The report of the book’s death has been greatly exaggerated. Though there has been a wave of innovations that might have killed the book, they haven’t. Plenty of people still read. And with good reason, as in this age of everything going at hyper speed, books offer us an important moment to unwind and reflect on what’s going on in the world. Rather than shooting information at us faster than we can consume it, they drip feed us knowledge and wisdom.
The one big problem, however, is that the rate at which books get published keeps rising. So what to read? Here are 14 timeless classics that you can’t miss out on.
1. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The first of its kind, it is this book started off the ‘True Crime’ that has been taking over the airwaves recently. In Cold Blood followed the story of two men and the family they end up killing. The writer got so involved with the two killers that after the book was done so was he. He never finished another.
2. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
‘Meditations’ was written by the Philosopher and one of the greatest Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, during the darker decades of his own life. The lessons he gleams make this a great study on mental fortitude and what any person needs to be confident.
It is a must-read for anybody that doesn’t want to fold up like a house of cards at the first hint of trouble. So many people nowadays think what matters is personality. Marcus Aurelius, on the other hand, shows us what really matters and that’s character.
3. Fear and loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
The most famous book by a man who created an entirely new form of journalism, called Gonzo journalism, that many have tried but nobody has managed to imitate. The book is a nostalgic drug binge and commentary on American society that remains just as relevant today.
4. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
A dystopian vision of the future, where everybody is factory produced, happiness is induced and a totalitarian regime controls all information and rules from the shadows. Even though it was written in 1931 it seems even more poignant today than it ever did.
5. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
A young man refuses convention, believing his own vision to be better than that of the traditional past. This book shows how every man needs to be confident to become outstanding and be individual and that you can’t buy or sell personality, like so many companies aim to make you want to believe, but that you can only develop it through being true to your vision and your beliefs.
6. 1984 – George Orwell
Possibly the most famous dystopian book of them all, it is scary how many of the writer’s predictions about the future seem to be coming true. It is not a happy book, but great books rarely are. It is moving, important and worryingly accurate.
7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
This 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction investigates how you fit and don’t fit into the culture that raised you. It follows the ‘cursed’ geeky son of Dominican immigrants to the United States and how he attempts to fuse his cultural heritage and his world view.
8. The World According to Garp – John Irving
Here we follow a young man and his family and in the process get a real view into the psyche of a fully-formed person and his views on death, women, men and their relationship. Literature has the ability to make us bigger than ourselves by showing us the nitty gritty of another person’s existence. None do that better than John Iriving in the World According to Garp.
9. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
You can’t argue for or against evolutionary theory until you at least understand how it works. The Selfish Gene doesn’t just open up the world of one of science’s most beautiful theories, but it makes you feel like a genius besides, as well as actually fill you with a sense of wonder.
10. The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb
This book gives you insights into how we believe the world works and how that makes us vulnerable to such wildly improbably things as the 2007 financial market crash. That might sound boring, but this book is anything but that. For Nassim has the amazing ability to turn something as dry as statistics into something utterly fascinating and give you a better understanding of the world in the process.
11. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This timeless classic explores different faces of humanity in the Deep South at the turn of the 20th century. In it we are confronted with many of humanity’s foibles and less admirable qualities, as well as humor and positivity.
12. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
All the fantasy that fills the big screen nowadays started with this one book and you can’t really understand what they are saying until you understand where they came from. They came from the head of JRR Tolkien.
13. The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
This coming of age story has resonated with countless teenagers all around the world (while it mystifies the rest). It is all about finding yourself and understanding that though it might not feel like it, you are not alone. Also, it’s wickedly funny.
14. Stumbling Onto Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
In this book Professor Gilbert tells you what the research says actually makes you happy. Spoiler alert: it’s not money. The book is accessible, interesting and the lessons contained therein can be applied straight to your life.