Mental Health Boost: 100 Books to Read in Your Lifetime

As an extension to our ‘Making a Bucket List’ article, I found this follow-up feature rather fitting.  One of my own bucket list items is to read all of the titles on my personalised list of 100 books to read in my lifetime (one of the more time consuming items, admittedly). It’s also something that I would advocate for every one of you out there. In this short article I’ll aim to explain ‘why?’ and ‘how?’.

You will notice that I’ve used the word ‘personalised’’, so this is not an article to give you a list of books that you must read.  This is an article to encourage you to make your own list, to give tips on how to make that list, and to offer you a copy of my own list to (I hope) provide you with a bit of inspiration for you own.

Firstly, why should you make your own ‘100 Books to Read Your Lifetime’ list? Whilst I won’t go into too much detail on the benefits of reading by itself (more on that in a future article), the benefits of making a list of books to read share some similar qualities to that of making a bucket list. The accomplishment of reading through a single book and ticking it off on your list will give you a small psychological boost. Although this isn’t significant on its own, if you are following a list and this feeling of accomplishment becomes more regular, then it will develop into a positive habit.

The structure of making such a list will add incentive and provide motivation for your endeavour in reading, whilst the personalisation of your own list will change that phrase ‘endeavour in reading’ into ‘joy in reading’. All of the general benefits that we get from reading – the increased patience, higher levels of focus, improved memory, reduced stress etc. etc. – can become regular and long-term fixtures in our lives if we create a simple framework to help us read regularly. This is where our list comes in useful…

Making Your Own List

If you are to make a list like this then it will probably centre around the all-time classics.  Of course, you can make your own spin-off lists focussing on specific genres, but it all depends on how much of a bookworm you are.  For most, I’d recommend sticking with one list that utilises the classics at its core.

The best place to start when making your list is to choose a suitable template.  I used the ‘BBC’s Top 100 Books You Need to Read Before You Die’ as the spine of my selections.  Remember though, this is still just a reference point and not something that is set in stone. Your list should be personalised with books that you are excited to start reading and titles that are likely to suit your reading preferences.

From the framework of the list that you are using, highlight any books that you will definitely not be interested in reading in one colour (red is appropriate!) and any that you are not sure about in another colour.  For the books of which you are unsure, you should research the basic information on them and then make an informed decision as to whether it should stay on your list or not.

Don’t judge me, it had to go…

My recommendation would be that if you are still unsure if you should leave a book on your list or not, then leave it on.  There is usually a very good reason (or many good reasons) that the book has been suggested or labelled a ‘classic’ so it’s best to give it the benefit of the doubt if you’re 50-50 on giving it the chop.  On the other hand, if you’re fairly sure that you’re not going to enjoy a listed book then the worst thing that you could do is keep it on and run the risk of your list being full of titles that will only put you off the thought of reading in the first place.

Making it Specific

Once you have removed the titles from your framework, you’re going to need to populate it with titles that you are excited about reading.  You can do this in several ways. Firstly, it’s likely that there will be a few books that you have always wanted to read and just never got around to doing so.  For me, such books were ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King and ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell (my previous attempt as a teenager only got me to page 8 despite it being the focus for one of my examinations……this meant it was unfinished business!).  I’ve now read two out of three of these titles – Animal Farm and The Road – with one of them being surprisingly good and one of them being surprisingly mundane (hint: I wish I’d only read up until page 8 of ‘The Road’…).

You can also search online for recommendations based on your favourite genres of books.  My favourite genres tend to be from science fiction and horror so – especially as this genre is generally underrepresented in most suggested classics – I utilised some online searches to find some commonly recommended books of this mould.  I’ve done this for books such as ‘A Scanner Darkly’ by Philip K. Dick, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis and ‘Let the Right One In’ by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I loved each of these titles and was particularly glad that I used a little preparation time to look up recommendations. 

My final advice on filling your list is to ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations.  Although it will help if that person has a similar taste in books to you, it doesn’t hurt to get an alternative perspective to push you out of your familiar reading zone with one or two items.  I’d simply ask that person why they recommend a certain book and what it means to them. Though be sure to let them know not to spoil the story for you (there’s always that one friend or colleague who wants to give you a bit too much story!).  In the past I’ve followed recommendations on ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger and ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon from friends of different tastes – both titles ended up being books that I found hard to put down.

Finalising Your List

Once you’ve rounded up your final additions then you have the joy of filling the list to the nice round figure of 100.  Of course, you can feel free to use another number but, generally speaking, 100 is a nice figure to chip away at over a lifetime.  Then, much like your bucket list (I hope you have one), you have the pleasure of marking it off once read.

As promised, here’s a copy of my own list should you need a little inspiration / guidance on starting your own.  I’ve crossed off the books that I’ve read as a reference point for how far I’ve progressed. In addition, I’ve supplied the links for other lists that you may find useful just underneath.

Enjoy!

My ‘100 Books to Read in My Lifetime’ List

  1. 1984 – George Orwell
  2. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
  4. The Green Mile – Stephen King
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  7. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
  8. It – Stephen King
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  12. Tess of the D’urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
  15. A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
  16. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  18. The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  21. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  28. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. Twelve Years a Slave – Soloman Northup
  33. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
  34. A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
  35. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  36. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini 
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie-The-Pooh – A. A. Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto Che Guevara
  47. Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  54. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
  66. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  67. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Bushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  80. The Godfather – Mario Puzo 
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  86. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  87. Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks 
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. The Shining – Stephen King
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

My list was based on the ‘BBC’s Top 100 Books You Need to Read Before You Die’ from the website https://www.listchallenges.com/bbcs-top-100-books-you-need-to-read-before-you-die

 I also utilised Melanie Curtin’s ‘100 Books You Should Read Before You Die’ list from https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/100-books-to-read-before-you-die.html


References

Charity Reads.  BBC’s Top 100 Books You Need to Read Before You Die.  BBC. Accessed October 2019 at https://www.listchallenges.com/bbcs-top-100-books-you-need-to-read-before-you-die

Curtin, M. (March 15th 2019).  100 Books You Should Read Before You Die.  Inc. Accessed October 2019 at https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/100-books-to-read-before-you-die.html


6 comments

  1. Thanks!

    Mine is slightly limited on the front that my additional language learning skills are slow! However, ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ was originally a Spanish title (‘La sombra del viento’), ‘The Alchemist’ was originally a Portuguese title (‘O Alquimista’) and The Three Musketeers was originally a French title (‘Les Trois Mousquetaires’). Though I’ve not yet read The Three Musketeers, the other two are fantastic and highly recommended.

    I hope you have a great day too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good selection and variety, I tend to go for a lot of thriller, horror, etc., I think I need to try something different. It’s good to read what books interest others because it will put ideas in the heads of the likes of me!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’ve had Birdsong recommended a few times although I must admit, Jane Eyre was squeezed out of the the final cut because of a lack of word of mouth recommendations! I’ll have to make time for it outside of the list once I’ve ticked off a couple more here. Hope that you’ve gotten a couple of ideas for your own reading (if needed).

      Liked by 1 person

      • You should Jane Eyre is the best book written by a female author of all time. I love the film aswell . Theres definetly a lot of classics on your list I need to read. I studied the Woman In Black at school thats another book by a female author you need to read very appropriate for this time of the year aswell.

        Liked by 1 person

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