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Most people are familiar with the literary masterpieces that are often called the "great books." Mark Twain joked that a "classic" is "a book which people praise but don't read." My list today is made up of thirteen "great books" that I believe everyone, irrespective of language, gender, culture, or religion, should read because they express themes that transcend all of these boundaries designed to make us think we're different and demonstrate just how similar we really are.

1. The Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone by Sophocles
  • fate vs. free will
  • Is it better to be "blind" to the truth or to uncover and "see" no matter the cost?
  • laws of man vs. divine laws
2. All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • horrors of war for all involved
  • dangers of nationalism
  • war is not a romantic adventure
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • change vs. tradition
  • What does it mean to be a "man"?
  • importance of language
4. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • qualities of a strong leader
  • the power of political deception
  • types of governing strategies
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • laws vs. customs
  • compassion vs. justice
  • importance of education
6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • the necessity of law and order
  • individualism vs. community
  • man vs. nature
7. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya
  • man vs. nature
  • knowledge vs. ignorance
  • western civilization vs. eastern civilization
8. Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
  • the importance of memory
  • new ideas vs. old traditions
  • tyranny vs. justice
9. 'On Liberty' and Other Writings by John Stewart Mill
  • civil liberties
  • importance of free speech
  • social contract
10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • censorship
  • life and death
  • knowledge is power
11. King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • political authority vs. chaos
  • father/daughter relationships
  • If both the wicked and the good die, what is justice?
12. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • appearances vs. reality
  • frailty vs. strength
  • revenge vs. justice
13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • law vs. morality
  • selflessness vs. selfishness
  • freedom vs. slavery

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10 Responses
  1. Iman Says:

    You put Hamlet and not Othello?! Shame on you! lol :) Love you Mom!

  2. Nessa Says:

    A very good list. That's at least a years worth of work, if not more.

  3. Carleen Says:

    I thought about putting Othello on the list, especially because it's my personal favorite, and I don't really care for the character of Hamlet; however, the latter has a universal appeal on more levels, I think.

  4. you have one of my fav book, To Kill A Mocking Bird!
    My Thursday-13

  5. CountryDew Says:

    That's a good list, and I especially appreciate your putting the reasons with them.

  6. Unknown Says:

    I love that you listed the themes/reasons for reading the books. Thanks for sharing.

  7. The Bumbles Says:

    TKAM - conviction, individualism, don't judge a book by it's cover, defense against bigotry, the impact of fathers, loss of innocence, education is more than books - life lessons all rolled into one powerful book - or movie - take your pick.

  8. Momstart Says:

    What a very thought provoking TT. Brought back some memories of reading

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I saw Lear in Stratford (Ontario). Excellent production...I cried so much.


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