Stories and the written word help us communicate like no other medium. Sure, movies and shows are great but they merely lend visuals to a great story. Also, a great story is written first before it is acted on. Whether you are a seasoned reader or just stepping into the world of books; do ensure that you have read these must read books before the end of 2018!

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusac

This is a wonderful and moving tale about the love for stories and the courage to defy. The book is narrated by the angel of death who meet this little book lover in many instances in Nazi Germany. It’s a field day for the angel of death, thanks to Hitler, but he is enchanted by this little girl and her love for books. She is sent to a foster home by an ill mother and in the basement of that house – three things combine – love, courage and stories. And these are the things we often need in bad times.

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2. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee – one of the most moving must read books

This book is based in 1950s America where racism was still strong. The protagonist is a young, tomboyish girl who is really close to her dad. Her father is a lawyer. Not only that, he’s a good man who teaches her the right values. The climax of the book is when her father decides to defend a poor, black man who is wrongly accused of rape by a white woman. This is one of those must read books that talk about why it is important to challenge your prejudices.

3. The Kiterunner by Khaled Hussaini

This is a haunting book about friendship and a broken country. The protagonist is a well-to-do Afghan boy who has a poor friend. Their friendship is bitter-sweet. The protagonist is at times jealous of his friend. A twist in the tale happens when some bullies confront the two. Years later, it is Taliban-occupied Afghanistan and it is time to pay back for keeping quiet when solidarity was needed.

4. Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

On the surface, this book is about hitchhiking through the galaxy. Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. They meet fellow travellers who are hilarious and curious creatures. But beneath the surface, this best of must-read books raises a lot of questions about life and helps you laugh at the unanswerable ones.

5. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

This is my favourite book by an Indian author. I call the book a “softly moving” one because there are so many things that move you in the book and yet, on the face, it is just the life of ordinary people being spoken about. The author touches upon themes of modernity, patriotism, gender, religion, family values, politics – and ultimately – choices! Don’t worry, it’s not a drag. The book starts with Lata’s mother trying to find her a “suitable boy” and this search takes us through the lives of four families made up of all sorts of interesting people. This is very nostalgic of 1950s India and its simplicity. Of course, you will still be caught up with the question, “who will Lata choose?” right till the end.

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6. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

Who hasn’t heard of this dip into weirdness? A book full of riddles, oddness and sub-text, this one surely is a slow read. Going down the rabbit hole, Alice lands into a parallel universe where the rules of our world just do not apply. Many people have hinted that this is a parallel on drugs and their effect, but in reality, this is far from true. Lewis Carroll was a mathematician and around his time, a new branch of maths was growing that did not make certain assumptions about the world. This story was his illustration of a topsy-turvy world if we let go of traditional math.

7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What does it mean to be human? Why do we create destructive things? What do we owe each other? A chilling story answering these questions was written by Mary Shelley when she was a mere 18 years old in one of our must-read books. Things were so bad in Victorian England back then that people assumed this was written by her husband, the famous poet Percy Shelley and not her. However, the biopic on her life is coming out this year, be sure to read this classic book before watching the movie!

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8. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

With this particular book, we are moving into the realm of non-fiction. Man’s Search for Meaning was written by Viktor Frankl about his experiences in a concentration camp. As a Jew in Nazi Germany, he was detained. He speaks in the book of how, as humans, we always need meaning and purpose. If we have that, we can go through any situation. Based on his experience, he founded “logotherapy” which was a therapeutic approach he used in his practice. He doesn’t try to tell people how to deal with their problems, but why. As he is famously quoted,  “If you can find the why of your life, you can deal with any ‘how’”.

9. The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir

This is a huge and complex read but well worth your time. This is considered one of the greatest philosophical works of the 20th century.  The reason it is on our list of must-read books is that Simone speaks about the treatment and character of women and questions all the evidence which states that “this is how women are made biologically”. She concludes that in reality, we socialize men and women to behave in certain ways and that is what they follow. Also, makes a good case for why this exists but is no longer necessary. Thus, she talks about how letting go of these rigid gender norms will liberate everyone and transform society.

10. A Mind that Found Itself by Clifford Beers

Clifford Beers is the founder of the mental health hygiene movement in America and is one of the first people who spoke about institutional abuse in psychiatric institutions. He speaks of his own institutionalization and how isolation makes things worse. His work has resulted into better treatment and dignity and respect for those affected with mental health issues. The book is a beautiful account of self-discovery and the change that even one person can bring.

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We have purposely chosen a mixed bag of books from light to heavy and fiction to non-fiction. Because we feel that a well-rounded view of things is much needed in this splitting, extreme ends world of 2018. What do you feel? Is there anything else that we should add to our must read books?

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