in any age group, a sure recipe for success.
29. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s classic is a veritable tome, and yes you will need to be patient while reading War and Peace. The book details the impact of Napolean on Russian Czarist society and is narrated from the perspective of five royal families. It is almost like embarking on a reading odyssey. And no, I don’t think it was ever supposed to be named ‘War, What is it Good For?’
30. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again’. Thus begins one of the most memorable mysteries that have made an impression on me. The unfriendly Mrs. Danvers, the remote Manderly estate, Maxim himself, they are all so deliciously Gothic! Rebecaa has a firm place on any ‘must read’ list. The movie is not bad either, but cannot compare with the book.
31. The Omen – David Seltzer
The Devil has a number and it is 666. And a small six year old boy can be the devil incarnate. I remember the goose bumps, the sleepless nights and the fear I felt while turning corners long after reading this book. I was an impressionable teen and I am not sure how horrific Damien will seem to adults, but The Omen has a firm spot on any book bucket list. The movies weren’t bad either!
32. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
It is honest, crude, LOL funny and has too much detail at times. But Bridget Jones’s Diary correctly captures the angst of an almost thirty single woman. Especially one working in the big bad city, trying to date the right person, getting him to commit, while fighting off pounds, keeping up with fashion and funds, and staying one step ahead of other b*&thches. The movie is awesome for once with Renee Zellweger doing justice to Bridgette.
33. Coma – Robin Cook
Coma is medical fiction at its best, or worst. Twenty five year old Nancy Greenly goes into a coma for no apparent reason. And will never wake up. Young Resident Susan Wheeler smells something fishy. And stumbles upon an ugly truth. There was a time when Robin Cook delivered the ultimate thrillers. Although I have moved away from this genre, Coma is a must read for the sheer terror it can induce in almost anyone. Millenials should not miss this book which is almost like a rite of passage for young readers.
34. The Evening News – Arthur Hailey
Arthur Hailey is known for epic works like Airport, Hotel and his attention to detail and in depth research. The Evening News is the story of star anchorman Crawford Sloane. Sloane faces harsh reality when his family is threatened and he tries to track down the villains. For some reason, I liked this more than other Hailey books, maybe because there is more action here and the world of news is bared in such fantastic detail.
35. The Almighty – Irving Wallce
What if the people who reported the news got used to being on top and were ready to do anything in order to deliver breaking news? The Almighty is set in the era of print media, so it might seem a bit backward to people who read it now. But there are thrills and action, and a master plot. I loved Irving Wallace for other books too such as Second Lady and Seventh Secret. This gifted writer has a place of honor on the must read list.
36. The Odessa File – Frederick Forsyth
An old man dies and leaves behind a diary. Said diary falls into the hand of journalist Peter Miller and he discovers the horrific account of torture in a Nazi concentration camp. This was perhaps the first book I read about Nazis, and it has an indelible impression on my mind. Many books and movies have been written since regarding the SS and the concentration camps, but this 80s book by Frederick Forsyth remains my favorite.
37. Three Men in A Boat – Jerome K Jerome
Three Men in a Boat brings a cherished memory of forgotten childhood where we could be as silly as we wanted and laugh for hours. The three men are hypochondriacs, scared of the slightest thing and decide to go on a trip in a boat. The misadventures that befall them are legend. There is humor in the most mundane task, and Jerome gives us a bellyful of laughs. There is a public domain work for this free on the Kindle. And it is not to be missed.
38. The Hobbit – J. R. Tolkien
J.R. Tolkein’s Hobbit is another iconic fantasy. It sparked the hugely successful Lord of Rings trilogy and was written long before Harry Potter or his creator ever came on the scene. Bilbo Baggins is happy living in his hole until Gandalf and his dwarves take him on a journey to raid a dragon’s treasure.
39. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a true blue American novel of the 20th century. The recent feature film made waves. Fitzgerald paints a glossy picture of the Roaring 20s showing us the sybaritic life style of New York’s rich and famous. But it’s a love story at heart, the story about how Jay Gatsby tries to win the love of his Daisy. A tragic act, if I do say so.
40. The House of The Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hawthorne might be better known for the Scarlet Letter, but The House of The Seven Gables is far more absorbing. An ancient house built on controversy, one that could possibly be haunted. An old doddering lady of the manor, an effectual prodigal son, a poor relation and a good for nothing young man form the elements of the story. You will be transformed into a different era where being wasteful wasn’t so fashionable, and where ghosts lurk around the corner. A must read for all fans of literature.
41. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is proof that dead authors are more appealing to the public – no offense. The book is essentially Swedish. The story is riveting and graphic at times. Lisbeth Salander holds you captive by being so different from the norm. A decades old mystery becomes more intriguing like any cold case. The end is shocking and somewhat disgusting. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the success story of the Millenium, and is guaranteed to enrapture you.
42. The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells is a well known name in science fiction. The Invisible Man will inspire awe in readers young and old, although I read it as a youngster and it had quite a jaw dropping effect on me. A man succeeds in making himself invisible, and finds pleasure in his new found power. But there could be problems he did not foresee.
43. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is well known for writing about the plight of the poor. Great Expectations is mostly about the cruelty of two women, and how a young impressionable boy falls into their trap. Pip spends almost half his life hankering after Stella and trying to bring himself up to her level, only to find that she was playing with him all along.
44. Middlemarch – George Eliot
Elliott’s novel is about the fictional town or community of Middlemarch in the early 19th century. There are a myriad of characters from different walks of life, and our heroine, Dorothea Brooke who is looking for a husband. Did you know that George Eliot is the alias of Mary Ann Evans?
45. Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh
The Sea of Poppies may be set in the 1830s or Victorian times, but it is a modern day novel, which perhaps makes it more difficult to write. First in a trilogy, it takes us on the voyage of the Ibis as it transfers coolies from India to Mauritius. There is a cast of colorful characters that shows diversity was probably as much if not more common two hundred years ago.
Adventure reigns supreme as the Ibis leaves behind a frothy wake in the Indian ocean.
46. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Another Tolstoy book for this list. Anna Karenina has a Russian setting. Tolstoy’s writing might take getting used to, but it is an experience you cannot miss.
47. Psycho – Robert Bloch
Psycho is the classic horror story. The movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock may be more popular, but the story came from the book written by Robert Bloch. You have to read it to experience the goosebumps and the fear. I read Psycho years ago before watching the movie, and Norman Bates gave me nightmares for months. The shower scene has cult status, so is Norman Bates’s conversations with his mother.
This is a must read for any bucket list or list of 100 books to read before you die.
48. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway is one of the most gifted modern authors, and this story won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. In the spirit of man versus the elements, The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of an old fisherman who is down on his luck. He comes across a giant marlin and tries to battle with it on his own. Does he finally catch the fish, and what happens after is what makes this a work of literary art.
49. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is very different from your typical novel. An Andalusian shepherd boy dreams of treasure on distant shores, and sets off on an adventure. He will come across many different people and learn valuable lessons. There are supposedly a lot of allegories in the book. Whether you read it for the lessons, or just for the sake of a good story, it will make you think a bit about Life.
50. Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
There must be hardly anyone who has not come across Kipling’s Jungle Book in some form or the other. This collection of short stories is set in colonial India and star Mowgli, a human child who is raised by wolves.
Baloo, Bagheera, Shere Khan and other characters are well known to kids across the world. Mowgli and his motley crew get into adventures that are fun to read for the young and the old, and the lessons last a lifetime.
51. The Shining – Stephen King
Stephen King may not have been very famous when he wrote The Shining. But it certainly sealed his reputation as the horror writer of our times. Jack Torrance loves his wife and child but is abusive. They go away to live in an isolated hotel in the Colorado mountains. The hotel is haunted, to say the least. Jack’s son has a gift – he sees people and can sense that something is happening to his father.
Stephen King finally came out with the much awaited sequel Doctor Sleep last year. If you are into this genre, you must read The Shining first.
52. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
Hannibal Lecter makes his first appearance in this psycho thriller. FBI trainee Clarice Starling has to interview the well known psychiatrist as part of the investigation in a serial killing. Lecter shocks her with his intimate knowledge of the killer, and gets under her skin. Clarice must solve the riddles that Hannibal Lecter throws at her if she wants to solve the crime. It’s a battle of wits that will leave you exhausted. The book offers far more than the movie, and is a must read.
53. A Painted House – John Grisham
John Grisham is known for his legal thrillers like A Time to Kill. A Painted House couldn’t be more different. It is the story of a farming family, the Chandlers, who farm cotton in Arkansas and who barely scrape by each year. Luke is seven and lives with his parents and grandparents. His mother’s greatest wish is to have a painted house, but they cannot manage it year after year. Luke’s brother is away at war. Some Mexicans are hired to help with the fields in the summer.
The book moves at a leisurely pace, chronicling the life of the Chandlers, and also the many coming of age type experiences the seven year old Luke has. Will he ever play for the Cardinals? Read John Grisham’s fine book to find out.
