Want to consider yourself “well-read” but don’t know where to start? Amazon.com compiled a list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. For most people, reading 100 books is too lofty a goal to seem realistic. For this list, I’ve pored through both Amazon’s and Goodreads’ lists to come up with just the 12 books that most people will enjoy. That means one book per month for a year—a realistic goal.
Some of the books are series books. For those, I recommend reading the first book in the series. If you enjoy the book and want to know what happens next, the other books will be worth your while.
January – The Fault in Our Stars
A novel narrated by a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group where she meets and falls in love with a seventeen-year-old ex-basketball player and amputee. A film based on the movie was released in 2014.
February – Unbroken
The biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini. He was a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean before being taken captive by the Japanese and sent to their prisoner of war camps. Zamperini died this past summer at the age of 97. A film based on the book was released in 2014.
March – The Hunger Games
The first novel in a trilogy, The Hunger Games is set in a dystopia consisting of a wealthy Capitol and twelve poor districts. Each year, children are chosen to participate in a televised death match called The Hunger Games. Films for all three books have been produced: The Hunger Games (2012), Catching Fire (2013), and Mockingjay (split into two parts, released 2014 and 2015).
April – The Book Thief
Narrated by Death, this novel is about a young girl living in Nazi Germany during the escalation of World War II. A film adaptation of the book was released in 2013.
May – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The first in a series of seven young adult fantasy novels chronicling the adventures of young wizardry student Harry Potter. The seven books in the series total around 4,000 pages, and each book has been adapted to film.
June – The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel and one of the best-selling novels ever written. It is one of the most influential works of modern fantasy. A film adaptation was most recently released 2001-2003.
July – The Giver
“The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.” —Amazon.com description
August – To Kill a Mockingbird
“One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.” —Amazon.com description
September – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.” —Amazon.com description
October – The Devil in the White City
“Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.” —Amazon.com description
November – 1984
“Winston Smith is a long-rung member of the Party, the ruling government of Oceania. He works in the Ministry of Truth, the Party’s propaganda arm, where he is in charge of revising history. He is but a small brick in the pyramid that is the Party, at the head of which stands Big Brother. Big Brother the infallible. Big Brother the all-powerful.
In a totalitarian society, where individuality is suppressed and freedom of thought has its antithesis in the Thought Police, Winston finds respite in the company of Julia. Originality of thought awakens, love blossoms and hope is rekindled. But what they don’t know is that Big Brother is always watching.”
December – Pride and Prejudice
“‘Pride and Prejudice’ is the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters who are all unmarried. When the wealthy young gentleman, Charles Bingley, rents the nearby manor of Netherfield Park the opportunity to find a husband presents itself. While attending a ball the Bennets meet Mr. Bingley and his friend Mr. Darcy for the first time. Mr. Bingley and Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, form a quick friendship, while Mr. Darcy shows little interest in Elizabeth by refusing to dance with her. However in subsequent weeks Mr. Darcy finds himself increasingly attracted to Elizabeth and as the novel progresses the reader is made to ask will a romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth come to be. Discover for yourself in this classic 19th century love story.” —Amazon.com description
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