What are the best books to read? Which literary works contain the very essence of what we are and what we will be? If you are looking for recommended books, to be read absolutely, here you will find 100 essential readings: from classics to love stories, from thrillers to SF, to collections of poems … Have you already read them all? And which one is missing, in your opinion?
Here are 100 recommended books to read, indeed, highly recommended. Texts that are all worth reading. Because they will move, amaze, exalt, displace and disturb you, like all beautiful books.
We have selected important books: classics that marked an era, that were forerunners to new literary genres or changed the imagination forever. We have chosen novels that surprise: books written hundreds of years ago that are incredibly current.
You will find “spaceless and timeless” masterpieces that distill all that a human being can be, think or feel, regardless of where they come from and from what era.
We have tried to list good books, from the oldest to the most recently published, but we warn you immediately: you will not find, among our 100 recommended books, titles published after 2000, certainly not because the new millennium does not know how to churn out literary masterpieces, but because perhaps only time is the safest sieve to select the most beautiful books.
100 Must-Read Classic Books
In order to establish which are really the books to read absolutely in life, it is necessary to exercise a sort of epoché : to wait patiently for the dust of today to settle , to humbly wait for our narrow here and now to open up to a broader perspective, to leave even that the next generations decide for us.
We asked the opinion, among others, of those who work in publishing houses and also of the subscribers to our newsletter, consulted the list of books to read in the prestigious Le Monde ( here on Wikipedia ) and the list of books to read before dying of Goodreads, the largest online community of readers in the world, as well as many other “maps” published over the years. We mainly discussed a lot, because all we want in the list of 100 books to read at all in life there was on our favorite book !
And precisely because a book to read absolutely is – by definition – one’s favorite book (that is, the right book that, read at the right time, changed our lives), the 100 books on this list are actually 99. The cent. there is no book, because it is your personal treasure that no other list will ever contain.
But there is also another reason. The 100 books you absolutely must read in life are always 99. In fact, there will always be a book that we have yet to read, and that is just waiting to be opened to become our new recommended book, the one we would all like to discover. Follow this link for more books and movies.
And you, have you already read all 99 books to read ? And what, in your opinion, is the hundredth book missing from the list?
Enjoy the reading!
Books to read absolutely: Classical Period
Homer (750 BC)
Among the capital texts of the West, the pillar of all narratives , it is no coincidence that this work has resulted in multiple translations, reinterpretations, plays, movies and TV series. Among the classics to read because to human beings of every age, the Iliad always gives something.
2) AGAMEMNON – COEFORE – EUMENIDES
Aeschylus (458 BC)
These dramas tell deep and timeless truths. The characters are prisoners with no escape of an inexorable mechanism, in which victims and executioners exchange roles. It guides and impels them not so much a god as an inner drama , the drama of having to choose for yourself: avenge or forgive? Suffocate or dissolve the inner war that tears us apart?
3) Oedipus RE – Oedipus A COLONUS – ANTIGON
Sophocles (496 BC – 406 BC)
Even only for the fact that modernity has drawn inspiration from this author to give its name to the Oedipus complex, Sophocles is not to be relegated to “high school reading”. Fate, revenge, sense of justice are the universal themes of this author to be read absolutely . The fil rouge , the clear awareness of human unhappiness and the dark forces that act independently of our reasoning and our will.
4) ECUBA – ELETTRA
Euripides (420 – 413 BC)
Dramas that tell the story of two complex and multifaceted women, characters who scream revenge. The hatred and the wrong suffered are the measure of all things, but when the revenge is accomplished, the world returns to show its naked, desolate contours and the human being is discovered alone.
Must-read books: Middle Ages
5) THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
AA.VV. (10th century)
The most famous collection of short stories (Persian, Egyptian, Indian, Mesopotamian) in the world. The narrating voice is that of Shahrazād, daughter of the grand vizier. Married to a Persian king who killed his wives after their wedding night, she devises the cunning plan of telling him a story every night, postponing the ending to the following night. Story after story, the king falls madly in love with her.
Written in triplets (Dante’s, in fact) it is generally the bogey of students … But it is among the greatest works of literature of all time and an unparalleled testimony of medieval civilization. A difficult book, but absolutely to be read at least once in a lifetime.
Books to read absolutely: sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
7) ROMEO AND JULIET
William Shakespeare (1594/1596)
The best known love story in the world, archetype of perfect love but opposed by society. The drama is of medieval inspiration, and Dante had already entered the name of the two rival families in his Inferno. There are those who watch only one of the (countless) film versions, but want to put the satisfaction of having it in your library? Among the books of love to read absolutely before dying.