54. The Graduate – Charles Webb
Cougars may be in vogue today, but they were an absolute no-no in the 1960s. The modern era was just making an appearance. Benjamin Braddock is a new graduate who moves back home. As he debates what to do with his life, he falls for Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s partner. The movie starring Dustin Hoffman is very famous.
We now see young men openly romancing women twenty years older. Read The Graduate to learn about a time when it was taboo.
55. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café – Fannie Flagg
You have probably seen and enjoyed the movie version where Kathy Bates delivers an excellent performance. Fried Green Tomatoes tells the story of tomboyish Idgie and the gentle Ruth as recounted by old Mrs. Threadgoode to the middle aged and troubled Evelyn. The book is set in the 80s, but its story about two women and their café is set in 1930s Alabama. Get ready to lose yourself in a different world as you identify with the characters and cheer for them.
56. Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne
A gentlemen’s club in London, a silly bet, and a voyage across the world undertaken on its behest – this is another must read book from Jules Verne. Join Phileas Fogg on his entertaining journey across the world with the loyal Passepartout. To make this more interesting, they are blissfully unaware of the detective on their tail. They must overcome arrests, kidnappings and attempts on their life in order to come back to England within 80 days.
57. Disclosure – Michael Crichton
Disclosure is a provocative novel that made sexual harassment real. Especially the one inflicted by a woman on a man. Tom Sanders falls into a trap he can’t get out of. Facing the wrath of a spurned woman, he not only misses a hard earned promotion, but also faces serious charges that rock his character. As we sympathize with Tom, we can feel the mental torture he is going through.
Tom’s intellect shines through as he uses technology to prove his innocence. Technology that was at best ‘magical’ in the early ‘90s.
58. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist is said to be inspired by a true story. This is another book that gave me nightmares as a child, well, teen. Coarse and violent, the trials of the little girl suck you in and compel you to read on in spite of the terror you experience as you turn the pages. And swear you will never touch that Ouija board again! A truly iconic horror story that was made into a hit movie.
59. Confessions of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
Becky Bloomwood has an emergency credit card stashed away in a dozen places. One for those pair of shoes that are to die for, another for that must have bag, and so on. Sophie Kinsella’s character seems highly frivolous and way too flippant but she will surprise you with how grounded a person she can be. Becky’s heart is in the right place. Little wonder that the Shopaholic series is a big success. A novel and a protagonist who lives in London for a change!
The book highlights a very real problem today’s youth face with all the temptations in their face wherever they go. You might rethink your love for big brands after you read this book.
60. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The term Lolita has become the mote just for referring to an older man who is attracted to a much younger girl. Nabokov’s Humbert is obsessed with a 13 year old girl, and would have been registered as a disgusting pedophile today. The theme of the book sounds disturbing to say the least, and I am not sure if it can be termed ‘enjoyable’.
Critics have called the book witty and brilliant and praised its language. Highly controversial and famous for its Russian writer’s command of English, Lolita is a must read in this lifetime.
61. The Eagle Has Landed – Jack Higgins
Another book set in World War II, but the target this time is Churchill. Nazis have landed and have a plot to kill the British premiere. The residents of a small village are the only ones who can thwart it and save the Eagle. Jack Higgins’s career took off with this book and he later gave us several masterpieces.
Wartime, espionage, suspense and patriotism make this a sure member of the 100 books to read before you die list.
62. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz –L Frank Baum
Everyone knows about the girl from Kansas who gets swept up in a tornado and finds herself in a new land. Dorothy’s on screen adventures have been witnessed by many. But you need to go back to the roots and experience Dorothy’s adventures in the pages of a book. The Wizard of Oz is not just for kids. It’s an evergreen adventure that you can revisit several times over.
63. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
Yet another iconic movie, but don’t forget the book came first. Fans of detective fiction will be enthralled reading this story of private eye Sam Spade and the many villains he faces while looking for the much wanted statue of a falcon. There is a damsel in distress, and action and mystery to keep you turning pages. The Maltese Falcon is Noir Literature at its best, and a must read in this lifetime.
64. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
A book about the Russian Revolution that was banned in Russia for many years, but that is not its only ticket to fame. The story has the backdrop of political turmoil, but it is also a love triangle. Zhivago is a doctor and a poet, and falls in love with a woman who is not his wife. The prose is hailed as poetic. Doctor Zhivago is a complex work that will appeal to a wide range of people for its historical significance, unique style, vivid characters, and portrayal of life in early twentieth century Russia.
