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Last Updated on August 27, 2018

27 Must Read Books Every Novel Lover Should Read at Least Once

27 Must Read Books Every Novel Lover Should Read at Least Once

Books open doors in our minds, allowing us to live an entire lifetime and travel the world without even leaving the comfort of our chairs.

When we read a book, we step into someone else’s shoes, see the world through someone else’s eyes, and visit places we might never otherwise go, whether a tiny village in India or the green fields of Narnia.

Books teach us about love, heartbreak, friendship, war, social injustice, and the resilience of the human spirit. Here are 25 must read books especially for novel lovers, and you should read them at least once in your life:

1. The Kite Runner (2009)

    by Khaled Hosseini

    Told against the backdrop of the changing political landscape of Afghanistan from the 1970s to the period following 9/11, The Kite Runner is the story of the unlikely and complicated friendship between Amir, the son of a wealthy merchant, and Hassan, the son of his father’s servant until cultural and class differences and the turmoil of war tear them asunder. Hosseini brings his homeland to life for us in a way that post 9/11 media coverage never could, showing us a world of ordinary people who live, die, eat, pray, dream, and love. It’s a story about the long shadows that family secrets cast across decades, the enduring love of friendship, and the transformative power of forgiveness.

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    2. Number the Stars

      by Lois Lowry

      This Newbery award-winning novel tells the story of Annemarie Yohansen, a Danish girl growing up in World War II Copenhagen with her best friend, Ellen, who happens to be Jewish. When Annemarie learns about the horrors that the Nazis are inflicting on the Jewish people, she and her family stop at nothing to protect Ellen and her parents, as well as countless other Jews. Lowry’s novel is a powerful reminder that cultural and religious differences are no divide between true friends and that love shines all the brighter against the darkness of hatred.

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      3. Pride and Prejudice

        by Jane Austen

        The opening line of this classic novel, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” is one of the most recognizable first lines of fiction. Yet Jane Austen’s most famous work is more than a comedy of manners about the marriage market and the maneuvers of navigating polite society in 19th-century England. Pride and Prejudice remains one of the most enduring works of English Literature not because we find such rewarding pleasure in watching sparks fly between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (though that’s certainly reason enough). Readers embrace the novel because Austen candidly captures the human character with all of its beauties and its imperfections. Pride and Prejudice is a novel about overcoming differences of cast and class, about learning to laugh at life even when it’s grossly unfair, and about recognizing that loving someone often means accepting them in spite of rather than because of who they are.

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        4. The Outsiders

          by S.E. Hinton

          Hinton penned this novel when she was only 16 because she was tired of reading fluffy romances. She wanted a story about the harsh realities of being a teenager in mid-20th century America, and since none existed, she wrote one herself. Told from the perspective of orphan Ponyboy Kurtis, this multiple award-winning young adult novel tells the story of a group of rough, teenage boys on the streets of an Oklahoma town, struggling to survive and stick together amidst violence, peer pressure, and broken homes. The novel reminds us that growing up is never easy and that pain, loss, friendship, and love are universal experiences that both create and dissolve socio-economic boundaries.

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          5. Little Women

            by Louisa May Alcott

            A richly written novel with a cast of memorable characters, Little Women invites us into the warm, comfortable home of a 19th-century American family. Everyone can find a character trait that resonates with them, whether Jo’s temper, Meg’s vanity, Amy’s mischievousness, or Beth’s shyness. The novel is a coming-of-age story that follows four sisters (the March girls) from girlhood to womanhood in Civil War America. Together they learn about the harsh realities of poverty, illness, and death, and how to dream, love, and laugh through it all. This is a heartwarming, timeless classic about the importance of family and the simple, home-spun comfort of never being alone.

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            6. A Single Man

              by Christopher Isherwood

              While this is far from a light read, it’s one of the first novels I suggest whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation because it really packs a punch. Right to the solar plexus. The novel looks at a single day in the life of George Falconer, a middle-aged English professor grieving the loss of his partner, Jim. As George struggles against the grip of his depression and wonders what the point of life is any more, he gradually learns, through a dinner with his best friend and a heart-to-heart with a student, the gift of being alive with all its trials and its triumphs. Through the snapshot of a single day in a man’s life, Isherwood reminds us that every moment counts. His clear, direct prose will grab hold of you, snap your head around, and challenge you to stare your mortality in the face.