8) DON QUIXOTE OF MANCHA
Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615)
Who has never heard of Don Quixote and his windmills? Literary epigon of the Siglo de Oro (the Golden Age of the Spanish Empire), it is a book considered by many to be the first modern novel. It has certainly populated the popular imagination for centuries, so much so that Don Chichotte is, today, par excellence, anyone who fights for pure and unattainable ideals.
Books to read absolutely: eighteenth century
9) THE LIFE AND THE OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY GENTILUOMO
Laurence Sterne ( 1759/1767 )
One of the greatest novels ever written, Schopenhauer argued. Undoubtedly it is a very funny, experimental book, it marks the beginning of modern and even post-modern literature. A story full of characters, it is built on continuous, wise digressions. Do you think that the protagonist appears only halfway through the novel!… Among the books that must be read for those looking for a surprising reading.
Books to read absolutely: Nineteenth century
10) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Jane Austen (1813)
It is well known and universally recognized that a bachelor with a solid heritage must be looking for a wife is the famous opening of this novel, a lively and profound picture of life in the English countryside of the late eighteenth century, between loves and conventions. Could it not be among the 100 books to read absolutely in life ? Never.
Mary Shelley (1818)
Mary was 18 when she started this masterpiece for a bet. The challenge between her, Percy Shelley (who later became her husband) and Byron was about writing the scariest story. In epistolary form, the book follows the story of Victor, a scientist who creates a sentient and monstrous creature. Gothic novel , it is considered the progenitor of science fiction . Why is it among the must-read books in 2019 ? Because now we are talking about AI, Artificial Intelligence, a creation that, some think, could get out of hand.
12) STORIES OF MYSTERY, FANTASTIC AND GROTTESQUE
Edgar Allan Poe (1840-1845)
How was the psychological thriller born ? And the crime story ? Probably thanks to these stories. Exploring the darkest aspects of the human soul, Edgar Allan Poe gives life to real nightmare stories, where the protagonists are poised between reason and madness, science and the supernatural, charm and horror. A must-read book for thriller readers .
13) TEMPEST HEIGHTS
Emily Brontë (1847)
A timeless story, the tale of a tormented love and a very strong, indestructible bond between two souls made for each other, Heathcliff and Catherine, at least until Edgar enters the scene … A dark story of hatred, of sadism and repressed passions, narrated with a tense and spirating style, among the tragic facts, a wild purity, wrote Tomasi di Lampedusa with admiration, classifying it among the beautiful books to read.
14) THE WHITE NIGHTS FYODOR
The most dreamy of Dostoevsky’s works, an author undoubtedly to be read at least once in a lifetime . In the warm nights without sunset of a summer and deserted Petersburg, the shy and alienated protagonist wanders aimlessly among buildings and canals, daydreaming. The meeting with another sleepless night will make him hope for love, but the ruthless morning will bring him back to reality.
15) GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Charles Dickens (1861)
A coming-of-age novel written in the first person (like David Copperfield ), it tells the story of an orphan of humble origins, Pip, who tries to build a future for himself. Dickens is a master of literature to read absolutely before dying : he plunges us into the thoughts of a child who becomes an adult, he lives in his pride, in his naive dreams, in his desire to love Estrella who despises him for his origins.
16) SILVER SHOES
Mary Mapes Dodge (1865)
In mid-19th century Holland, Hans and his sister Gretel are exceptional skaters despite not having the means to buy better skates than the ones they carved out of wood themselves. Between hardships, sacrifices and family problems, the happy ending is assured. It moves, teaches, stimulates empathy and for this reason it is a book that children can do well to read, even today.
17) ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Lewis Carroll (1865)
Only apparently a book for children, it is a book to be read by children with amazement and wonder, and to be read absolutely by adults , with as much amazement, for the paradoxes, absurdities and nonsense that Reverend Dogson – a refined mathematician – has “hidden” between the lines.
18) WAR AND PEACE
Lev Tolstoy (1865 – 1869)
Epic of two families, historical novel against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, touching exploration of the dark and luminous sides of the human soul, it is among the classics to read because it remains of unchanged immediacy, with its rare ability to captivate deeply.
19) LITTLE WOMEN
Louisa May Alcott (1869)
A book certainly dated for the setting (American Civil War, a world of women only because the men were at the front), but the March sisters still have something to say to the girls of today, such as the importance of cultivating their aspirations. In 2019 it will also become a film with Emma Watson ( Harry Potter’s Hermione ) in the role of Jo.
20) TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
Jules Verne (1870)
The adventures of an intrepid crew aboard the Nautilus submarine, built in secret by its enigmatic commander, Captain Nemo. A succession of exciting events that made this novel one of the first masterpieces of the Action and Adventure genre.
21) THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Mark Twain (1876)
Against the backdrop of mighty Mississippi, in a village in the deep American South, the cheerful and shrewd Tom Sawyer and his inseparable friend Huckleberry Finn go through a thousand ups and downs. The best book to read to children because it gives adults the opportunity to relive that mix of dreams and infinite freedom that makes childhood the most magical season of life.
22) TREASURE ISLAND
Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
The perfect adventure novel, with sea wolves, long-time captains, pirates, mutinies and, of course, a map of a hidden treasure. Beautifully written, it is a surprising novel , full of suspense, a book recommended especially for those who read the best contemporary thrillers.
Émile Zola (1885)
Among the most beautiful books to read of French realism . Etienne works in the mines during the second industrial revolution in inhumane conditions. He falls in love, organizes the resistance and the slaughter of workers with which the strike ends will be the seed from which more justice and equality will germinate (hence the title of the book).
24) THE ASPERN SANDING AND OTHER STORIES
Henry James (1888)
Three cities much loved by James form the backdrop to the three short stories in this book. Venice, and the story of a mysterious manuscript, Rome where the drama of Daisy Miller is consummated and Florence, which underlies the memories of youth and an obsession.
25) THE PLEASURE
Gabriele d’Annunzio (1889)
Young, elitist and refined Roman dandy, Andrea Sperelli lives life as if it were a work of art. Surrounded by women, he conquers a charming widowed countess, Elena Muti, who, however, leaves him after a few months even though she is still in love with him. Desperate, he gives himself to perdition until he meets the shy and spiritual Maria Ferres. In love with one and the other, he will end up being left by both of them.
26) PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY
Oscar Wilde (1890)
Inspired by Goethe’s famous Faust , it is the story of the beautiful Dorian, who sells his soul to the devil to never grow old, thus starting a dissolute life. Scandalous details at the time make us smile, but it remains a book to read in 2019 , also because it contains Wilde’s best aphorisms, dazzling and witty , we would say in English, that is surprising and full of spirit .
27) THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS
Sigmund Freud (1899)
Although not a work of fiction in the strict sense, it has changed the history of world fiction: with the thematization of the unconscious, Freud has in fact changed forever the perception that humanity has of itself and, consequently, the way to tell about oneself. The influence of this book is pervasive: from science to literature, from poetry to cinematography. Symbolic that it was published right on the threshold of the twentieth century, a century that, literally, will be imbued with it by Freud’s thought!
Books to read absolutely: early twentieth century
28) THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
L. Frank Baum (1900)
Swept away by a tornado with her dog Totò, Dorothy leaves the depths of Kansas to find herself in a bizarre world. Since then, Oz has entered everyone’s imagination. A book absolutely to read to children, if only to find the origin of the famous 1939 film, directed by Victor Fleming and starring Judy Garland.
29) THE JOURNAL OF GIAN BURRASCA
The book is written in the form of a diary by Giannino Stoppani, known as Gian Burrasca for his terrible attitude to disobey or get into trouble. All children like it and should also be read just because the name of the protagonist still indicates an undisciplined child par excellence.
30) PETER PAN
James M. Barrie (1911)
Far from being reassuring children’s books, Peter Pan and Wendy and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens are actually a hymn to the wild, cruel, demystifying power of childhood and a reflection on time that passes and never returns. To be read, in its full version, to children (who will love adventures in Neverland ), as an excuse to reread it as adults (and grasp it in all its complexity).
Hermann Hesse (1922)
Perhaps the best time to read this Bildungsroman is the restless period of adolescence. The protagonist, whose story is inspired by the historical figure of the Buddha , is the son of a brahmin who comes from the unconsciousness of youth to wisdom in old age. Another great theme of the book, in addition to that of the spiritual path, is friendship.
32) THE PROPHET
Kahlil Gibran (1923)
Among the best-selling books of all time is a collection of prose poems linked by a common narrative thread, the search for a spiritual dimension and the harmony between mind and nature, joy and pain.
33) THE CONSCIENCE OF ZENO
Italo Svevo (1923)
Anyone who has already read it can only smile at the memory of that US (last cigarette) by Zeno Cosini, the protagonist of the book, a man in the perpetual search for a cure for his malaise. Neurotic, mean, tormented … and yet we grow fond of him. For Italian readers, certainly a book to read absolutely at least once in a lifetime.
34) JOURNEY AT THE END OF THE NIGHT
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1923)
The evocative title of this semi-autobiographical novel derives from the verse of a song: «Our life is like the journey / of a traveler in the night; / everyone has something in their path that gives them pain. ” A gloomy and lucid photograph of the ‘900.
