1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As someone who hates reading, this is a really good one.
2. Pride and Prejudice is very witty and a worthwhile read. And I say that as a 34 year old male that doesn’t normally read romances of any sort.
3. I absolutely loved Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I had to read it for a class and I’ve never had more fun reading an assignment.
4. The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Every time I read it, it’s relevant. Probably more so now than ever before.
5. Sherlock Holmes. Pretty much every story is great and many of them are short.
6. Little Women is a great read. If you liked either of the movies, I’d highly recommend it. And there are two sequels that haven’t been adapted for film, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
7. I actually really really enjoyed Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte. Yes, I know it’s a long book (about 400 pages). But truly, I was captivated from beginning to end.
8. The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a harrowing book that, if you like tragedies, is awesome. It’s probably the most horrible amazing book I’ve ever read.
9. I very much enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It’s really interesting seeing how Jules Vern describes his idea of submarines before they even existed.
10. All Quiet on the Western Front. A great book illustrating the tragedies of war, based on the author’s own experience in WW1 no less.
Historical side note, but the Nazis were unsurprisingly against an anti-war book so they banned and burned copies. The author, Erich Maria Remarque was forced to flee Germany but his younger sister was not so lucky. She was found guilty of ‘undermining moral’ by say the Germans weren’t going to win the war, however they were retaliating against Remarque’s book, made obvious by them telling her, “Your brother is unfortunately beyond our reach—you, however, will not escape us.” She was beheaded and the Nazis sent the bill for her execution to Remarque’s other sister.
11. Anything by Mark Twain, but especially Huckleberry Finn. If you were forced to read it in high school and hated it, I recommend reading it again on your own. A lot of thought-provoking humor.
12. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. This novel created so many of the plot tropes you see everyday. It was seriously groundbreaking.
13. Frankenstein, it’s written in an older way of talking but still very understandable.
14. The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkien. He captivates you with an interesting yet somewhat short story. The Lord Of The Rings is far more epic and detailed, but it’s so long and I feel like I can only read it once every two or three years. The Hobbit is much shorter and can be read in a weekend if you’re determined.
15. I really enjoyed Stranger in a Strange Land. Lots of hippy vibes in it but still very enjoyable from the perspective of how would something with a totally different mindset interact with us?
16. The Iliad and The Odyssey. The Iliad is basically an action movie in verse, and The Odyssey is literally epic.
17. Paradise Lost. I don’t think you even necessarily need to read it cover to cover (it’s a story we all know anyway). How Milton describes the banishment of Satan and the temptation of Eve is incredibly powerful!
18. The Chrysalis by John Whyndam. Great blend of sci-fi and drama written in such a captivating way. I was hooked from the first line and even still have some lines memorized.
19. I’m not completely sure Catch 22 is considered a literary classic, maybe a cult literary classic. If it does count, then I highly recommend it.
20. Goethe’s Faust – A story about temptation and desire. It is a common theme among great works because it applies to all of us. Goethe’s tale, beyond being merely well written, is also interesting because it demonstrates many principles of early 19th century German philosophy on the eve of industrial revolution. The driving philosophy of Faust is that we, as individuals, must find a place for themselves in support of the natural order. This is an outgrowth of Lutheran philosophy, and the believe that the tools of salvation lie within us rather than being meted out by the church. This evolution of Lutheran philosophy away from distinctly spiritual matters would eventually lead to the writing of Marx, which obviously had an immeasurable effect on the world.
21. Beowulf is a fun read and not difficult to get into. Plus it’s not crazy long so you could realistically finish it in a day or two. Its one of the few books I consistently take whenever I’m going somewhere and I highly recommend it.
22. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Told in 3rd person from the dog’s point of view. Interesting read.
23. The Great Gatsby! One of the few books I was forced to read in high school and actually enjoyed at the time.
24. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is really good! It’s quite short but tells an amazing story in such a short amount of time.
25. Flowers for Algernon. I loved this one! It was mildly terrifying and so well-written. You just end up thinking about it from time to time after finishing the book.
26. The Giver. There are some things in books that cannot be portrayed in movies.
27. Candide by Voltaire. Quick adventure-packed story about how to cope with the brutal nature of life. Good for plane rides and beach days.
28. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It’s often portrayed as a revenge tale, but I think it’s much more than that.
29. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison. It’s a short story from the 1960’s with a radio drama and a video game based after it with even more lore for the original story. If you don’t like depressingly bleak, post-apocalyptic science fiction, I would not recommend it.
30. East of Eden is in my personal Top 5 list of best books I have ever read. I’ve read it several times. The description of characters is something else. Steinbeck really sees through people, but he also loves people.