With so many great books in the world, how do you choose your bucket list books? These 10 classics from around the globe represent a diverse group of voices, perspectives, and stories that have shaped society. Everyone should check out these must-read books before they…well..hit the bucket.
1. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
The Tale of Genji was written by Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, and is often referred to as the world’s first novel since the structure and story were the first to resemble a modern classic. The novel offers a nuanced portrait of a refined society during the Heian era where every act could have political consequences.
2. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
Confessions of a Mask, Mishima’s second novel, launched him to national fame in his early twenties. The modern classic tells the story of Kochan, who is raised in Japan’s era of right-wing militarism and Imperialism. Kochan’s physical ailments and homosexuality prevent him from fitting into society, and he feels he must hide behind a mask.
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This 1967 novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family. The magical realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude established it as a representative novel of the literary Latin American Boom of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The novel has been translated into thirty-seven languages and remains one of the most significant works in the Spanish literary canon.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s novel of manners follows Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. It’s one of the most popular novels in English literature, and paved the way for archetypes that are commonly found in contemporary literature. Pride and Prejudice has spawned numerous adaptations, but nothing beats reading the original work.
5. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s spellbinding novel tells the story of Sethe, who was born a slave but escaped to Ohio. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone was engraved with a single word: Beloved. Beloved explores the psychological impact of slavery, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988.
6. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart is a post-colonial novel by Chinua Achebe that was one of the first modern African novels to receive global critical acclaim. The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo (“Ibo” in the novel) leader in the Nigerian village of Umuofia. The novel describes personal history, the society of the Igbo, and the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo society.
7. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
The Well of Loneliness follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an upper-class Englishwoman who finds love with Mary Llewellyn, who she meets while driving ambulances in World War I. Their happiness is marred by social isolation and rejection. The novel faced several censorship cases, and is thought of as the first major literary novel in English to treat lesbianism as natural.
8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment is a psychological novel that follows the moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished former student who formulates and executes a plan to kill a morally corrupt pawnbroker for her money. He attempts to justify his actions throughout the course of the novel.
9. The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Trial is one of Kafka’s best-known works. It tells the story of a man, Josef K., who is arrested and prosecuted by an inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him or the reader. The Trial was influenced by Crime and Punishment, and was not completed before Kafka’s death—though it does have a chapter that brings the story to an end.
10. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award. The story takes place in rural Georgia, and focuses on the life of African American women in the 1930’s. Themes of sexism, racism, sisterhood, and breaking traditional gender roles make this novel feel as relevant today as when it was written, or the time period in which the story takes place.
Have you read any books from this list? What’s on your book bucket list?
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