65. The Day of the Jackal – Frederick Forsyth
Frederick Forsyth’s thriller about an assassination attempt on Charles De Gaulle is one of my favorites. There is palpable suspense that holds you to the book like glue. Read about how the assassin known as The Jackal meticulously plans the operation, changes his appearance like a chameleon and the massive chase that follows for the hired killer. Written in the 70s, there is no high tech stuff here, but it will still hold you spell bound.
66. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Another Russian novel, another masterpiece. An ex student in an impoverished Russia kills a rich pawnbroker meaning to distribute her wealth to the needy. He thinks it is ok to do wrong as long as you have a higher purpose. But every crime must have its punishment, and not just the one doled out by the law. Crime and Punishment is a book to be savored slowly and read at leisure. You just can’t rush it.
67. The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum
The Bourne franchise has cult status thanks to the popular movie versions. But The Bourne Identity is a book that has to be read. Set in the cold war era minus email or GPS tracking, this is the story of a spy who is caught in a hostile country and has lost his memory. He remembers some things in flashes, but which memory can he trust? Is he a good man or some criminal?
There are circles within circles and Jason Bourne is caught in them. A must read on any list of 100 books to read before you die.
68. Where the Heart Is – Billie Letts
This is the book about the ‘Walmart baby’. Novalee is heavily pregnant and on her way to California when her boyfriend dumps her. She takes shelter in a Walmart in small town Oklahoma and gives birth to her baby. The small town’s residents surprise her with their affection and warmth and she slowly settles in. After all, home is where the heart is!
Where the Heart Is might be a lesser known book but it is close to my heart. Read it for its message of hope and optimism and rekindle your faith in mankind.
69. Where Eagles Dare – Alistair Maclean
I love all books by Alistair Maclean but Where Eagles Dare is my pick for this list. Its World War II and an American General lies captured in Nazi Germany. A team of British special forces has planned a daring rescue, but then, plans are meant to go awry. A Hollywood blockbuster, Where Eagles Dare is one book you must read if you love action and adventure.
70. P.S. I Love You – Cecilia Ahern
Yet another book that is a famous Hollywood movie. Hollywood sure picks the good stories. Stop thinking of Gerard Butler or Hilary Swank and just lose yourself into the lives of Gerry and Holly. Cecilia Ahern has written a smashing debut novel that is sure to invoke a myriad of emotions within you. All I can say is P.S. I Love You!
71. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
A modern day super hit, The Hunger Games takes us to a dystopian world in the future where everything is split into districts, tightly monitored with cruelty. The annual hunger games are a gruesome fight where the winner must kill everyone else to survive. Weakness has no value and the only virtue is strength and cunning. Whether you like the concept or not, it is one of the most popular books of our times and hence worth a read.
72. Raise The Titanic – Clive Cussler
Anyone who loves nautical adventures knows Clive Cussler. And anyone who likes an action hero has probably heard of Dirk Pitt. It is very hard to pick out a ‘best’ out of several fabulous Dirk Pitt novels, but I choose Raise the Titanic. Dirk Pitt and the NUMA team are seasoned enough in the book, and it deals with the greatest ship of all times, the Titanic!
The book may have sparked searches that led to the location of the actual wreck of the Titanic. Anyone should experience Dirk Pitt at least once, and that is why this goes on my list of 100 books to read before you die.
73. The Murders in the Rue Morgue – Edgar Allan Poe
When I think of Poe, I always remember the Gilmore Girls episode where a Poe club has booked Lorelai’s inn. I read this story as a child, and it had a big impact. Some might argue that almost every story of Poe is worthy of this list, I am choosing ‘Rue Morgue’ because it has the honor of being the first detective story ever written.
74. The India Fan – Victoria Holt
In my opinion, Victoria Holt is underrated and not known enough in our times. Her Gothic romances will have you exclaim over the courageous young heroine and you will have goose bumps and an air of anticipation pretty much throughout the book. What more can a mystery lover want? There is also the slightly ‘impossible’ element that will appeal to romance lovers.
75. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I won’t talk about how Ben Affleck is going to do in the upcoming movie version. Gone Girl has rave reviews from readers and critics, and the author has been hailed for using some ingenious devices in her writing. Gone Girl will certainly occupy your full attention and is worth reading cover to cover. Its been on the top 100 list almost since its release.
The story of Nick and Amy and their struggles makes it to the list of 100 books to read before you die!