35) THE ENCHANTED MOUNTAIN
Thomas Mann (1924)
A true world-work : faithful and complex portrait of Western civilization of the early twentieth century. In the Swiss sanatorium of Berghof, the young protagonist arrives as a solid and respectable bourgeois, he comes out six years later completely transformed. Compared by the same author to a quest for the Grail in the form of a novel.
36) LADY DALLOWAY
Virginia Woolf (1925)
The flow of consciousness of an upper-class Londoner during the day of preparation for a party. The plot seems inconsistent, as in all the author’s books, but it is one of the books to read absolutely because it encompasses the whole of life: the fleetingness of emotions, incommunicability, love for existence and for the unspeakable, those famous moments of being that Woolf thematized as the fleeting fulcrum of her poetics.
37) THE TRIAL
Franz Kafka (1925)
“Someone must have slandered him, because, without doing anything wrong, Josef K. was arrested one morning.” The passive acceptance of the inevitability of a justice that functions inexorably like a grotesque machine , with self-referential and unfathomable logics. The rationality and lucidity of Josef K., arrested and tried for reasons that remain inscrutable, are of no use.
38) ONE, NONE, HUNDRED THOUSAND
Luigi Pirandello (1926)
Vitangelo, a rich man in his thirties, suddenly realizes, from an observation of his wife, that his nose is a bit crooked. From this apparently trivial episode, he slowly discovers that he is not, for others, what he thinks he is. He will try throughout the book to destroy the hundred thousand images that others see of him, but he will end up mad in the hospice. A profound and vitalistic critique of the concept of identity.
39) IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME
Marcel Proust (1927)
It is enough that a noise, a smell, already heard or breathed in the past, is once again […] because immediately the permanent, and usually hidden, essence of things is released, and our true self which, sometimes for a long time, he seemed dead, […] wake up. In the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest novel in history, divided into 7 volumes, it is a journey into memory, in an attempt to bring it back to life.
40) PIETR THE LATVIAN: THE INVESTIGATIONS OF MAIGRET
Georges Simenon (1931)
The detective story that marks the birth of the most famous French commissioner, protagonist of 75 novels: Commissioner Maigret. Massive, gruff, avid pipe smoker, Maigret marks a turning point in Polizean literature : the focus is not so much on the crime and who is guilty, but on the reasons for which it was committed. A yellow book to be read absolutely, therefore, but also a lot of human comedy.
41) THE NEW WORLD
Aldous Huxley (1932)
A milestone in dystopian fiction, the novel tells a society of the future, forged by reproductive technologies, eugenics and mind control. The literal translation of the title, Brave New World , would be The Excellent New World (verse from Shakespeare ‘s Tempest ) in which the irony of a world so perfect as to be inhumane is evident. Book absolutely to read in life , also because it anticipates many current issues.
42) THE FARM OF SMALL CONSOLATIONS
Stella Dorothea Gibbons (1932)
Written by what was called the Jane Austen of the twentieth century , it is one of the longest-lived longsellers in England. It tells the life of Flora, excellently educated to do everything but earn a living, on a farm run by distant relatives. Weird place where the cows are called Rozza and Senzascopo and where the grandmother keeps the whole family in check… Among the most beautiful and fun books of the early 1900s.
43) TO THE UNKNOWN GOD
John Steinbeck (1933)
Translated into Italian by Eugenio Montale in 1946, it is the story of Joseph Wayne, a farmer who leaves Vermont to settle in California. After losing his wife and brother in different circumstances, he becomes a hard man, in a conflictual relationship with God , oscillating between the pagan worship of the wonderful and terrible forces of nature and the divinity “rationalized” by men.
44) MARY POPPINS
PL Travers (1934)
Many have seen the Walt Disney film (1964), but few know the book series that inspired it. The figure invented by the mysterious writer PL Travers is very different from the sunny nanny played by Julie Andrews and the reason why the character was born literally breaks your heart.
45) LA NAUSEA
Jean-Paul Sartre (1938)
The protagonist of the book, Roquentin, finds himself writing his history thesis in Bouville, among ferocious respectable people (explains Sartre himself). Alone, tormented by his own thoughts and by that composite sensation, which he can only define nausea , he understands that malaise is Existence itself that reveals itself , unjustified and unjustifiable. In addition to being a novel to be read absolutely in life, it is the summa of the existentialist thought of the twentieth century.
