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50 Must-Read Books to Add to Your Bucket List

Whether you're an avid reader, a writer, or someone simply wanting to read the best literature of all time, we've compiled this list of 50 must-read books to put on your bucket list this year. Some are beloved and immortal classics, while others are more recently written but should not to be missed.

#1. Les Misérables—Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a tale of triumph over insurmountable odds and love during the French Revolution.

#2. 1984—George Orwell

George Orwell's 1984 is a cautionary tale of the dangers of totalitarianism.

#3. The Book Thief—Markus Zusak

Narrated by Death itself, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is the coming-of-age story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany during World War II.

#4. Fahrenheit 451—Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a classic dystopian novel about the power (and fear) of knowledge.

#5. The Bell Jar—Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is a haunting American classic that explores the depths of the psyche and that narrator's failing mental health.

#5. Tuesdays with Morrie—Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie is a memoir about a series of memorable and thought-provoking visits Albom made to his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, as Schwartz is dying.

#6. The Handmaid's Tale—Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian state and theocracy in which most women are infertile.

#7. The Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is a novel about love, hopelessness, and loss for tenant farmers during the Great Depression. It won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

#8. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

William Golding's Lord of the Flies is a classic exploration of human nature and survival, when a plane carrying a group of English school boys crash lands on a deserted island.

#9. Roots: The Saga of an American Family—Alex Haley

Alex Haley's Roots: The Saga of an American Family is considered to be one of the most important works of American literature in the 20th Century. It tells the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th-century African, who was sold into slavery, and his ancestors, which includes the author.

#10. Great Expectations—Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is full of colorful characters in contrasting bleak scenes of poverty, and tells the story of a young orphan named Pip.

#11. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography describing the American poet's early years. Dealing with issues such as race, cultural identity, literacy, and rape, the book is as much a piece of literature as it is the author's own story.

#12. Gone with the Wind—Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind is an epic tale of the fall of the Old South, with one of the most memorable heroines in history.

#13. Flowers for Algernon—Daniel Keyes

Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon was originally a short story and contains ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.

#14. To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird handles themes of racial injustice and the destruction of innocence with compelling storytelling and beloved characters such as Atticus Finch, who set the bar for being a man of integrity and quiet strength.

#15. The Alchemist—Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is an allegorical novel that follows a young Andalusian shepherd as he journeys to the pyramids of Egypt, after having a recurring dream that he would find treasure there. It reiterates the adage, "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true."

#16. The Catcher in the Rye—J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye contains themes of angst and alienation, and is a literary critique on superficiality in society from an adolescent's viewpoint.

#17. Crime and Punishment—Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment delves into the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, a young man from Saint Petersburg who decides to kill a woman because she is unscrupulous in order to free himself from poverty. However, his choice brings about moral consequences he does not anticipate.

#18. Animal Farm—George Orwell

George Orwell's Animal Farm is a modern fable that deals with the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and beyond, particularly the the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.

#19. The Sound and the Fury—William Faulkner

William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury contains several different narrative styles, including stream of consciousness. Set in Jefferson, Mississippi, the novel tells the story of the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the death of the Old South.

#20. The Sun Also Rises—Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises is about expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls. Hemingway's stark style of storytelling mixed with the grandeurs of Spain make this one of his most beloved novels.

#21. On the Road—Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac's On the Road is a roman à clef that defined the Beat and Counterculture generations following World War II. Its characters are representations of some of the most famous members of the Beat movements, including William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee), Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty), while Kerouac is the narrator, Sal Paradise.

#22. Their Eyes Were Watching God—Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God explores traditional gender roles and the relationship between men and women, while remaining one of the most influential works in African American literature, particularly women's literature.

#23. Things Fall Apart—Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is an archetypal modern African novel that chronicles pre-colonial life in south-eastern Nigeria, along with the Europeans' arrival during the late 19th century.

#24. The Color Purple—Alice Walker

Alice Walker's The Color Purple won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It is an epistolary novel that takes place mostly in rural Georgia, focusing on the plight of African American women in the Southern United States in the 1930s.

#25. Catch-22—Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 contains non-chronological third-person omniscient narration from multiple points of view, exploring the absurdity of war and military life.

#26. Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is a dystopian novel that explores, according to the author, "the role of man's mind in existence." Later considered a standard text for the philosophy of Objectivism, it advocates reason, individualism, and capitalism.

