An educated person is a powerful person. It’s true no matter where you rank in terms of financial success or where you stand on the social ladder. The benefits of nonfiction are well known, as fact based works inform us about the world we live in, but recently fiction has been enjoying more admiration.
People who read quality fiction are less likely to be swayed by outlandish rhetoric, and their perspective is generally more rounded. Such readers are found to be more empathetic than the average Joe, and more compassionate. For emotional maturity, intellectual stimulation, and just general entertainment, pull these 32 brilliant books off the shelf.
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird addresses compassion and racism in America told in the voice of a precocious tomboy.
The Diary of A Young Girl
Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, is the heart rending true account of a young Jewish girl in the Holocaust.
Surging in popularity recently, 1984 is a dystopian novel about an authoritarian regime where truth is subjective and dissent is punished heavily.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone started off a series that defined a generation. It is the quintessential David and Goliath.
If you still need convincing that literature is worthwhile, Fahrenheit 451 offers a glimpse of a world in which it is forbidden. Spoiler: it’s another dystopia.
Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me is a letter written from a father to his son: two black men living in today’s America.
Remeniscent of the Gothic style, Jane Eyre tells the story of a strong woman in a time when women were supposed to be weak.
Animal Farm is a short read, but a chilling tale wherein an elected government of pigs imposes a repressive regime on their subjects and supposed equals.
The Book Thief
The Book Thief is narrated by death and follows the misadventures of the eponymous book thief, a German girl in WWII. It leaves readers with the enduring message that words can heal or destroy, depending on how they are used.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tells the story of a runaway boy and slave, and their common humanity which overcomes societal bias and cruelties.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantastical children’s tale about resistance to oppressive regimes, kindness, and sacrifice of self.
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is a realistic adult story that also tells of resistance and sacrifice, but delves into a darker scenario of brutality when the oppressed overtake their oppressers.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a work of comic genius that puts a lighthearted sci-fi lense on existential impotence amid and against forces greater than onesself.
The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden is a tale of love after loss, hope in times of darkness, and the renewal of gardens and souls. It is a hopeful story, and one that insists that time and effort are the keys to healing and growth.
A Christmas Carol
Shorter and cheerier than most Dickens, A Christmas Carol emphasizes generosity of spirit and kind actions as the keys to joy and happiness.
The Giver explores a dystopia where all the memories of history are recalled by one man. It chills with its approach to the question of what happens when society forgets its past.
Absurdist dramedy of surprising relevance, Catch-22 follows the bureaucracy and circular logic that afflicts a bomber unit from WWII.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale tells of another dystopian future in which religious zealots have regressed socity to the point that women are once again considered the property of men.
A classic of dysfunctional relationships, Wuthering Heights makes an important point about compassion and kindness by portraying characters lacking in both.
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is a kindhearted look at small town rurality, and demonstrates the importance of lucky mistakes and the love of a family.
Frankenstein is a seminal work in the horror genre, questioning the virtue of progress without thought of consequence.
The Color Purple
The Color Purple gives an unflinching account of the life of an abused black woman. It is at times difficult to experience, but a deeply beautiful novel of both suffering and joy.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn highlights some of the gender inequality experienced by women over the years and the important pairing of having dreams and working to achieve them.
Alice in Wonderland
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carrol used the simple premise of a child’s sojourn through an imaginary land to address some of the nonsensical aspects of the real world in an unusual and thought provoking way.
A modern classic, Ender’s Game explores through a video-game like war lead by children the questionable virtue of conquest and the lines between devotion to one’s own and compassion for the Other.
Watership Down is one of the most beloved fantasies of all time, telling a moving tale of community and the quest for home. It highlights appreciation for the strengths of others and compassion for the small and the ailing.
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s door stopper of the French Revolution, compels with its account of an escaped prisoner who must choose between letting go of his comfortable life, or regressing from the better person he has become.
The Scarlet Letter
An puritanical account of slut shaming, The Scarlet Letter speaks to the psychological torture of hidden shame in juxtaposition with societal censure for sins revealed.
Homer’s contribution to Greek mythology, beginning with The Iliad, shaped Western imagination more profoundly than any other story.
The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried takes the reader inside the experiences of the foot soldiers of Vietnam, the things that were important to them, and the stories they had to tell.
Slaughterhouse-Five explores the ideas of predestination and free will, and the cruelty of humans to one another.
One of the best examples of the power of prose, when first written The Jungle shed light on inhumane factory working conditions, actually leading to reformations in the federal laws governing food safety.