A good book can inspire creativity, passion, and adventure. It can make someone feel what they’ve never experienced, empathize with people different than themselves, and explore places they may never be able to afford to go.
Books from all over the world serve this purpose. Here at Everyday Owl, we love to read (have you joined our book club yet? Check it out here! The more books someone reads, the more certain ones stand out as just a bit more profound, immersive, and well-written. These make their way onto the must-read list. A lot of bookworms – including myself – may protest at being given a limit on how many books we can put on their list; it can be done.
So what qualifies as a must-read? It should be well-written, obviously. But it should also say something about the human condition, whether for good or bad. It can be long or short, but it needs to effectively communicate its themes and create relatable characters at its length. If it is compelling enough to get through in one sitting, or just a couple for longer works, even better!
Here are the Top 3 books everyone should read:
Journey to the West is one of the four great Chinese novels about a monk who travels to India on a quest for enlightenment. It was written in the 16th century by Wu Cheng’en. This old novel is an epic journey that includes anthropomorphic animals, gods, dragons, and myth-making. Despite its age, the story holds up against the epic fantasies of the 20th century like Lord of the Rings or Dune.
It is also a highly influential book. Reading it may remind you of books you read in college like Journey to the East or the video game Odyssey. Perhaps its most lasting pop-cultural influence is in one of the world’s longest running manga and anime series – Dragonball. In Journey to the West, one of the main characters is Sun Wukong, a monkey born from a mountain who needed to learn about the world, caused mischief, and ultimately rose to enlightenment. This character received a Japanese makeover as the inspiration for Son Goku. It speaks to the drive-in humanity to look for something bigger than themselves. Journey to the West is an inspirational text which can lead you to other fascinating stories.
Franz Kafka’s incredibly immersive world of bureaucracy, oppression, and fear, The Trial, is a wonderful introduction to the dystopian novel and meditates on the many faces of totalitarianism.
While 1984 is the quintessential dystopian novel to recommend (and worth your read), The Trial’s attack at systems is unique in how those who work within the system and benefit from it never seem to question it. While those on the outside of the system struggle to find a logic to what is happening.
Its twists and turns are both intriguing and frustrating as your root for protagonist Josef K., accused of an unnamed crime, put through the wringer of a judicial system he cannot understand and fights for the right to be heard. The Trial reminds us of the capacity for callousness and cruelty. It is a short read but full of big, thought-provoking ideas, psychological concepts, and a unique perspective on how the world seems to be increasingly wrapped in red-tape and lose-lose situations.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a children’s story for all ages. The author takes center stage as the narrator, based on his own experiences as a pilot in the 1930s and personal experiences during his life. Our protagonist, a small prince from an asteroid, is looking for a way to return to his beloved rose.
A tale that exists between magical realism, fairy tales, and autobiography, the reader follows the prince on his journeys to other asteroids, encountering new creatures, and learning important lessons about life, friendship, love, life, and death.
While this children’s book looks simple on the surface, it explores the big questions across the solar system and even multiple contents here on earth. In a few short pages, Saint-Exupéry takes the reader from his childhood to the deserts of Egypt, to the outer edges of space to experience joy and sorrow. It is a compelling story that has inspired millions and speaks to the human spirit, optimism, creativity, and ability to love.
So hard to pick just three! Don’t be surprised if you see a follow-up to the list in the future. Have you read any of these books? What are your three books?
Let us know!