#27. Invisible Man—Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is a compelling exploration of life as a black man in mid-century America. Some of its themes include include black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the thoughts of Booker T. Washington.

#28. Schindler's List—Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List is essential reading to understand the Holocaust, as well as how easily it happened. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German man who helped many Jewish people escape death.

#29. A Brief History of Time—Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time boils down amazing and complicated concepts of modern physics into an layman's terms. It is a fascinating glimpse of the universe in which we live.

#30. The Brothers Karamazov—Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is an epic Russian novel that explores human psychology, economics, family ties, spirituality and atheism.

#31. The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby offers a critical look at the social history of Prohibition-era America during the Jazz Age and is set among the wealthy of 1920s New York City.

#32. Midnight's Children—Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children follows India's transition from British colonialism to independence, resulting in the partition of British India. As an example of magical realist literature, it follows the story of Saleem, who was born at midnight on the night of India's independence. As one of only 1,001 children born that exact hour, he discovers that each was endowed with a unique ability.

#33. Slaughterhouse-Five—Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is a semi-autobiographical tale of the firebombing of Dresden, Germany by British and American air forces. It follows the character of Billy Pilgrim, who travels with flashbacks, to his birth, death, and everything in between.

#34. The Stranger—Albert Camus

Albert Camus' The Stranger demonstrates Camus' idea of existentialism and is the account of Meursault, a French Algerian who attends his mother's funeral and murders a man, before being sentenced to death.

#35. The Count of Monte Cristo—Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo tells the tale of Edmond, a young sailor from Marseilles, who is soon to be captain of his own ship marry the love of his life. The novel is set in France, Italy, and islands in the Mediterranean between 1815–1839, known as the Bourbon Restoration.

#36. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy—Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy follows the comedic adventures of the last surviving man on planet Earth, Arthur Dent, as the planet is destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

#37. Anna Karenina—Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a massive undertaking, but one that's well worth it. Divided into eight parts, with multiple major characters, it is an 800-page exploration of themes of betrayal, sexual desire, faith, family, marriage, rural vs. city living, and the expectations of Imperial Russian society.

#38. Watchmen—Alan Moore

Alan Moore's Watchman is set in an alternate 1985 America where superheroes reflect contemporary anxieties, are deconstructed and satirized. It follows several characters, one of which is the asked vigilante Rorschach, who uncovers a plot to kill all past and present superheroes.

#39. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—Mark Twain

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was declared by Ernest Hemingway to be "the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." That recommendation, within itself, should be enough to want to put this fun adventure novel set against the racial problems of the American South on your bucket list.

#40. The Old Man and the Sea—Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea tells the tale of Santiago, an elderly Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. It received the Pulitzer Prize in May 1953.

#41. Of Mice and Men—John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a novella about George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers who travel California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression. The story is based on Steinbeck's own experiences working with migrant farmers in the 1910s as a teenager, and is a beautiful exploration of how the search for meaning and work are intertwined.

#42. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe—C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel set in Narnia. There are talking animals, mythical creatures, and an evil White Witch, along with four English children who move to a large, old country home following war.

#43. Jane Eyre—Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is written from the main character's first-person perspective, with deeply personal social criticism, including themes of class, sexuality, religion and feminism.

#44. The Art of War—Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu's The Art of War is the most influential military strategy text in East Asian history and has greatly influenced military thinking throughout the East and West, as well as business and legal strategy.

#45. A Confederacy of Dunces—John Kenney Toole

John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel that has become a cult classic in Southern literature. It follows the exploits of Ignatius Jacques Reilly, a modern Don Quixote. It offers a rich, humorous depiction of New Orleans and life there.

#46. The Road—Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece that tells the story of a father and his son who must survive in the aftermath of society's collapse.

#47. The Selfish Gene—Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene is a seminal book on evolution in which Dawkins uses the term "selfish gene" to express a gene-centred view of evolution. It is a fascinating read and is listed by the Royal Society science book prize as the most influential science book of all time.

#48. Lolita—Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is a controversial, albeit classic, story of a middle-aged literature professor who becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze.

#49. The Hobbit—J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a fantasy novel set within Tolkien's fictional universe and tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, whose heroic journey takes him from the comfort of home to more sinister places full of mythical beings.

#50. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland—Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland tells of a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world full of nonsense and lack of logic.

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