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30 Titles Everyone “Should” Read

Stack of books on a shelf, multicolored book spines.

So many books. So little time. We all know how real this struggle is. Have you ever done an online search for “books everyone should read”? Depending on what you click on, you’re going to get a wide variety of titles. And of course, different words can be put in to help modify and narrow down a list of titles that are considered “should” reads. If you were asked to make a list, what would you include? Many of us take great pride in considering ourselves to be “well read” – but what does it mean to be “well read”? Generally understood, this is a person who is knowledgeable on a variety of subjects, having taken part in extensive reading on a broad range of topics.

For those of us who love to read, a good book is a sanctuary; it’s a place where – regardless of genre – we are encouraged by an author to consider a new perspective, a new experience, a new world. Those worlds are beautiful, painful, joyful, and terrifying. From love to war, economics and humor, there is something for everyone out there. We thought it would be fun to gather a list of books that have been recognized as ones that audiences “should” read.

Peaceful moment

The word “should” in the title should not be considered as an ultimatum on reading; this list only scratches the surface of literature that has had an impact, a lasting meaning not only on a global scale, but also to us as individuals. What someone on the bus ride next to you considers an essential read will be different from what your book club enjoys and from what your neighbor reads. The most important takeaway is that to read is to build our intellect, to have a laugh, and to share in an experience. We could definitely make this list much longer than 30 titles, but it’s a place to get started!

male student reading book in library

30 Titles Everyone “Should” Read

  1. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  3. A Brief History of Time, Stephen M. Hawkings
  4. The Art of War, Sun Tsu
  5. The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck
  6. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  7. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  8. The Story of My Experiments With Truth, Mohandas Gandhi
  9. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  10. Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
  11. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  12. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  13. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  14. The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
  15. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
  16. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  17. Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin (also known as The Story of the Stone)
  18. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
  19. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  20. The Odyssey, Homer
  21. Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud
  22. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  23. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  24. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
  25. Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man, James Joyce
  26. Burger’s Daughter, Nadine Gordimer
  27. East, West, Salman Rushdie
  28. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  29. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  30. The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
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