Sat. Nov 28th, 2020

Five books every avid reader should read at least once…

These few books are liked by most and loved by many and every reader should at least try them once…

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Most of us have bucket lists…those little lists of things you have to simply do or accomplish before you eventually “kick the bucket”. 

Everyone’s bucket list looks a little bit different. Some people have only two or three things on their lists, others may have more than 50. Some of us may have many bucket lists of different sorts, a travelling bucket list, as well as an experience bucket list which includes bungee-jumping or skydiving, for example. 

‘One-size-fits-most’ book bucket list

And then, some of us have a more “introvert-friendly” list, namely a reading bucket list: Books you must read before you die.

Every reader has his or her own opinion of what should be included on this list, but — for starters — The South African have compiled a sort of mostly “one-size-fits-most” list, with book recommendations that have created some consensus within readers of all genres, from sci-fi to romance. 

These few books are liked by most and loved by many and every reader should at least try them once…

1. ‘Gone with the Wind’ – by Margaret Mitchell 

Set during the American Civil war, this classic work tells the coming-of-age story of young Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who had to do all she can to cope with the ravages of war and the effects of it on her family. 

This controversial and often criticised book of a story from the perspective of the American South, has remained a firm fixture in literary studies throughout the years and is still read and discussed today.

Being the only book Margaret Mitchell published during her lifetime, the story and characters of Gone with the Wind have stayed with readers and have made this book a must-read. 

Gone with the Wind received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and was also adapted into an Academy Award winning film. 

2. ‘1984’ – by George Orwell

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A protester holds a German translation of George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ as he demonstrates for journalists’ rights on 1 August 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Image: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Published in 1949, this dystopian and political novel by English author George Orwell was and remained one of the most discussed and widely debated works of all time.

This novel centres around the themes of politics and society, mainly the consequences of mass surveillance and totalitarianism on human beings. Orwell tackles the roles of truth, facts, and assumptions within politics as well as the many ways these can be manipulated. 

The story takes place in the then imagined future, namely the year 1984; a future where the world is in the clutches of constant war and perpetual government surveillance.

The protagonist, Winston Smith, a skilled and diligent clerk in the Records Department, dreams of rebellion and freedom from this state of totalitarianism. He enters into a strictly forbidden relationship with a colleague and begins to remember what his life was like before his world changed forever.  

This literary work has been included in many best novel lists, including the Time’s 100 best English-language novels list, and it continues to be influential and applicable to current affairs so many years after its publication. 

3. ‘Frankenstein’ – by Mary Shelly 

Considered by many as the first true science fiction work, this novel tells the gothic and wonderfully dark story of the scientist Victor Frankenstein creating a sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. As the story unfolds the lines between creator and the created merge, ideas of who the true monster is shift, and the reader is presented with complex questions intertwined with moral dilemmas. 

With beautifully written prose and gripping descriptions, this book as been loved and appreciated for over 200 years. This fascinating story and these engrossing characters have been adapted into many forms over the years, including plays, comic books and several films. Its influence on modern readers has never ceased and this work will probably continue to inspire readers for 200 years more.

4. ‘Things Fall Apart’ – by Chinua Achebe 

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Published in 1958, this remarkable debut novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe tells the story of pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the arriving European presence.

Considered as the quintessential African novel, this book follows the life of Okonkwo, a local wrestling champion, and details his family life, personal history, and eventually the influence of European colonialism on his life and his country. 

Throughout the years after its publication, Things Fall Apart has become a shining light and a loud, compelling voice in colonial and post-colonial discourses.

It is a text that demands to be read and a story that demands to be told, again and again. 

5. ‘The Book Thief’ – by Marcus Zusak 

Widely considered as one of the most powerful and captivating novels of the 21st century thus far, The Book Thief has been translated into 63 languages and has sold more than 16 million copies. It has also been made into a feature film garnering some of the same recognition and success. 

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Leslie (Sophie Nelisse) rescues a book from a bonfire to pursue her love of reading in the 2014 movie adptation of ‘The Book Thief’. Image: Supplied

Set in 1930’s Germany, this book follows the story of Liesel, a young girl who rescues books from the tyranny of Nazi rule and saves them from being destroyed. The family she lives with has hidden a Jewish fighter in their home and within this reality of nation-wide terror and violence, bravery flowers and friendships form out of the most unlikely of situations. 

One of the most gripping and unique features of this book, is the fact that Death is the narrator.

As Death, in a somehow heart-warming but jarring way, narrates this coming-of-age story in World War II, the reader is immersed into a world where even the most horrific experiences fail to crush the strong, meek and inspiring character of a little girl, who treasures the value of books. 

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