46) TEN LITTLE INDIANS
Agatha Christie (1939)
Simply, the most widely read thriller in the world : ten strangers find themselves staying on an island, in a luxurious villa, at the invitation of a mysterious guest, but they begin to be killed one by one, a disturbing nursery rhyme about ten blacks (the original title of the book is Ten Little Niggers ) who, one after the other, die in different ways …
47) THE DESERT OF THE TARTARS
Dino Buzzati (1940)
Officer Giovanni Drogo is stationed at the Fortezza, the last outpost on the edge of an imaginary town. Its main occupation is to scan the desert. The central theme of the novel is the passage of time in a flow whose meaning is given only by the arrival of the enemy on the horizon. While waiting for the “great occasion” of a clash, Drogo’s life is consumed.
48) YESTERDAY’S WORLD
Stefan Zweig (1942)
Autobiography published a year before the suicide of the author, Austrian Jewish intellectual friend of Freud , Rodin , Rilke , Pirandello , Strauss , Dalì … The portrait of the fervent Europe of the time emerges, from Vienna at the height of beauty, to the abyss of Nazi madness.
49) THE LITTLE PRINCE
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
Who doesn’t know this book? An airplane pilot, crashed in the desert, meets a bizarre child who asks him to draw a sheep for him. The two become friends and the child reveals that he is the prince of B-612, a distant asteroid on which he lives alone, taking care of a very vain rose.
Jorge Luis Borges (1944)
Brilliant Argentine writer, poet, essayist, translator and academic, Borges has made a fundamental contribution to philosophical fiction and fantasy as a reinvention of reality, so much so that Borgesian is today an adjective to express the dreamlike, fantastic, bookish and labyrinthine. In fact, all of his books are a must-read .
51) IF THIS IS A MAN
Primo Levi (1947)
“Consider if this is a man / Who works in the mud / Who knows no peace / Who fights for half bread / Who dies for a yes or a no .” are the introductory verses of the work, inspired by a Jewish prayer and explain the title. The life of a man in a Nazi concentration camp. From an Italian writer, a book that in every way they consider to be absolutely read .
George Orwell (1948)
Masterpiece dystopian , contains the most disturbing elements of our future. In a post-atomic context, the super power of Oceania is ruled by a totalitarian party, led by Big Brother. Dissidence is impossible.
53) CONFESSIONS OF A MASK
Yukio Mishima (1949)
The novel that made the author famous at the age of 24 all over the world. Today he is perhaps the most famous Japanese writer of the 20th century (he committed suicide at 45, following the samurai ritual of seppuku ). In the book, the protagonist talks about becoming aware of his homosexuality. Poetic, cultured and refined, he narrates love and desire, body and soul with surprisingly contemporary sensitivity.
54) MARTIAN CHRONICLES
Ray Bradbury (1950)
The (imaginary) story of the colonization of Mars until, in 2026, an atomic war draws the colonists back to Earth. On the immense seas of sand of the motionless red planet, the evanescent sailing ships of the last Martians glide, a great, wise civilization that the earthlings have not even been able to understand. A bitter (and brilliant) metaphor of the myopia of contemporary humanity.
55) THE YOUNG HOLDEN
JD Salinger (1951)
Holden is a sixteen year old who tells firsthand that he was kicked out of school for misconduct. With a confidential tone, the lively narrating self accompanies the reader along an escape from the “grown-ups”, from the slums of New York to the anxiety of not having (or wanting) a place in the world as it is. There are those who love it and those who hate it, for sure it is a coming-of-age novel that must be read : it made school.
56) MEMORIES OF ADRIANO
Marguerite Yourcenar (1951)
To write this masterpiece book, Yourcenar read everything that Adriano could have read. Thus he reconstructed the historical figure of the great Roman emperor, statesman, but also a man who reflects the problems and joys of human beings of all times.
57) THE LORD OF THE FLIES
William Golding (1954)
Following a plane crash, 12 children are shipwrecked on a desert island. They elect a leader, organize shifts to keep the fire going (and be visible to a rescue team). But the situation degenerates, between rival groups and violence, until order, democracy and cooperation are swept away in a whirlwind of death. Book that earned the author the Nobel Prize for literature .
58) THE LORD OF THE RINGS
JRR Tolkien (1954 – 1955)
Fantasy saga out of time, set in an imaginary world, Middle-earth, reconstructed with obsessive care, is among the books to read absolutely not so much because it is a novel of ‘ an exciting adventure, as well as because it proposes, in a symbolic key, the atavistic struggle between good and evil, inside and outside the individual, whether he is a human being, an elf or a hobbit does not matter.
Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
Written in English by a Russian, rejected by 4 publishers for the rough subject and finally published in French, the book tells, from the point of view of a 37-year-old professor, his obsessive passion for a ‘teenager. For this book, the term “lolita”, par excellence, now has the meaning of “little seductress” all over the world.
60) ON THE ROAD
Jack Kerouac (1957)
Manifesto of the Beat Generation , tells of the protagonist’s trips to the USA, by bus or by hitchhiking. A hymn to freedom against materialism and consumerism, a philosophy of going at any cost, it has a pressing, visionary, poetic style. It was written in 3 weeks, some say under the influence of coffee and benzedrine, on a roll of upholstery paper then auctioned for 2 million dollars.
61) Awful Mess STREET MERULANA
Carlo Emilio Gadda (1957)
A fire lexical artifice, this cheerful book that preaches the semaforismo , velocipedastri , disciplines viatorie and play with the characters dialects, painting the vibrant life of Rome between the two wars . The horrible crime of via Merulana unfolds in a thriller whose culprit is not even known, but it is the story that counts and conquers.
62) IL GATTOPARDO
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1958)
Published posthumously, it won the Strega Prize and became one of the most famous Italian books in the world . It tells of the transformations that took place in Sicilian society in the Risorgimento, from the Bourbon regime to the Kingdom of Italy. The phrase is very famous If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change as well as the film adaptation of Luchino Visconti.
63) MEMORIES OF A PERFECT GIRL
Simone de Beauvoir (1958)
In times of #MeeToo , it is a book to read absolutely . It tells in the form of a diary the life of a woman who is looking for her own place in the world, the clash with the family and the social environment from which she comes, bourgeois and bigoted, and then love and friendship … they know each other intimately, thanks to the book, figures of the caliber of Simone Weil, Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre …
64) LA NOIA
Alberto Moravia (1960) A
profound, ruthless, existentialist mirror of the Italian bourgeoisie of the economic boom, it tells the life of an idle painter, of his unresolved relationship with his mother and of the destructive love for a woman who will ultimately reject him . A novel that is a lucid critique of the relationship with reality exercised by the contemporary individual through the sole category of possession .
65) THE DARK BEYOND THE HEDGE
Harper Lee (1960)
In a closed and racist town in Alabama, the trial of a black laborer wrongly accused of assaulting a white girl unleashes unsuspected consequences for the children of the defense attorney. A masterpiece in which the darkness beyond the hedge of the Italian title represents the unknown and the fear that generates prejudice .
66) FAIRY TALES ON THE PHONE
Gianni Rodari (1962)
The Italian master of puns cannot miss in the list of books to read absolutely in life . Rodari was the only Italian winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Prize and one of the leading theorists of the art of inventing stories.
67) FAMILY LEXICUS
Natalia Ginzburg (1962)
We are five brothers , explained the same author, We live in different cities… When we meet, we can be indifferent or distracted with each other. But between us, a word, a phrase, one of those ancient phrases in the time of our childhood is enough to suddenly rediscover our ancient relationships . Through the sentences emerge the world of the Levi family and unforgettable characters. Witch Prize 1963.
68) CLOWN OPINIONS
Heinrich Böll (1963)
Hans is a young clown who, after being left, is no longer funny. On the verge of exhaustion, he looks at reality with a critical eye, he sees a society built on hypocrisy and falsehood, on the values of a conservative bourgeoisie first in favor of Nazism and then ready to re-propose, in the new democratic social framework, its rituals and his prejudices.
69) THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Roald Dahl (1964) Dahl
The magnificent stories save all children who read them from boredom, sadness and injustice , wrote the legendary editor of children ‘s books Donatella Ziliotto. To have (had) a perfect childhood of this author you should have read everything, but certainly this is the most famous story, thanks also to the films, one from ’71 by Tim Stuart and the other from 2005 by Tim Burton.
70) THE INTERPRETERS
Wole Soyinka (1965)
The story of five young people who return to their country after studying abroad, thus experiencing the problems and torments of postcolonial Nigeria. Nobel Prize in Literature , Soynca is one of the most important exponents of sub-Saharan African literature .
71) HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE
Gabriel García Márquez (1967)
The most famous book of the Colombian Nobel Prize that made him a leading exponent of the magic-realist movement of Latin American literature. The novel tells the story of a family, the Buendìa, starting with the progenitor, Antonio, founder of the city of Macondo.
Michael Ende (1973)
The most famous book by this German fantasy writer is The Neverending Story , certainly a book to read . However, we include Momo among the 100 books to be read absolutely in life because the underlying theme is extremely current: the management of time in contemporary society and the alienation from true happiness.
