Each of these books contains some wisdom to life you could use for your own benefit. Some of these stories are enjoyable reads while others push your limits of reading and toleration. These books cover various subjects including religion, philosophy, ethics, world, and history.
There are actually a few more than 50 books here. Some books are part of volumes that should not be separated and were counted as one. Could have just called it “55 Books To Read Before….” but it didn’t sound as good! Consider it extra wisdom and pleasure-reading. These books may change your life and the way you think for the better!
1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
A powerful story about the importance of life experiences as they relate to approaching an understanding of reality and attaining enlightenment.
2. 1984 by George Orwell
1984 still holds chief significance nearly sixty years after it was written in 1949. It is widely acclaimed for its haunting vision of an all-knowing government, which uses pervasive, twenty-four/seven surveillance tactics to manipulate all citizens of the populace.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The story surveys the controversial issues of race and economic class in the 1930s Deep South via a court case of a black man charged with the rape and abuse of a young white girl. It’s a moving tale that delivers a profound message about fighting for justice and against prejudice.
4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A nightmarish vision of insane youth culture that depicts heart wrenching insight into the life of a disturbed adolescent. This novel will blow you away…leaving you breathless, livid, thrilled, and concerned.
5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
A short, powerful contemplation on death, ideology and the incredible brutality of war.
6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
This masterpiece is so enormous even Tolstoy said it couldn’t be described as a standard novel. The storyline takes place in Russian society during the Napoleonic Era, following the characters of Andrei, Pierre and Natasha … and the tragic and unanticipated way in which their lives interconnect.
7. The Rights of Man by Tom Paine
Written during the era of the French Revolution, this book was one of the first to introduce the concept of human rights from the standpoint of democracy.
8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
A famous quote from the book states that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” This accurately summarizes the book’s prime position on the importance of individual human rights within society.
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This novel does not have a plot in the conventional sense, but instead uses various narratives to portray a clear message about the general importance of remembering our cultural history.
10. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Few books have had as significant an impact on the way society views the natural world and the genesis of humankind.
11. The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton
A collection of thoughts, meditations and reflections that give insight into what life is like to live simply and purely, dedicated to a greater power than ourselves.
12. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell looks at how a small idea, or product concept, can spread like a virus and spark global sociological changes. Specifically, he analyzes “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”
13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Arguably one of the best children’s books ever written; this short novel will help you appreciate the simple pleasures in life. It’s most notable for its playful mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie.
14. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
One of the oldest books on military strategy in the world. It’s easily the most successful written work on the mechanics of general strategy and business tactics.
15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
One of the greatest fictional stories ever told, and by far one of the most popular and influential written works in twentieth-century literature. Once you pick up the first book, you’ll read them all.
16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
This is a tale that lingers on the topic of attaining and maintaining a disciplined heart as it relates to one’s emotional and moral life. Dickens states that we must learn to go against “the first mistaken impulse of the undisciplined heart.”
17. Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
Probably the wisest poetic prose of modern times. It was written during World War II, and is still entirely relevant today … here’s an excerpt: “The dove descending breaks the air/With flame of incandescent terror/Of which the tongues declare/The only discharge from sin and error/The only hope, or the despair/Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre–/To be redeemed from fire by fire./Who then devised this torment?/Love/Love is the unfamiliar Name/Behind the hands that wave/The intolerable shirt of flame/Which human power cannot remove./We only live, only suspire/Consumed by either fire or fire.”
18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
This book coined the self-titled term “catch-22” that is widely used in modern-day dialogue. As for the story, its message is clear: What’s commonly held to be good, may be bad … what is sensible, is nonsense. Its one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century. Read it.
19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in the Jazz Age of the roaring 20s, this book unravels a cautionary tale of the American dream. Specifically, the reader learns that a few good friends are far more important that a zillion acquaintances, and the drive created from the desire to have something is more valuable than actually having it.
20. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This novel firmly stands as an icon for accurately representing the ups and downs of teen angst, defiance and rebellion. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the unpredictable teenage mindset.
21. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A smooth-flowing, captivating novel of a young man living in poverty who criminally succumbs to the desire for money, and the hefty psychological impact this has on him and the people closest to him.
22. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
This book does a great job at describing situations of power and statesmanship. From political and corporate power struggles to attaining advancement, influence, and authority over others, Machiavelli’s observations apply.
23. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days writing this book in a secluded cabin near the banks of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. This is a story about being truly free from the pressures of society. The book can speak for itself: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
24. The Republic by Plato
A gripping and enduring work of philosophy on how life should be lived, justice should be served, and leaders should lead. It also gives the reader a fundamental understanding of western political theory.
25. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This is the kind of book that blows your mind wide open to conflicting feelings of life, love and corruption … and at times makes you deeply question your own perceptions of each. The story is as devious as it is beautiful.
26. Getting Things Done by David Allen
The quintessential guide to organizing your life and getting things done. Nuff said.
27. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is the granddaddy of all self-improvement books. It is a comprehensive, easy to read guide for winning people over to your way of thinking in both business and personal relationships.
28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A powerful and alarming look at the possibilities for savagery in a lawless environment, where compassionate human reasoning is replaced by anarchistic, animal instinct.
29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s deeply touching tale about the survival of displaced families desperately searching for work in a nation stuck by depression will never cease to be relevant.
30. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
This anti-communist masterpiece is a multifaceted novel about the clash between good and evil. It dives head first into the topics of greed, corruption and deception as they relate to human nature.
31. The Celestine Prophecy
The book discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas that are rooted in many ancient Eastern Traditions, such as the claim that vegetarianism can help an individual to establish a connection with the Divine. The main character of the novel undertakes a journey to find and understand a series of nine spiritual insights on an ancient manuscript in Peru. The book is a first-person narrative of spiritual awakening. The narrator is in a transitional period of his life, and begins to notice instances of synchronicity, which is the realization that coincidences may have deep meaning.
32. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
This book explores Greene’s gross exploration of social power, this time in the realm of sexual politics. In Part 1, Greene offers a straight-faced description of the nine types of seductive character, from the “Ideal Lover” to the “Rake.” Part 2 examines the process of seduction, subdivided into four phases, with chapter headings such as “Master the Art of Insinuation” and “Isolate the Victim.” This book will have real appeal for power mongers, gold diggers, and heartless manipulators everywhere.
33. The Outline of History by HG Wells
A book by H. G. Wells published in 1919. Wells was very dissatisfied with the quality of history textbooks at the end of World War I, and so, between 1918 and 1919, produced a 1,324-page work which was published in serial softcover form in 1919.
34. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This omnibus edition begins with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent is introduced to the galaxy at large when he is rescued by an alien friend seconds before Earth’s destruction. Then in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Arthur and his new friends travel to the end of time and discover the true reason for Earth’s existence. In Life, the Universe, and Everything, the gang goes on a mission to save the entire universe. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish recounts how Arthur finds true love and “God’s Final Message to His Creation.” Finally, Mostly Harmless is the story of Arthur’s continuing search for home, in which he instead encounters his estranged daughter, who is on her own quest. There’s also a bonus short story, “Young Zaphod Plays It Safe,” more of a vignette than a full story, which wraps up this completist’s package of the Don’t Panic chronicles. As the series progresses, its wackier elements diminish, but the satire of human life and foibles is ever present.
35. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is for most children pure pleasure in prose. While adults try to decipher Lewis Carroll’s putative use of complex mathematical codes in the text, or debate his alleged use of opium, young readers simply dive with Alice through the rabbit hole, pursuing “The dream-child moving through a land / Of wonders wild and new.” There they encounter the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, and the Mad Hatter, among a multitude of other characters–extinct, fantastical, and commonplace creatures. Alice journeys through this Wonderland, trying to fathom the meaning of her strange experiences. But they turn out to be “curiouser and curiouser,” seemingly without moral or sense.
36. (De Senectute) On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
As a philosopher, Cicero’s most important function was to make his countrymen familiar with the main schools of Greek thought. Much of this writing is thus of secondary interest to us in comparison with his originals, but in the fields of religious theory and of the application of philosophy to life he made important first-hand contributions. From these works have been selected the two treatises, on Old Age and on Friendship, which have proved of most permanent and widespread interest to posterity, and which give a clear impression of the way in which a high-minded Roman thought about some of the main problems’ of human life.
37. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Set in an absurd yet uncanny near-future, with a cast of hundreds and close to 400 footnotes, Wallace’s story weaves between two surprisingly similar locales: Ennet House, a halfway-house in the Boston Suburbs, and the adjacent Enfield Tennis Academy. It is the “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment” (each calendar year is now subsidized by retail advertising); the U.S. and Canada have been subsumed by the Organization of North American Nations, unleashing a torrent of anti-O.N.A.N.ist terrorism by Quebecois separatists; drug problems are widespread; the Northeastern continent is a giant toxic waste dump; and CD-like “entertainment cartridges” are the prevalent leisure activity. The novel hinges on the dysfunctional family of E.T.A.’s founder, optical-scientist-turned-cult-filmmaker Dr. James Incandenza (aka Himself), who took his life shortly after producing a mysterious film called Infinite Jest, which is supposedly so addictively entertaining as to bring about a total neural meltdown in its viewer. As Himself’s estranged sons?professional football punter Orin, introverted tennis star Hal and deformed naif Mario?come to terms with his suicide and legacy, they and the residents of Ennet House become enmeshed in the machinations of the wheelchair-bound leader of a Quebecois separatist faction, who hopes to disseminate cartridges of Infinite Jest and thus shred the social fabric of O.N.A.N. With its hilarious riffs on themes like addiction, 12-step programs, technology and waste management (in all its scatological implications), this tome is highly engrossing?in small doses. Yet the nebulous, resolutionless ending serves to underscore Wallace’s underlying failure to find a suitable novelistic shape for his ingenious and often outrageously funny material.
38. Heidegger’s Being and Time by Stephen Mulhall
On the first page of Being and Time, Heidegger describes the project in the following way: “our aim in the following treatise is to work out the question of the sense of being and to do so concretely.” Heidegger claims that traditional ontology has prejudicially overlooked this question, dismissing it as overly general, undefinable, or obvious.
Instead Heidegger proposes to understand being itself, as distinguished from any specific entities (beings). “‘Being’ is not something like a being.” Being, Heidegger claims, is “what determines beings as beings, that in terms of which beings are already understood.” Heidegger is seeking to identify the criteria or conditions by which any specific entity can be at all.
39. Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male by Vladmir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert, a literary scholar born in 1910 to a Swiss father and an English mother in Paris, is obsessed with young girls, whom he refers to as “nymphets”. Humbert suggests that this obsession results from the death of a childhood sweetheart, Annabel Leigh. After an unsuccessful marriage to Valeria, Humbert moves to Ramsdale in 1947, a small New England town, to write. He rents a room in the house of Charlotte Haze, a widow. While Charlotte tours him around the house, he meets her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores (also known as Dolly, Lolita, Lola, Lo and L), with whom he immediately becomes infatuated. Humbert stays at the house only to remain near her. While he is obsessed with Lolita, he disdains her crassness and preoccupation with contemporary American popular culture, such as teen movies and comic books.
40. Thus Spoke Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
Much of the work deals with ideas such as the “eternal recurrence of the same”, the parable on the “death of God”, and the “prophecy” of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.
Described by Nietzsche himself as “the deepest ever written,” the book is a dense and esoteric treatise on philosophy and morality, featuring as protagonist a fictionalized prophet descending from his recluse to mankind, Zarathustra. A central irony of the text is that Nietzsche mimics the style of the Bible in order to present ideas which fundamentally oppose Christian and Jewish morality and tradition.
41. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil most closely resembles the aphoristic style of his middle period. In it he exposes the deficiencies of those usually called “philosophers” and identifies the qualities of the “new philosophers”: imagination, self-assertion, danger, originality, and the “creation of values”. He then contests some of the key presuppositions of the old philosophic tradition like “self-consciousness,” “knowledge,” “truth,” and “free will”, explaining them as inventions of the moral consciousness. In their place he offers the “will to power” as an explanation of all behavior; this ties into his “perspective of life”, which he regards as “beyond good and evil”, denying a universal morality for all human beings. Religion and the master and slave moralities feature prominently as Nietzsche re-evaluates deeply held humanistic beliefs, portraying even domination, appropriation and injury to the weak as not universally objectionable.
