20 Important Books Everyone Should Read


There are many important books out there that are waiting to be read. Many things can make a book important: the subject matter, the context, its influence on literature and many more. These 20 books are all important for different reasons. The list could definitely be longer, but this is a good list to start with, since you’ll get to read about different perspectives, through different genres. These are 20 important books everyone should read, accompanied by pictures of beautiful libraries.

And before we start, let’s remember the great quote from Les Miserables to inspire us to read:

 He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

1. 1984, George Orwell

You’ll see this in a lot of lists of important books. Its place is justified and it will definitely leave you in thought. This dystopian novel follows Winston and his daily life in Oceania, where every move he makes is being watched by Big Brother.

Quote to get you hooked:

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

2. Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga

Redefining the Bildungsroman, this amazing novel will dramatises the ‘nervousness’ of the ‘postcolonial’ conditions that bedevil us still. It looks at issues of race, class, gender and cultural change. This one of the most important books of modern times and a classic in its right.

Quote to get you hooked:

I was not sorry when my brother died.

3. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

This book is famous for earning Gabriel García Márquez the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is an extremely imaginative and thrilling book, which you can learn a little bit more about in this video by TED-ed (but beware of some spoilers). It is the most famous example of magical realism and it’s an exceptionally rewarding read.

Quote to get you hooked:

There is always something left to love

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

4. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

A Pulitzer Prize winner of 1961, this is a classic, which will be recommended to you many times. This is a very compassionate and moving novel, which digs into the roots of humanity.

Quote to get you hooked:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it

5. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

A book that launched the genre of true crime novels. It will be an especially interesting, chilling read for anyone who has been interested in true crime stories.

Quote to get you hooked:

It is no shame to have a dirty face- the shame comes when you keep it dirty

6. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque wrote some of the most important books tackling the subject of war. Night in Lisbon is my favourite one, but All Quiet On The Western Front is regarded as his greatest accomplishment. It is truly a remarkable story, which everyone should read.

Quote to get you hooked:

We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.

7. The Master and Margherita, Mikhail Bulgakov

The full manuscript of Master and Margherita was published in 1973, over thirty years after Bulgakov’s death. It was not published in his lifetime and until the end of the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union, you can learn more about the book and Mikhail Bulgakov in this video. It is surreal, blending political satire, historical fiction and occult mysticism. An amazing book.

Quote to get you hooked:

Manuscripts don’t burn

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

8. Ulysses, James Joyce

One of the most iconic modernist novels and one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding reads on the list. It is best read with a guide and possibly a map. It is a book that will keep you entertained for a while. Don’t focus on the volume with this one, focus on the funny jokes and great intertextuality.

Quote to get you hooked:

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

9. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

1921 Pulitzer award winner, this novel takes a spot in our list of important books to read, because of its brilliant portrayal of the constraints of society during the Golden Age of New York. The book is worth reading for its amazing quality writing, even if you are not a fan of the storyline.

Quote to get you hooked:

Each time you happen to me all over again

10. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Important books are made in many ways, the importance of this particular novel is in how much richness it creates through economy. It is a novel that will enrich your perspective and it will definitely be a rewarding read.

Quote to get you hooked:

There is no story that is not true, […] The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

11. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

You may have seen the musical or the film, but this book is not something you should miss out on. Victor Hugo’s most famous novel and ranks among the most important books and greatest novels of all time. It is intense, dramatic and touching, it is a must read.

Quote to get you hooked:

It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live

12. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

Scoop is a satire of sensationalist journalism and the newspaper journalism. The writing is great, the humour extravagant, the satire on point and the man behind it definitely not known for his lovely personality.

Quote to get you hooked:

News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read.

13. On Beauty, Zadie Smith

If you want to keep up with contemporary literature, you have to know about Zadie Smith. Her third novel, On Beauty mixes different topics such as family, politics, art, love, and much more. It is a story about people, filled with interesting and great descriptions.

Quote to get you hooked:

Sometimes you get a flash of what you look like to other people.

14. Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac

Honore de Balzac wrote ninety-two novels and this one is perhaps his best one. He is a classic writer not only in French but in world literature and a must read if you are looking to expand your catalogue.

Quote to get you hooked:

‘In journalism,’ said Lousteau, ‘everything that is probable is true. That is an axiom.’

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

15. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success among readers and it stands its ground till this day. It’s been adapted so many times that it’s hard to keep track, best go back to the original and see how Alcott did it.

Quote to get you hooked:

I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.

16. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

This is a Booker Prize winner and it is a very compelling read. It is very well written and tells a somewhat bizarre story which often alludes to myth and magic.

Quote to get you hooked:

Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too

17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

One of the best dystopian novels out there. With a few screen adaptations that will make you shiver. It’s one of those important books that show us a future which is both uncannily similar to the present yet distant enough that you can move on afterwords. It is a very interesting narrative.

Quote to get you hooked:

Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

18. The Return, Hisham Matar

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, but a more recent one. A memoir that tells the stories of fathers and sons, a legacy of loss, and, ultimately, healing. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect read to nurture your soul? A beautiful read and a contemporary classic.

Quote to get you hooked:

What do you do when you cannot leave and cannot return?

20 Important Books Everyone Should Read

19. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.

Quote to get you hooked:

Beat a dog once and you only have to show him the whip

20. Orlando, Virginia Woolf

Imagine moving through time, space and gender, that’s what Orlando is all about. It is regarded as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’ and the fictional embodiment of Vita Sackville-West. You can read more about this here.

Quote to get you hooked:

I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.

What important books weren’t on the list? Share in the comments.

Featured image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/-kl_XvEOqMU
Comments, Questions & Rants

Gery Galabova

Currently going into her final year of English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. Gery has been writing in a personal blog since 2014 and has been published in publications StudentVoices and FictionHub on Medium. She debuted her first play 'Liminality' at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is already planning her next project.

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