Elsa Morante (1974)
The story of a teacher and her son Giuseppe ( Useppe ) in Rome, intertwined and influenced by the Second World War. Vivid characters who become friends and a bitter feeling of a story that has consequences on our lives that we suffer without fully understanding why. Masterpiece book without ifs and buts.
74) INVISIBLE CITIES
Italo Calvino (1974)
The expedient that allows Calvino to tell, in short descriptions, 55 fantastic and surreal, poetic and evanescent cities, is the dialogue between Marco Polo and the emperor of the Tartars, who questions the explorer of the cities of his immense empire. Contains passages of pure, imaginative literary power.
Etty Hillesum (1981)
That piece of eternity that we carry inside can be expressed in one word as in ten volumes. I am a happy person and I praise this life, my own praise, in the year of the Lord 1942, yet another year of war. The diary recounts the last years of Hetty’s life, who died in Auschwitz in ’43. Living testimony of the Shoah, like the most famous Diary of Anne Frank , we choose it because it tells the Holocaust with the gaze of a 30-year-old intellectual end.
76) VIEW WITH SAND GRAIN
Wislawa Szymborska (1957-1993)
I owe a lot / to those I don’t love./I don’t wait for them / from door to window./ Patient/ almost like a sundial, / I understand / what love doesn’t understand, / forgive / what love would never forgive. A collection of verses that runs through the entire work of the poet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996.
From the ’80s to 2000 – The contemporary books to read absolutely in life
77) THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Margaret Atwood (1985)
Hindered in some schools in the USA, inspirer of one of the most popular TV series of recent years, one of the reference points of the neo-feminist movement, it is a book to read for its extreme topicality. It tells of a dystopian world in which women lack universal rights, thanks to the connection between patriarchy and religion.
78) THE NAME OF THE ROSE
Umberto Eco (1980)
On the genesis of this work, Eco himself stated: I remember having spent a whole year without writing a line. I read, I made drawings, diagrams, in short, I invented a world. I drew hundreds of labyrinths and abbey plans, based on other drawings, and on places I visited. From this incessant work, a book to be read absolutely was born .
79) ALL THE POEMS
Sylvia Plath (1982)
Published years after the author’s suicide (1963), it is a book to read because it distills one of the most powerful and intimate poetic voices of the twentieth century. These poems are shaken by enlightened verses about existence and by a whirlwind of strident visions: the contradiction of being a wife and mother, an unresolved daughter (Sylvia Plath’s, very beautiful, are also the letters to her mother ) and a woman who wants to find her own Street.
80) THERE ARE NOT JUST ORANGES
Janette Winterson (1985)
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a Bildungsroman and landmark novel of contemporary LGBTQ literature, winner of numerous awards. In the deep English province, in the integralist family that adopted her, Jeanette falls in love with a neighbor. Thus begins a path that distances her from her mother and from oppressive and bigoted rules.
81) TRILOGY OF THE CITY BY K.
Ágota Kristóf (1986)
In a country occupied militarily, two twins follow different fates: Lucas stays in his homeland, Klaus flees to the so-called free world. When they meet again, they will have to face a country of moral rubble . No sentence or synopsis can describe the blow to the stomach well delivered by this Hungarian writer who talks about the horror of war seen from the eyes of the two protagonists.
Stephen King (1986)
The true horror must remain hidden, only be imagined … This is why no movie adaptation has ever fully returned the horror inherent in this book to be absolutely read , because it is also a magnificent coming of age novel that speaks of childhood, friendship, values, losses and passing time.
Claudio Magris (1986)
Perhaps the most famous book by Magris which, between novel and essay, tells the old river Danube, from its sources to the Black Sea, retracing together its own life and the seasons of contemporary culture, its faiths and his anxieties.
84) TOWARDS THE WEST THE EMPIRE LEADS ITS COURSE
David Foster Wallace (1989)
One of the most innovative writers of the last 20 years, who committed suicide in 2008. The colossal Infinite Jest and The Pale King (Pulitzer Prize finalist) are his novels best known, this long novel / short story is however a gem that encompasses all the surreal genius of the author, epigone of postmodern fiction. 6 characters traveling in the endless MidWest, a phenomenal stylistic exercise.
85) SEPARATE ROOMS
Pier Vittorio Tondelli (1989)
Leo, a homosexual, is grappling with the enormous pain of the loss of his partner, Thomas, a young German musician. The flashbacks allow us to reconstruct the moving relationship between the two. A book defined as an adage conducted on interiority and on the discovery of deep motivations.
86) JURASSIC PARK
Michael Crichton (1989)
A pillar of adventure fiction, between action and science. On a remote island off Costa Rica, thanks to genetic engineering, a millionaire brings dinosaurs back to life and encloses them in a biological amusement park that soon turns into a nightmare.