76. Fifty Shades of Grey – E L James
Fifty Shades might have sold five million copies, or maybe more. The story of the nubile Ana and suave Christian shocked and awed readers. It was all people could talk about. The book has copious amounts of sex and is meant only for a mature audience. Maybe this is the life Millenials fantasize about?
This book goes on the list for the sheer furor it caused and the wires it burned. And they say there’s a movie coming!
Read it because it is famous, or infamous!
77. Love Story – Erich Segal
This book will always remind me of college where a much thumbed copy of Love Story was passed around in our dorm. They said ‘Erich Segal makes you cry’.
Oliver, a wealthy WASP, falls in love with Jenny, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. They come together with a fierce passion but are driven apart by the cruel hand of fate. By the time you finish, you will feel one with the characters, and wish you will be loved as much as Jenny.
78. The Hotel New Hampshire – John Irving
John Irving’s 80s book has a strong fan club. It is the story of life, witnessed via a New Hampshire family. Win and Mary Berry from Dairy get married as teens and have five kids. There are a variety of other interesting characters and the book traces their lives. The book is based on the author’s childhood memories of the state of New Hampshire.
79. Joy in the Morning – P G Wodehouse
I always say it’s a shame so few people know about Wodehouse. A most gifted author who lived in New York for several years, he is best known for his portrayals of the English gentleman or man of leisure. Jeeves and Blandings are the better known books and I pick Joy in the Morning because it is particularly humorous.
Bertie calls it the Steeple Bumpleigh Horror and gets into so many scrapes that Jeeves has to eat a ton of fish to get him out of them. Any book lover worth his salt has to read Wodehouse, and so this goes on the list of 100 books to read before you die.
80. A Woman of Substance – Barbara Taylor Bradford
Emma Harte started out as a maid in Yorkshire, dirt poor, but now she owns one of the biggest international retail empires. A Woman of Substance is the saga of her life, her fierce ambition, her struggles and resolve and the loyalty and betrayal she experiences in one lifetime. The book was a tremendous hit and was just the first of a long series starring the Harte family.
Spanning six decades, this eventful story might leave you gasping for breath. It has firm place on any books bucket list.
81. The Adventures of Robin Hood – Howard Pyle
We have all heard of Robin Hood, his daring escapades and his generosity toward the poor. But how many of us have actually read them as adults. Why not learn more about the character and story than just using it as an epithet for someone? That is why Robin Hood goes on this list.
82. Dracula – Bram Stoker
Dracula has cult status in the horror genre. It is the one name that comes to mind the moment you say ‘horror’. I admit I have neither seen the movie nor read the book. But reading it might give some insight into where the whole vampire craze comes from. And it has been voted as highly entertaining.
Dracula is definitely a must read in your lifetime.
83. A Passage to India – E M Forster
A Passage to India is good fiction. It is supposed to be indicative of life in British India. I would rather choose Nehru’s Discovery of India or Gandhi’s The Story of my Experiments with Truth for a more accurate picture. But this list is strictly fiction only.
Forster’s book tells us about an old English lady who is appalled at the way her own son treats the locals. Her young virtuous companion is tormented by passionate thoughts. A local doctor befriends them but is sucked into a nefarious plot.
Can a poor Indian really befriend an Englishman? Or is the cultural, social and economic gap too wide?
A Passage to India is an absolute must read and goes on the list of 100 books to read before you die.
84. A House for Mr. Biswas – V. S. Naipaul
This Nobel prize winning author is West Indian and so is the main character. Mr. Biswas has grown up as an immigrant in Trinidad. He has been shuttled from one place to other by circumstances and all he longs for is a house of his own. The book traces his life from start to end.
The author has been hailed for good command over language, but I feel that the reader needs to look beyond that.
This literary masterpiece belongs on my list of 100 must read books.
85. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead is the seat of the Flyte family. Charles Ryder had close ties with aristocratic Sebastian Flyte and his sister Julia. The Flytes are Catholics and each of them reacts differently to their religion. There is a tussle between religion and secularity in the book which raises a lot of philosophical questions. Nevertheless, the characters and the plot are interesting enough.
Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is a fine piece of literature.
86. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
Spine chilling it certainly is, but it also the classic ghost story. A young governess sees something others can’t. James’s novella was written many decades ago, but it might have sparked off the classic plot of horror stories and films. Can one really have second sight or is it just a trick of the mind? Are there ‘others’ around us? Questions that no one has managed to answer perfectly even now.
Some aspects are surprising and the book is a must read!
