Books to Read Before You Die

Are you reading enough books?

Lovely thought by Philip Hensher in the Independent newspaper recently. The UK government is aiming to get school kids to read 50 books a year. It is also, you may recall, asking people to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day to promote a healthy body. So why not merge the two ideas and extend to adults?

If a doctor is faced with a patient that’s depressed or aimless, why not ask “Are you reading enough good books?” and then recommend a reading list. 12 books a year might be a good start for a healthy mind. What should be on the book list I wonder?

Public libraries, are you reading this? Why are you not promoting the mental health benefits of good reading and why do you not tap in to the popular obsession with lists and produce individual lists of books for local readers (not 100 books to read before you die but 100 books to prevent you from dying!).

My list of 10 fiction and 10 non-fiction tittles is posted in comments. Feel free to add your own suggestions (almost impossible, I know).

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5 Responses to Books to Read Before You Die

  1. Richard says:

    Fiction
    1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
    2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
    3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
    5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    6. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    8. 1984 by George Orwell
    9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    10. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Non-fiction
    1. Essays by Michel de Montaigne
    2. Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
    3. An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin
    4. Ideas have Consequences by Richard Weaver
    5. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    6. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
    7. Walden by Henry Thoreau
    8. Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky
    9. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    10. Volatire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul

    Note: Just some quick ideas and certainly not ranked!

  2. Jason Worlledge says:

    I’ve read all the fiction on your list and some of the non-fiction. I don’t agree with some of the fiction choices but more out of reasons of personal taste rather than critical reasons. Moby Dick was one of the hardest books to get through, followed by most everything else that Melville wrote (that I’ve read) and preceded by Dickens. I love the stories he is trying to tell (Dickens), but not the way in which he tells them.

    To this list, I would add The Island and Brave New World as a contrast of two different ‘utopias’ based on very different principles. The Machine Stops is a short essay by E.M. Forster that I would also recommend. The Glass Bead Game by H. Hesse is also one that I recommend a lot, but I am a fan of Hesse’s themes on transformation and growth.

  3. Richard says:

    I suppose I should thank you for adding to my pile of unread books! Seriously , thank you and I’ll be getting all except Brave New World, which I’ve got somewhere and need to re-read.

    R.

  4. Jason Worlledge says:

    I know the feeling about reading lists. Every time I get through a couple books on my Kindle, I add ten more.

  5. Ronnica says:

    I think there should definitely be a Russian title on your fiction list, probably Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. While Catch-22 was one of my favorite books in high school, I don’t think it’s Top 10 worthy (and more importantly, neither is The Road). Obviously, just my opinions…

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