42. The Ultimate “Unseen Hand” Behind the New World Order by Alex Christopher
This book has to be classified as a one-of-a-kind novel. It is a compilation of four years of extensive research; the information in it is only my interpretation of what appears to be the truth. Nothing in life has a value or is believable for a person, unless that person allows something to become a truth or value in their life especially within their experience. Therefore. 1 must tell you that this is a fiction novel based on information that I have found hidden away in all types of corners, here and there. For most people, this information is too incredible; if they believed the information, it would rip their lives apart, if you believe this information it makes an island out of you and no one likes being alone on an island. Almost everyone in this country and the world likes being a sheep. I watch flocks of sheep and where one leads they all follow. It seems that they don’t have the intelligence to really be an individual. Most people appear to like it that way. In truth, people are about to be lead to the slaughter. The bottom line about this book is that it only has as much truth to it as you allow it to have. If in doubt, you can also do the research and see for yourself.
43. The Aesthetical Essays by Frederich Schiller
Aesthetics has for its object the vast realm of the beautiful, and it may be most adequately defined as the philosophy of art or of the fine arts. To some the definition may seem arbitrary, as excluding the beautiful in nature; but it will cease to appear so if it is remarked that the beauty which is the work of art is higher than natural beauty, because it is the offspring of the mind. Moreover, if, in conformity with a certain school of modern philosophy, the mind be viewed as the true being, including all in itself, it must be admitted that beauty is only truly beautiful when it shares in the nature of mind, and is mind’s offspring. Viewed in this light, the beauty of nature is only a reflection of the beauty of the mind, only an imperfect beauty, which as to its essence is included in that of the mind.
44. The Jew and the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz
An account of an historic dialogue between rabbis and the Dalai Lama, the first recorded major dialogue between experts in Judaism and Buddhism.
45. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective novel written by Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in Paris’s Louvre Museum and discover a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus having been married to Mary Magdalene. The novel has provoked a popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and Magdalene’s role in the history of Christianity. The book has been extensively denounced by many Christian denominations as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church. It has also been criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracy.
46. The Philosophy of Torah by Rabbi Israel Chait
The questions why one should learn Torah and what benefit one receives from learning Torah are the most basic that one can ask about Judaism. Since Judaism establishes as its central mitzvah the study of Torah, it follows that an understanding of these questions carries with it an understanding of the philosophy of Judaism. This philosophy must bring to light the ultimate good that man is to attain from an adherence to the way of life of Torah.
Judaism is not simply a religion. By religion I mean that which satisfies the religious instinct in man. Many forms of this satisfaction are strictly prohibited in Judaism and even deemed the worst evil. Judaism considers its greatest adversary the unbridled religious emotion of man. This reaches its ultimate manifestation in idolatry. Judaism is a unique metaphysical and philosophical system. Its insistence on knowledge as the only means of determining its practice and worship distinguishes it most exclusively from any other forms of religion. Judaism demands of man a certain level of knowledge. Falsehood is equated with evil, the good with true knowledge. It is precisely for this reason that we were given the Torah.
47. The Metaphysical Significance of Pi by Patrick Mulcahy
This treatise uses the mathematical Pi constant (π) to develop a blueprint for understanding the metaphysical nature of the universe and the human condition. It derives certain fundamental esoteric principles that are based on Pi, and that help explain the nature of consciousness and universal cycles. These Pi-based principles explain both the linear and nonlinear characteristics of subjective experience and objective manifestation.
Using the symbolism of the basic structure of the Pi constant, it will be shown that there exists a singularity located beyond space and time, but around which consciousness (focused within space and time) revolves and evolves.
48. The Giver by Lowis Lowry
The Giver is a 1993 soft science fiction novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the Giver, he is confused in many ways. The Giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and lying to people of the community. As Jonas receives the memories from the previous receiver—the “Giver”—he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they don’t know of a better life but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, choices and knowledge or should he run away to where he can live a full life?
49. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton, an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie Small, an ironically named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities—are on their way to a ranch near Soledad (southeast of Salinas, California) to “work up a stake.” They hope to one day attain their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie’s part of the dream is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. This dream is one of Lennie’s favorite stories, which George constantly retells. They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed, California, where they were run out of town after Lennie’s love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman’s dress. It soon becomes clear that the two are close friends and George is Lennie’s protector.
50. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.
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