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              7. Charlotte’s Web

                by E.B. White

                OK, let’s lighten things up a bit. Who doesn’t love a novel about talking animals? A Laura Ingalls Wilder Metal winner, E.B. White’s children’s classic about Wilber the pig and his host of barnyard friends from Charlotte the spider to Templeton the rat flings wide the door to imagination and makes us wonder what a world where animals could talk would be like. On a more serious note, it challenges us to ask ourselves how we’d treat animals if they could talk. If they could tell us their joys and their fears, would mankind treat them more humanely? White’s novel is a lesson for children and a reminder for adults of the beauty of nature, the cycle of life, and the importance of remembering that every creature has its place on this earth.

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                8. The Reader

                  by Bernhard Schlink

                  Set in late-20th Century Germany, this novel boldly confronts long-standing German national guilt over the Nazi war crimes of the Holocaust through the strange, intergenerational relationship between 15 year-old Michael Berg and 36 year-old Hannah Schmitt, an illiterate tram operator and former Auschwitz prison guard. As Michael teaches Hannah to read books, Hannah teaches Michael to read the human character, and he comes to learn about the nuances between good and evil and of living with the consequences of one’s choices. The Reader is a story about personal as well as national guilt, about the consequences of keeping secrets, and about the power of redemption.

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                  9. Jane Eyre

                    by Charlotte Bronte

                    Bronte’s classic novel tells the tale of a young girl’s struggle to make something of herself in the world, from the tyranny she endures as a poor orphan under her Aunt’s roof and the deplorable conditions she lives in at Lowood school to the dark secrets she encounters in her role as Governess at Thornfield Hall, the home of the enigmatic and alluring Mr. Rochester. Strong-willed and resilient, Jane longs for the independence that Victorian England denied women, and her story stands as a timeless example of a woman’s determination to choose her own path in life in the face of hardship and ridicule.

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                    10. The End of the Affair

                      by Graham Green

                      This is another one of those books filled with nuggets of truth that you might cut your teeth on, but that we all need to learn to swallow. The End of the Affair tells the story of the brief but life-altering adulterous relationship between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles. Set in part against the turmoil of World War II, the personal battles of love, hate, guilt, and the search for truth and redemption are all the more poignant. The story of Maurice and Sarah reminds us that the things we do for love can trigger an inexorable pull of fate that carries our lives on a passionate and sometimes perilous journey and that while love doesn’t always last forever, the lessons we learn from it do.

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                      11. To Kill a Mockingbird

                        by Harper Lee

                        This one’s gotten a lot of attention with the recent announcement that Lee will be releasing a prequel this summer, so even if you’ve read it before, now might be a good time to revisit it. Told through the point of view of the 6 year-old Scout Finch, the story recounts a crisis that rocks her Alabama hometown when the African American Thom Robinson is accused of raping a young white woman. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is the lawyer appointed to represent Robinson. Alternately humorous and brutally honest, the novel looks critically at social issues of class, race, and sex politics and the sometimes ironic injustice of the American legal system.

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                        12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

                          by J.K. Rowling

                          K, who am I kidding? Read all of them, but you have to begin at the beginning, right? The Wizarding world of Harry Potter has captivated children and adults alike. The story of the Boy Who Lived, a downtrodden, emotionally neglected orphan who discovers he’s a wizard, ticks all the big boxes on must-read lists. It deals with the enduring love of friendship, the pain of loss, the triumph of good over evil, and the reality that sometimes the fiercest battles we fight are within ourselves.

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                          13. The Secret Garden

                            by Frances Hodgson Burnett

                            A beloved children’s favorite about little Mary Lennox, who goes to live in the English manor house of her reclusive uncle after her parents die of Cholera, The Secret Garden is a timeless classic about the beauty of nature, the healing power of love, and a belief in magic. As the Yorkshire sunshine softens Mary’s hard little heart and she befriends the animal charmer Dicken, her invalid cousin Colin, and a host of gentle creatures, you’ll laugh with her and cry with her as she learns how to love, how to trust, and how to reach outside herself to nurture the world around her.