87) AMERICAN PSHYCO
Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
Told in the first person, it is the story of Patrick Bateman, rich father’s son who frequents the most exclusive places in Manhattan. In reality he is a brutal serial killer and tells in great detail how he kills his victims. Dry, experimental writing, a critique of the consumer society and the alienating condition of the individual that derives from it. A postmodern masterpiece to read (for strong stomachs).
88) SOFIA’S WORLD
Jostein Gaarder (1991)
Sofia Amundsen, fifteen, begins to receive anonymous letters containing curious philosophical questions. Who will have written them and why? Philosophical novel that magnificently contains a detective story , but also and above all 3,000 years of thought in about 600 pages.
Philip Roth (1991)
Recently passed away, Philip Roth is a sacred monster of contemporary literature , best known for his irreverent Portnoy’s Lament . In this book he tells a more intimate story: the troubled relationship of a son and a widowed father, who falls ill with cancer and that the son must attend. Beautiful, also for the argument that places the individual in front of a universal theme: the death of a loved one.
90) A SUITABLE BOY
Vikram Seth (1993)
1950s India. Lata must marry the “right boy”, chosen by her mother. Its history is intertwined with that of the family and of a country with a millenary culture. The Indian President recently awarded the author the 25 Greatest Global Living Indian Legends Award, an award that is given to the most influential Indian personalities on an international level.
José Saramago (1995)
In an unspecified space-time, the entire population becomes blind due to an inexplicable epidemic. Nobel Prize for Literature , the Portuguese author outlines in this book a story of universal significance on indifference and selfishness, on power and oppression, on the war of all against all, a harsh denunciation of the darkness of reason, with a cathartic glimmer of light and salvation.
92) A SOOTER TOLD ME
Tiziano Terzani (1995)
In 1976, in Hong Kong, an old Chinese soothsayer told the Spiegel journalist Tiziano Terzani: «Watch out! In 1993 you run a great risk of dying. Never fly in that year ». For the author, the warning turned into an opportunity to rediscover the true Asia, that of ordinary people who meet on foot, in trains, on buses, by ship … Serious, profound, ironic or amused, the author’s gaze makes the reader discover an entire, wonderful continent.
93) STORY OF A SEAGULL AND THE CAT THAT TEACHED HER TO FLY
Luis Sepúlveda (1996)
A book for all ages in which – as in the ancient fables of Aesop – it is the animal protagonists who teach, about life, the essential, in in this case the value of friendship and the desire to succeed. Fly only those who dare to do so , a motto often quoted and found online on the most disparate sites and contexts, comes from this slender book, definitely worth reading, at least once in a lifetime .
94) BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
Helen Fielding (1996)
Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, this is the modern sentimental education of a 32-year-old bungler. In the midst of so many more “serious” masterpieces, it is a book to read because it has given rise to a new genre of pink and light fiction dominated by protagonists full of defects, and for this very reason irresistible. If now it looks like something that has already been seen or read, it is because, after ’96, many have copied it.
95) MEMORIES OF A GEISHA
Arthur Golden (1997)
His name was Sayuri. He had only one richness: his charm. She became the most famous geisha in Japan. A touching and compelling book about a world that has almost completely disappeared. Absolutely to read, now considered a great contemporary classic.
96) THE GOD OF LITTLE THINGS
Arundhati Roy (1997)
Winner of the prestigious Booker Prize , the best-selling book in the world in the history of this award, tells the forbidden love between a separated woman and a pariah, seen from the perspective of the children of she. Against the backdrop of India, in an imaginative style, resounds the most radical critique of every law that establishes who is to be loved, and how, and how much.
Don DeLillo (1997 ) Kicks
off the narrative of this must-read masterpiece of postmodern fiction a baseball, intercepted by a young boy after a historic home run that won an important game for the Giants. From there, following the fil rouge of the ball, the story of a civilization unfolds, between suspense and philosophy, criticism of mass society and literary experimentalism.
98) HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE
JK Rowling (1997)
With this book begins the fantasy saga that has forged the imagination of entire generations. Translated into 68 languages and with over 400 million copies sold, it is the largest literary phenomenon in history after the Bible. As passionate readers, disgrace those who have seen the movies without having read the wonderful books from which they are based!
99) THE FANTASTIC ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY
Michael Chabon (2000)
The novel that earned the author the Pulitzer Prize focuses on escape. It follows the lives of a Czechoslovakian artist and an American writer, Jews, before, during and after the Second World War. An epic of the American dream, of research, affirmation and defeat.