Reading Bucket List: 8 Books Everyone Should Read
There are a lot of must-read book lists out there with the best books for readers to devour before they die, and while I’m not saying these are the best eight books around (even if I think it), I do think there’s something essential to be learned from each and every one of these great eight.
From fantasy to historical drama, a dive into the pages of any of these books on my list will leave a lasting impression on any reader. Don’t believe me? I dare you to try.
1. “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami
If the dystopian “1984” was not quite your style, try Murakami’s trippy “1Q84,” a slight homage to the canon original but with the famed writer’s personal and eerie twist. Coming to readers in three volumes, “1Q84” is not for the faint of heart with over 1,000 pages. The twists and turns of two alternate universes as they collide and tangle will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat nonetheless. Part love story, part sci-fi fantasy, “1Q84” is for the lover of contemporary novels and a dubious end. In true Murakami fashion, the conclusion opens up as many questions as it solves. Perfect for die-hard Murakami fans or those just now discovering the author, “1Q84” is bound to redefine a reader’s idea of reality, music and most of all, love.
2. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
The latest in popular World War II tales, “The Book Thief” was made into an award-winning movie in 2013 starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and Sophie Nelisse, but it’s Marcus Zusak’s wicked storytelling style—and most interesting narrator in any book ever, named Death—that makes this book one not to miss, even if you’ve seen the cinematic version. With breathtaking imagery, heart-wrenching plot twists, and a rare look inside the minds and life of a German family trying to survive in Nazi Germany, if you don’t leave the last page totally in love with Zusak’s characters, it’s only because you’ve never loved at all.
3. “Sabriel” by Garth Nix
As the first book in the Abhorsen series, “Sabriel” is a mind-twisting dive into a fantasy realm that has no equal. When it was first released in 1995, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as one of its most promising rising stars, and this tale of a young girl who goes in search of her family in the world of the Dead is an adventure unlike any on bookshelves. Meeting two trusted friends along the way—one cat named Maggot and one Charter Mage—Sabriel must define the difference between the world of life and death in the Old Kingdom to save her father. And good news for lovers of the book: it’s followed by two more excellent stories, “Lirael” and “Abhorsen,” to complete the Old Kingdom trilogy.
4. “The Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” by Joseph J. Ellis
Lovers of early American history will fall hard for this Pulitzer-Prize-winning book about the connecting relationships between the founders of America. From lesser known anecdotes of the revolutionary fathers to the strong ties that connected and invigorated them all, “The Founding Brothers” delves into the lives of six of the most famous men in history—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr—to tell the story of the beginning of the American republic in a new light. Split into six chapters of world-defining direction, “The Founding Brothers” will become a beloved book even by those who say they don’t like history.
5. “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Díaz
A collection of short stories by the famed author of “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” “This Is How You Lose Her” follows one of Díaz’s favorite characters, Yunior, as he grapples with the cultural and social implications of being a Dominican American. Between everyday situations to the crumbling of his relationships due to serial cheating, readers will fall in love with Yunior just as readily as they detest him—his human qualities reveal that each of us is capable of terrible and amazingly wonderful things. With a gift for words and rhythm, this collection of shorts is one that will remain by your bedside for light reading even after you’ve long memorized your favorite lines.
6. “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This short by Fitzgerald may not be the most famous of his writings, but there was some equivocal taste of true zeitgeist in this novella, and it doesn’t have any Gatsbys or Buchannens—which can be very refreshing. Set in early twentieth century Montana and part of his short story series “Tales of the Jazz Age,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” was a contemporary favorite turned into an on-air radio play by Orson Welles and printed in “The Smart Set” magazine in 1922. When the narrator John T. Unger, a teenager at boarding school in Boston, meets a fellow boarding school student named Percy Washington and follows him home for the summer, he’s met with otherworldly wealth and strange mysteries that seem too twisted to be true.
7. “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich may be the greatest Native American writer of her generation, and “The Round House” is her latest in a series of excellent storytelling involving one of America’s long-forgotten people. Set on an unnamed Indian reservation in North Dakota, the book follows 13-year-old Joe Coutts after he learns his mother has been brutally raped and sets out with his friends to make amends for her at the roundhouse where the incident happened. Combining local legend, the politics of a community, state, and country, and a need for revenge, “The Round House” is the kind of mystery that carries with it an edge of vengeance—readers won’t be able to separate their emotions from those of the characters as Joe draws closer and closer to discovering the truth.
For fans of Erdrich who want to learn a little more, check out this reading and conversation on YouTube by the author at Dartmouth where she discusses her focus on injustices and community in her work. (International viewers, you can get around the site’s geolocation blockers with the help of a VPN)
8. “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray
Bray’s particular brand of rhetoric and sharp wit is one that captivates readers on their first dive into “A Great and Terrible Beauty,” the first book in the Gemma Doyle series. Starring a young woman living in Victorian England, her best friends, and one beautiful, old, and haunting boarding school, this tale of adventure flits between magical realities and our own so well that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. What readers will be absolutely sure of, however, is Bray’s limitless good humor—her characters are sharp, well-rounded and totally headstrong, making this first book in the series one that only gets better with each turn of the page.
There are a lot of great books out there, but more than just belonging on a shelf labeled “greats,” these eight picks are distinctive and stand out in their genres, making them perfect for must-read lists the world over. So whether on a comfy spot on the couch or on your early morning commute (if you’re listening to the audiobook), these tales are totally obsession worthy.
Leave comments about your top eight must-reads or consider suggesting great new publications. We’d love any and all suggestions!
About Me: Cassie is a self-diagnosed bibliophile with a love for anything that’s written. Whether it’s hiding between the library stacks with a new printing or tuning in to YouTube for the latest presentation by her favorite authors, she’s all about getting down and dirty with the better stories our world has to offer.