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                            14. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

                              by C.S. Lewis

                              When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy slip into the magical land of Narnia, befriending talking animals and battling the White Witch, they discover the bonds of family and the value of bravery. This is more than a story about an entire world tucked away in an old piece of furniture. It’s a novel about the boundlessness of the human imagination. Set against the backdrop of World War II England, the land of Narnia represents the timeless hope in a better, brighter future.

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                              15. Anne of Green Gables

                                by L.M. Montgomery

                                When 11 year-old orphan Anne Shirley goes to live with the middle-aged brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, she discovers that there’s been some mistake and that they had actually wanted to adopt a boy. While this debacle initially drops Anne into a world where she fears being rejected and unloved, you’ll ultimately be rewarded as Anne’s spirited imagination and kind heart win over everyone whose life she touches. This is a heartwarming story of love and friendship and a poignant reminder that sometimes life not working out the way we want it to is actually the best thing that can happen.

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                                16. The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

                                  by Heidi Duro

                                  This novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and black father. When Rachel, her mother, and her younger brother fall nine stories from an apartment building, Rachel is the only survivor, and she’s taken in by her black grandmother in a predominantly white Portland neighborhood. With her brown skin and blue eyes (a white girl’s eyes in a Black girl’s face) Rachel faces the challenge of learning what it means to be biracial in a black-and-white world. Duro offers a masterful novel that interrogates the cultural construction of race in America and challenges us to confront our own prejudices.

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                                  17. Bridget Jones’s Diary

                                    by Helen Fielding

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                                    A prevailing pop culture icon since her debut in 1996, Bridget Jones has been a symbol of everyday feminism for women all over the world from the UK to Japan. Her self-deprecating, candid cataloguing of dating and dieting debacles, her struggle with body image, and her desire for personal and financial independence resonates with readers because we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Humorous and heartwarming, Fielding’s novel offers comical but critical commentary on what it means to be a woman in today’s world and reminds women (and men) that feminism is less about bra-burning and defying marriage statistics and more about standing up for yourself and loving yourself just as you are.

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                                    18. Uncle Tom’s Cabin

                                      by Harriet Beecher Stowe

                                      A well-known abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a political and puritanical indictment of American slavery. Stowe weaves together the stories of several slaves from the fierce Eliza who will stop at nothing to rescue her son from being sold to the meek, modest Uncle Tom who bears his burden calmly and quietly, serving his masters with the faithful honesty of a man for whom freedom is as much a state of mind as a physical condition. This is a novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the moral obligation to fight for right.

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                                      19. The Bell Jar

                                        by Sylvia Plath

                                        The Bell Jar is a hauntingly realistic novel based on Plath’s own life and tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a talented young woman who gains a summer internship at a large New York magazine and discovers that instead of enjoying the glamorous New York lifestyle, she finds it frightening and disorienting. Lifted from Plath’s own struggle with depression, the Bell Jar is an authentic look into the human psyche and sheds light on the realities of mental illness.

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                                        20. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

                                          by Lewis Carroll

                                          A classic work of Victorian Children’s Fiction, this is a whimsical tale of magic and nonsense in which Alice finds herself in an imaginary world after chasing a white rabbit she sees while sitting quietly on the riverbank. Opening this novel invites you to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole and into a world of talking animals and magic mushrooms that cause Alice to grow or shrink depending on which side she eats. This novel has delighted children and adults alike with its blurring of the boundaries between real and make-believe and the all-too real sensation of trying to find our way around a world we can’t make sense of.

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                                          21. The Picture of Dorian Gray

                                            by Oscar Wilde

                                            In this chilling novel, the titular character, Dorian Gray, is the subject of a portrait by painter Basil Hallward, who is enamored of Dorian’s beauty. Knowing that his youth will fade eventually, Dorian wishes to sell his soul for beauty and youth, and his wish is granted. As Dorian grows more beautiful, his painting mysteriously takes on an increasingly monstrous appearance. Hauntingly descriptive and delicately crafted, Wilde’s novel challenges us to look within ourselves and acknowledge the darker side of human nature and the struggle between good and evil that each of us faces.

