What books are must-reads for YOU?

By Mark O’Neill

When I am not at the computer surfing the waves of the World Wide Web, I can normally be found in a chair reading a book and away in ImaginationLand. I am a huge book reader and collector and I currently have 114 unread books to get through (with more coming into the house every day). I am a shameless bibliophile and I can’t stop possessing more books. It’s like a drug and I stopped apologizing for it long ago.

But there’s one thing that seems to be quite common these days which is these constant lists that keep popping up on the internet – these “1001 Books You MUST Read Before You Die” type of lists. Most of them tend to have some questionable book titles. The latest list refers to the book of the same title and tells you you MUST read “Interview With The Vampire” by Anne Rice before you leave this earth to meet your maker. Really? Er, well I don’t have to read that one thanks. I feel quite comfortable dying knowing that I didn’t read a book about a blood-sucking vampire!

And that’s why some people criticise these lists – because everyone’s reading tastes are different and you shouldn’t impose your own tastes on other people. You shouldn’t say “you MUST read this otherwise you’re not a real reader.” Each to their own.

But I am not really one of those critics. Despite the weird titles that tend to crop up, I tend to love these lists as they give me inspiration for my next shopping trip to the bookstore. Here is one list that caught my eye recently. How many of them have you read? I’ve already printed it out and ticked off the ones I want.

What books would YOU add to the list? What “must-read” list would you compile? Quick, I am off to the bookstore tomorrow and I need recommendations!

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15 Responses to What books are must-reads for YOU?

  1. This is an obvious one and you've probably read it but Ender's Game and the other 5 books in the series by Orson Scott Card. I've just finished Ender's Shadow, a retelling of the first book from another's perspective and contrived as it sounds, it was still excellent.

    I'd also recommend The Wheel of Time series. That is if you don't mind fantasy (I think of it as real-world fantasy – no (real) dragons or rediculously named magic, 'Ravendar's Multicoloured prismatic Spray, no Jack Vance stuff here) sinking a huge amount of time into what will be (1 more to go) an 11 book series of about 900 pages each, with 1 or 2 unfortunate duds and tragically the last book to be finished by a guest writter as Robert Jordan died. You can really see the evolution, from childish first book through to a very well established, VERY detailed, and a serious (sometimes too much so) world. But I love 'em.

  2. My top three favorite authors are Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Ben Elton. Though, I often have a love/hate relationship with Ben Elton's writing.

    Other books I'd have to recommend… 'The Poisonwood Bible', '1984','The Devils'(by that Russian dude who's name I won't attempt to spell and can't be bothered looking up) The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Paradise Lost, Catch 22, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Though the Looking Glass, The Life of Pi.

  3. World War Z

    World War Z is a great book, yes. And so are Fight Club, Bright Lights Big City, Less Than Zero and The Beach.

    And that's the problem with that Telegraph list that Mark recommended, and as he earlier suggested, all lists of this kind – they tend to focus on the accepted, safe classics as opposed to those books that might be a little controversial or edgy.

    Classics are, of course, often classic for a reason. But sometimes that reason is simply because the prose or author's style is ideal for literary analysis. It does not necessarily mean that the narrative is something that one is going to learn from, nor does it of course mean that because it is accepted as a great piece of work that everybody in the world is going to enjoy reading it.

    I must admit scanning through that Telegraph list I get the feeling that it's all exceedingly safe and predictable. I propose that this might be a slightly better list, at least for us men folk:

    http://artofmanliness.com/2008/05/14/100-must-rea

    But, again, there's an enormous focus on the accepted great and very little risk taken by the author.

    And Interview With The Vampire is absolutely worth a read, Mark. I personally wouldn’t recommend anything else by Anne Rice, though.

    Is it a 'must read'? No. But no book is. Not one.

  4. Seconded on Terry Pratchett. Night Watch is flipping fantastic.

    Lightning by Dean Koontz is also pretty good. It's a scifi book, just not advertised as such.

  5. OMG! You should definitely try Twilight! It's so good. and..well..i know that the Twilight series are kind of for women and it's cool if guys read it.

    Give it a try.

  6. A must-read for every geek is Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow". It's still one of my favourite novels of all time.

    • Just checked this book out on Amazon. First line of the synopsis :

      "Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits."

      Ha! Ha! I'm buying this one!! :-)

  7. If you like Pratchett or Adams, you can also try the novels by Tom Holt. Hilarious.

    If you like fantasy, one of the best books you can read is, in my opinion, "The Talisman" by King & Straub. You can also pick something from Neil Gaiman.

    If you like fact finding and journalism, "Gomorra" by Roberto Saviano is worth a read.

    Last but not least, some of my favourites books I recently read were from spanish writers: "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and "Cathedral of the Sea" by Ildefonso Falcones.

    Have a good read !

  8. Am re-reading some Richard Matheson – I Am Legend, Nightmare at 20,000 feet.

    For business, though, am reading Groundswell.

  9. "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole

    "Candide" Voltaire

    and of course anything by Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain, and some of Douglas Adams and Christopher Moore.

  10. Peace be to those who follow the Right Guidance

    If there is one book that you really should read b4 u die.

    Read a book whose author is ur Creator. Read the Holy Quran. Believe me. Just try once. There r so many books u read. So just try reading the book from the Heaven.

    If God has created u then He knows what u need.

    May Allaah guide us all. Ameen.

  11. I got a lot out of reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

    Learning to overcome the extreme ups and downs of life has definitely been an improvement.

  12. The Princess of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan). Considering the era it was written in, it's great stuff.

    Also, Wheel of Time series is worth reading.