21 Books To Read Before You Die

Some books can change our lives forever, making us look at life differently, honing our knowledge and cheering us up. Here’s a list of 21 books to read before you die.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ― Jorge Luis Borges.

Are you a book lover who’s always searching for something new to read?

Then I’m sure you must have read most of these mentioned below in this article.

But if you’re someone who hasn’t yet got the hang of befriending books, then maybe you can choose one from the list and start flipping through the pages – and I assure you that they are all unputdownable!

From classics dating back to the previous century to travelogues narrating the tales of faraway places, from dystopian novels to spine-chilling autobiographies, these books are surely worth reading.

21 best books that you must read before you die

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

One of the best books of the Century, The Alchemist emphasizes the importance of faith, hope, and spirituality through the story of an ordinary boy.

The book follows a young Andalusian shepherd in his journey to the pyramids of Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding a treasure there, and with each passing problem and obstacle that the young boy encounters, there is a lesson to learn.

Related: Best books by Paulo Coelho


2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

This book is a true account of a wonderful professor giving out anecdotes of life as he walks towards his inevitable disease and succumbs to it.

Written by Mitch Albom who was enlightened by the teachings of Morrie Schwartz, this book narrates the way in which accepting one’s own death can help one to understand what really matters in life and to live more meaningfully.


3. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy

Written by one of the pioneering voices of affirmative thinking, this book seeks to help its readers transform the way they live by transforming the way they think.​

In this book, Murphy contemplates a theory that the subconscious mind has a powerful effect on everything we do and experience.


4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Translated in over 70 languages and sold over a million copies, this book narrates the story of a young girl during the holocaust.

It is known to be one of the most moving personal documents that came out of World War II, and it gives a strong message that every human has the right to live in freedom.

Anne Frank’s story tells us that just because people are of a different religion or race, doesn’t mean that they should be treated differently.


5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Written over a span of 7 years, this satirical war novel is one of the best fictional works of the 20th Century.

It’s the story of Captain John Yossarian, a crewman of a World War II bomber who was stationed on a small Mediterranean island where he repeatedly, and desperately attempted to stay alive.

Inspired by his own life incidents, Joseph Heller narrates ‘Catch-22’ as a paradoxical situation from which an individual can’t escape because of contradictory rules or limitations. 


6. 1984 by George Orwell

More than anything, this book would make you think about the world & the society in a different way, changing your worldview forever.

One of the best dystopian fiction novels, George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ was first published in 1949 where he mentioned a future social structure when the government surveillance would reach a totalitarian state, repressing the freedoms of individuals & the society as a whole.


7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 

An all-time classic, Jane Eyre was written back in 1847. Although it’s a fictional novel, there are several autobiographical aspects embedded within the story and it’s said that Charlotte Brontë told her sisters that she would show them a ‘heroine as plain and as small as myself’, while she was in the midst of writing Jane Eyre.

The story revolves around a wise & independent girl, Jane, and her domineering employer, Rochester. This novel has often been considered to be ahead of its time by many critics, because of Jane’s individualistic character & the fact that topics like class, sexuality, religion, and feminism have gained focus.


8. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Written by Turkish author Elif Shafak, this isn’t essentially a romantic novel but much more than that! With an essence of love, the book will remind you how much of it we are lacking in our lives.

It’ll teach you about the power of kindness and how it transforms a person into a beautiful soul. There are two parallel stories in this book that are equally fascinating: one about this modern American woman grappling with a loveless marriage, and the other is about the spiritual connection between Rumi and Shams in Turkey in the 1200’s.


9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Many of us barely have any idea about the lives of geisha, but this historical fiction novel will take you around Kyoto, Japan, and narrate the story of a fictional geisha before, during, & after World War II, who finally ends up being relocated to New York City.

The story revolves around delicate issues like a girl’s virginity being auctioned to the highest bidder, women are trained to attract the most powerful men, and love is treated as an illusion.


10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

As the author was going through an early-onslaught midlife crisis, she wrote this autobiographical novel focusing on breaking free from the mundanes of life to rediscover herself and find pleasure, devotion, and balance.

She travels from New York to Italy where she meets amazing people and binges on pizza until her heart is happy, and studies the art of pleasure.

Then she comes to India and spends time in an ashram, devoting her time to spiritual exploration. Finally, she goes to Bali where she meets an elderly medicine man and learns the art of balance between worldly enjoyment & divine transcendence.


11. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

There are books that’ll give you goosebumps while reading it – and this surely is one of that kind!