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                                            22. Murder on the Orient Express

                                              by Agatha Christie

                                              In one of Christie’s most compelling mysteries, the luxurious Orient Express is stopped in a snowdrift in the dead of night, and the next morning, a grumpy, dislikable American passenger is found stabbed twelve times with his door locked. Only the other passengers can have been the killer with the possibility of it being an outside job highly unlikely because of the snowstorm. As Detective Hercule Poirot investigates, a tangled tale is woven around the murdered man as each passenger is revealed to be connected to him. With her usual flare for intrigue, Agatha Christie gives us a mystery that blurs the boundaries between legal and moral justice, challenging us to decide when, and if, it’s ever justifiable to take the law into our own hands.

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                                              23. The Little Prince

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                                                by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

                                                The most-translated book in the French Language, The Little Prince is the story of a little boy who falls to Earth from an Asteroid after visiting several other asteroids to try to understand mankind. In his travels he meets a series of strange and delightful characters, including a king with no subjects, a drunkard who drinks to forget about the shame of being a drunkard, and an untamed fox. The Little Prince is an allegory about the foolishness of man and man’s tendency toward self-destruction through violence, as well as a heartwarming tale of the transformative power of friendship and trust.

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                                                24. The Fault in Our Stars

                                                  by John Green

                                                  A Compelling, touching story, The Fault in Our Stars recounts the experiences of Hazel, a teenager with cancer, and the experiences of the other teens in her cancer support group. As together they share their fears and their joys, readers come to appreciate the fragility of life through these young voices whose lives are at once burning with intensity and flickering on the point of dying. Green captures the struggles of terminal illness with tenderness and amazing authenticity, reminding us that love, friendship, and faith transcend all, even death itself.

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                                                  25. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

                                                    by L. Frank Baum

                                                    A classic novel about adventure and magic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tells the story of what happens to little Dorothy Gale when she and her dog, Toto, are caught up in a cyclone and whisked away from their Kansas farm to find themselves in the land of Oz, where they meet a host of colorful characters including the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion. Together they journey to the Emerald city to meet the celebrated Wizard in a quest for knowledge, love, courage, and a search for home. Immortalized in its famous adaptation starring Judy Garland, the novel is a heartwarming story about friendship and bravery, about appreciating what you have, and never forgetting that home is where your heart is.

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                                                    26. 1984

                                                      by George Orwell

                                                      One of the best-known dystopian novels, 1984 is Orwell’s nightmarish masterpiece. Its world is uniquely unsettling: the state controls every aspect of your existence, even limiting the language such that most human expression is totally excised from everyday life. Obedience is the height of safety, and any trace of dissatisfaction is unacceptable. The eyes of the government are everywhere, abetted by technology and your own children.

                                                      This is the book that gave us the neologism “Orwellian,” an adjective used to describe official surveillance and deception, like the activities conducted by 1984’s government. While it isn’t exactly a heartwarming book, it will definitely get you to think and make you more attuned to the big issues today: free speech and free press, the dangers of the surveillance state, and the importance of history.

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                                                      27. The Catcher in the Rye

                                                        by J.D. Salinger

                                                        Holden Caulfield is a captivating character, because his outlook is just so jaded – he’s merely sixteen. This book was first published in 1951, and its appeal back then – and now – is just how different it was from the typical novel of the early fifties. Salinger liberally uses profanity, portrays sexuality, and employs an unabashedly casual tone. Themes of angst and alienation thread throughout this classic text: it will appeal to teenagers and adults alike.

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                                                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                                                        Last Updated on March 13, 2019

                                                        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                                                        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                                                        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

                                                        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

                                                        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

                                                        1. Work on the small tasks.

                                                        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

                                                        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

                                                        2. Take a break from your work desk.

                                                        Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

                                                        Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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                                                        3. Upgrade yourself

                                                        Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

                                                        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

                                                        4. Talk to a friend.

                                                        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

                                                        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

                                                        5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

                                                        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

                                                        Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

                                                        Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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                                                        6. Paint a vision to work towards.

                                                        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

                                                        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

                                                        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

                                                        7. Read a book (or blog).

                                                        The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

                                                        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

                                                        Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

                                                        8. Have a quick nap.

                                                        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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                                                        9. Remember why you are doing this.

                                                        Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

                                                        What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

                                                        10. Find some competition.

                                                        Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

                                                        Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

                                                        11. Go exercise.

                                                        Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

                                                        Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

                                                        As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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                                                        Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

                                                        12. Take a good break.

                                                        Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

                                                        Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

                                                        Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

                                                        Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

                                                        More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

                                                        Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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