The Most Transformative 100 Books You Must Read in Your Lifetime

Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD
8 Min Read

They say that readers live a thousand lives through the books they read. If that’s true, then filling your life with as many books as possible is the way to living life to the absolute fullest. Of course, with millions of books out there, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which ones are truly worth your precious time and attention.

To help guide you, we’ve put together this curated list of the 100 greatest must-read books – novels, memoirs, historical accounts, and more – that have inspired, thrilled, and enlightened readers for generations. From foundational classics to contemporary masterpieces, these are the books that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.

Top 100 Books You Must Read In Your Lifetime: In no particular order

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. 1984 by George Orwell

3. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

6. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

7. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

9. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

11. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

13. Dune by Frank Herbert

14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

16. Beloved by Toni Morrison

17. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

18. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

19. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

20. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

22. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

23. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

24. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

25. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

27. Lord of the Flies by William Golding 

28. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

29. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

30. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

31. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

32. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

33. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

34. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

35. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

36. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

37. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

38. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

39. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

40. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

41. The Revenant by Michael Punke

42. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

43. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

44. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

45. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

46. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

47. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

48. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

49. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

50. The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill

51. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

52. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

53. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

54. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

56. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

57. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

58. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

59. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

60. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

61. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

62. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

63. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

64. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

65. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

66. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

67. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

68. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

69. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

70. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

71. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

72. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

73. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

74. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

75. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

76. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

77. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

78. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

79. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich 

80. There There by Tommy Orange

81. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

82. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

83. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

84. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

85. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

86. The Nix by Nathan Hill

87. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

88. Just Kids by Patti Smith

89. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

90. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

91. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

92. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien 

93. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

94. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

95. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

96. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

97. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

98. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

99. Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

100. Finding Freedom by Erin French

While no single list could ever be truly definitive, these 100 books represent some of the most influential, beautifully written, engaging works of all time. They open up portals to other worlds, experiences, and perspectives. They make you laugh, cry, and see things in brand-new ways. Some may challenge your beliefs, while others reinforce your core values.

From literary fiction and autobiographies to historical accounts and reflections on the human experience, these must-read books come highly recommended by critics, teachers, authors, and avid readers alike. They stand the test of time, having been read and re-read for decades by millions.

Of course, which books ultimately speak to you is up to your individual tastes, experiences, and perspectives. Some you may find overrated, while others not on this list could profoundly change your life. No matter, the ultimate goal is to read widely and fill your life with eye-opening stories and wisdom from all different genres and walks of life.

So go forth and devour this list one book at a time, or pick out the titles most intriguing to you and add them to your ever-growing reading list. Just be sure to make time for reading in your life, as great books have the power to greatly enrich your perspectives, worldview, and understanding of the wonderful world and people around you.

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Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD is a medical doctor by profession, an author, a financial literacy and digital assets enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a growing philanthropist.
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