It’s the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, where he tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, and his friend Hassan. Set in 1975 Afghanistan, Amir and Hassan were desperate to win a local kite-fighting tournament, and eventually, their lives turned upside down after the Russians invaded their city.

Their story teaches us that situations may seem unfair sometimes but we need to be prepared to accept the reality & not deceive ourselves from witnessing the truth.


12. Ikigai by Hector Garcia

The Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’ knocked our doors recently, when we came to acknowledge purposeful living. This book explains how you can live a longer and happier life by having a purpose, eating healthy, and doing things that we love.

According to the residents of Okinawa, the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding a reason for living is the key to a happier and longer life. Surely, this book will help you find your passion and motivate you to walk towards fulfilling your desires.


13. Little Women by Louisa M Alcott 

This 19th Century American classic is the most popular work by the author. It’s a story of four March-sisters, written in the simplest form with a timeless theme that portrays their transition into womanhood and the harrowing experiences along the way.

By the end, the sisters learn that no amount of wealth can bring more happiness than that of a loving and caring family. Considered to be a classic novel, it gives you an insight of the society at that time and would fill your heart with contentment.


14. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Written by Nobel laureate & great Colombian author Gabriel García Márque, this novel is often cited as one of the supreme achievements in literature which introduced the genre of ‘magical realism’.

The story revolves around the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendiá family, portraying an irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love.

The brilliant narrative will keep you engrossed, and the richness of the imaginative prose will inspire you to make happiness a lifestyle, and not just a pursuit.


15. A Book of Simple Living by Ruskin Bond

One of the best works of the legend, this book compiles the author’s thoughts about little things and mundane details of daily life that would inspire you to change your perspective.

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you”, – writes Bond, as he requests the readers to soak in the beauty of nature and feel the happiness that lies in the simplest things, that are infinitely harder to articulate. When you’ll arrive at the last page, I bet you’ll be longing for some more words.


16. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie 

Set on the backdrop of India’s independence, the story is about the inextricably linked fates of two children who found themselves mysteriously ‘handcuffed to history’ by the coincidence.

They were amongst those 1,001 children born at midnight on August 15, 1947, and each was endowed with an incredible talent. The story is about the journey of a man, Saleem, along with the nation, that just got freed from the British Colonial Rule and how the next 30 years changed his life as well as that of the country.


17. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Yet another timeless novel, this book revolves around the story of a boy – David, who becomes an orphan and falls into the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Murdstone, and a massive series of exciting events occur in his life.

As the story moves on, the readers would get a clear idea why kindness, sympathy, and generosity are more important and perhaps more desirable than wealth, power, and social position. It is said that the author has shared real life experiences in this book, to create one of the most exuberant and enduringly popular works.


18. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari’s book, ‘Sapiens,’ traces the origins, mechanisms, and effects of what we think of as ‘human progress’ from small bands of hunter-gatherers who lived about 100,000 years ago to the present-day global network through which our species – the Homo Sapiens – has come to dominate the entire Earth.

The author holds the hand of the reader, taking each one down the lane, showing how the entire human history has shaped over the years! What can be more fascinating than knowing about our existence?


19. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

Written in the form of a fable, this is one of the best motivational & self-help books of recent times.

The story essentially focuses on two characters, Julian Mantle and his best friend John, in the form of conversation. Julian, who was a successful lawyer, met with a sudden heart-attack after which he decided to embark on a spiritual journey, by selling his holiday home and Ferrari. It’s a must read for all those who are wondering how to live happily, trying to think deeply and rightly, contemplating to value time and relationships, be more disciplined, and wish to live every moment of life to the fullest.


20. What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Khyentse Norbu

When you think of a Buddhist, there are certain pre-conceived notions that instantly pop-up in your mind.

Well, this book would essentially challenge all those common misconceptions and stereotypes that we generally tend to attach to Buddhism. With his wit and sarcasm, Khyentse Norbu asks the readers to think beyond the beads and the brown robes, and embrace what Buddha tried to teach.

Not just that, but he also reaches out to help those who are keen to bring this ancient religious tradition into their 21st-Century lives.


21. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

One of the best travelogues of all times, this book narrates the true story of Christopher McCandless – a college graduate who, inspired by the lives of Jack London and Henry David Thoreau, hitchhiked deep into the Alaskan wilderness and later died a mysterious death.

The book narrates the entire journey of McCandless who leaves behind his parents, gives up his possessions, and explores the unknown trails, trying to survive a minimalist life. 

Related: Best travel books that every traveler should read


So, which one of these would you read first? Let us know in the comments below, and if there’s any book which you think is a ‘must read’ for all, mention that as well.

Happy reading, folks!

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