You’ve seen them right? Those lists that tell us what books we should read? Some even emphasise with capitals or bold type that we MUST read them before we die.
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The odds are that almost every one of those lists will contain classic titles such as The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Pride and Prejudice. Sound familiar?
I’ll admit that, while I know people who have read these timeless classics and enjoyed them, I found them heavy and hard going and didn’t finish any of them.
Then there are the self-improvement guides like ‘How to win friends...’ or ‘Men are from Mars....’ etc.
I even tried to read the copy of Eat, Pray, Love that my sister bought for me, knowing that I would just love it. Sadly, I didn’t love it and I felt terrible for telling her so.
The truth is I have my own personal list that I consider to be classics – stories that moved me, stayed with me, influenced my views or changed my life. None of them are on any of the lists I’ve seen online.
So after a bit of thought, I’ve come up with my own list of eight books that I believe you MUST read and I’m sure you will already be able to tick some of them off the list.
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1. Read something hilarious.
Comedy is good for our health. In her article ‘Why laughter is the best medicine,’ Linze Rice says ‘The adage about laughter being the best medicine is actually doctor-approved and recommended. Chocked full of mental emotional and physical benefits, laughing not only makes us feel happy and relaxed, but allows us to live longer, be healthier and provides an edge when battling ailments like mental illness.’ What better reason do we need than that?
2. Something that depicts triumph over tragedy.
We all need to know that there’s hope. Reading the story of the battler who beat the odds and survived or the one who rose out of poverty to become successful lets us know that we, too, can overcome obstacles in our lives.
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3. Something spooky.
There’s something delicious about stories that make our spine tingle. Reading about monsters, aliens or ghosts lets us live in a dangerous place for a while, knowing that we can close the book at any time and revert back to everyday life. Most horror stories – according to science-fiction and fantasy artist Greg Ruth – are cautionary tales about life and about avoiding things or situations that threaten us. As long as we know to separate fiction from fact, being exposed to horror can steel us to face adversity in our own lives. And if you need another excuse for reading creepy stories, a University of Westminster study recently found that watching a scary movie can burn off calories equivalent to a small chocolate bar, so just imagine what reading the whole Winn Horror trilogy will do!
4. Something your parents or your partner has read.
What better way to get to know what your parents or your partner liked and what influenced them in their lives than by reading something that they loved? While it may not be your taste, it helps to give you a greater understanding of what shaped the person that you love. Talking to them about favourite books is also a great way to connect with them on another level and can open the way to even more revelations about what makes them tick. While I didn’t enjoy the book that my sister recommended to me, I can see what it was about the story that appealed to her.
5. An autobiography
Who is your favourite celebrity, sports star or influential figure? Isn’t there something tantalising about peering into their lives and seeing who they are behind the mask of fame? Everyone has an interesting story to tell and those in the public eye seem to captivate us even more. Knowing that our heroes are every-day people like us who experience both the good and the bad inspires us and makes us admire them even more.
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6. Your child’s favourite book
This one is kind of obvious. What better way to bond with your child than to become familiar with his or her favourite stories? Instilling a love of books at an early age is imperative to their development but so is the act of sharing stories with them and showing enthusiasm for what they love. Your child will gain great satisfaction from being able to discuss their stories and characters with you and knowing that you understand what they’re talking about.
7. Something educational.
No, I don’t mean school text books – unless you are studying and it’s essential to your learning. I mean read about something that interests you. Are you intrigued by Chinese culture? Inspired by Italian architecture?
Want to learn more about how government works? What about science, history or technology? There’s a lot to learn from books.
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8. Something creative or instructional.
What is your passion? Would you like to know how to spot antiques? Want to make your own preserves, build a cubby house or sew curtains? Sure, you can Google how-to’s on any topic you can imagine, but there is something comfortably satisfying in having a shelf full of good books with glossy pictures, that your computer – or Kindle – just can’t offer.
Great article, Colmo. I must admit when I saw the title I groaned, expecting another list of 'heavy' books I probably wouldn't enjoy. I was curious, though,to see what you thought I should read and so started reading. I got a lovely surprise and, yes, I can tick most of the categories but not the spooky one. I have read spooky short stories but not a novel length piece of writing.
I completely agree with your list!
Although I do like to see predetermined book lists and be able to tick some of them off as I go- you feel a certain sense of achievement about that sometimes- I also find a lot of them to be too heavy or dry.
Your list is spot on when it comes to books everyone should read. I also think that they should be the books that interest YOU, not what people THINK should interest you...