87. To Kill A Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mocking Bird has finally appeared in a digital format. A coming of age story set in a turbulent South, it is the tale of a lawyer who decides to defend a black man. Prejudice is the backdrop of the story set in the 30s in a segregated nation. The book won the Pulitzer and will hold the reader enthralled.
Could this have inspired Grisham’s A Time to Kill? Harper Lee’s masterpiece is definitely one of 100 books to read before you die.
88. The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
A sixteen year old is expelled from his prep school and hides out in New York City. He is outraged at the phony behavior of adults and is dealing with personal grief. Most of us will probably identify with this narrative because we have all felt similarly disillusioned some time in our life.
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is surely a must read.
89. 1984 – George Orwell
1984 might make you settle in a state of gloom, but the horrific picture it paints could be very well real. The author tries to depict a totalitarian government, where there is no room for the individual. Families have been uprooted. People are told where to live, when to eat, what to eat and their every move is watched. The lead character is involved in changing the record books, obliterating the past and rewriting history as the government wants it. We are way past 1984, but what is it they say? History is always written by the victor.
90. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
A classic piece of literature, and another Pulitzer winner, The Age of Innocence talks of life in New York in the 1870s, especially high society life. Archer Newland is a young and well to do lawyer engaged to the right girl. The girl’s cousin comes on the scene like a storm and captivates almost every man in New York society, including Archer. The dilemma is age old, family or love, and like most classics, the process of reading the book is where the pleasure is, rather than in the outcome of the plot.
91. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows may be known as a children’s book, but the story is evergreen and its morals are too. Maybe we need a break from life and revisit the simpler times of childhood where there were no versions of truth or partial lies.
92. Sex and the City – Candace Bushnell
SATC needs no introduction. The TV series has cult status thanks to Carrie and the girls, or rather SJP and the girls. Life in big bad New York City or Manhattan seen through the eyes of a not so young woman who defies stereotypes needs to be read. Here’s to girlfriends like Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda!
93. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Book Thief has been making waves all of 2013. It is the story of a little girl who learned to read during the Nazi occupation and would do anything to get her hands on a new book. Vivid characters and an unusual story make this a must read on any list.
94. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Another book set in a dystopian future, although a not too distant one. Life has become difficult for women and they are severely oppressed. Women become mere toys or objects to be handed around as needed with just one purpose – procreation. Oppression of women is nothing new, and some places have higher degrees of it. A slightly disagreeable story, even though highly acclaimed.
95. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
We have all heard this phrase a thousand times. Here is the eponymous book. Set in World War II in the Fascist Italian regime, it is the story of a fighter pilot who is exhausted by the number of missions he must fly. Malingering is out of question when the pilot is doomed if he does, and doomed if he doesn’t, thanks to Catch-22, the sinister rule.
96. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less – Jeffery Archer
No one likes to be cheated, especially when it costs them their life’s earnings. An Oxford professor, a physician, an art dealer and an English Lord form an unlikely alliance when they come together and decide to avenge their mutual nemesis. The challenge is to con him for not a penny more, not a penny less. Jeffery Archer is in top form as he keeps us glued to the pages, clueless until the last word.
97. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney
We have all seen that wimpy kid everyone picked on in high school. Some of us have been that kid. Growing pains never seem to go away, no matter how technology advances and the human race matures. A hilarious bitter sweet look at those wonder years, from the eyes of that wimpy kid earns this a spot on 100 books to read before you die.
98. That Affair Next Door – Anna Katherine Green
Anna Katherine Green introduces Miss Amelia Butterworth, a well brought up lady who leads the life of a spinster in New York City. She is intelligent and perceptive but often ignored. When a woman is found murdered in her neighbour’s house, she insists they arrested the wrong man. Aided by her spunky maid, she logically solves the murder. The writing style is engaging and witty, and this public domain book needs to be read by every book lover.
99. Life after Life – Kate Atkinson
Reincarnation is not a new concept. Reincarnation among the pages of a book sounds new. The character of Ursula seems to exist in several parallel realities. Life after Life deserves to be read for the ingenious way it is written, if for nothing else.
100. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Tess is an innocent young maiden, as pure as they come. Tess’s father, a Durbeyfield, learns he may have descended from the grand D’Urberville family. She is dispatched to the house of the grand relations, ostensibly to better her lot. Tess ends up ruined and must take some tough decisions in life. The book will transform you into rural Victorian England where you might learn the true meaning of going without.
How many books have you read from this list? Which ones are your favorite? Please let me know via a comment.
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