“′Classic′ – a book which people praise and don’t read.”
― Mark Twain
“Do you read?”
“Yes, yes I read.”
“What do you read?”
“Anything that catches my attention.”
“Oh classics are amazing, but I have not read many so far.”
– aka a classic conversation.
I agree that old English and bold but long sentences can be a ditsy-bitsy difficult to understand, but why not give it a shot or two or maybe a ten times? After all, it’s worth it.
- 1 What exactly is classic book?
- 1.1 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- 1.2 The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
- 1.3 The Perk of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- 1.4 Boredom by Alberto Moravia
- 1.5 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- 1.6 Walden or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
- 1.7 The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- 1.8 Mahabharata by Vyasa
- 1.9 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- 1.10 Heart Sutra
- 1.11 Let Others Know What You've Been Reading:
- 1.12 Like this:
What exactly is classic book?
Contrary to the popular belief, a classic may or may not be a hundred year old book.
The books that are noteworthy and exemplary are classics. A book can be acclaimed widely as timeless or according to the reader’s individual opinion. Either way, it will be called a classic. They universal, which means people from any nationality, age, tradition, or culture can read and relate to it.
However, lately, the word classic is associated with the Western Canon. Though, a classic can belong to any tradition be it the Indian Vedas or Nordic sagas.
These books, old or not, always have something to tell its readers. The book does not become irrelevant as the time goes and continues to resonate with its readers. Such books influence their readers’ minds and lives. The measure of influence is sometimes so much that the entire life of the reader changes. In this article, I have treasured a list of such 23 Classic Books That Will Change Your Life.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
It is a book I gifted to someone…
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Dreamer or not, this classic book is for you.
Published in the year 1988, this book is truly timeless. It can only be irrelevant in a world that has forgotten to dream. The book takes you on a treasure hunt. A shepherd boy, Santiago, who dreams of traveling the world. After knowing his destiny of finding a treasure in a faraway land, is drawn to it. He travels day and night, gets duped, learns another language, crosses the borders of Spain and Morocco to reach Egypt, and fights some thugs only to learn that he misunderstood what treasure he was to behold. The end brings the story exactly where it began, but everything changes profoundly.
The book teaches its readers the power of being positive. It teaches them the power of desires; that no one is too little to not realize their biggest desires.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
It is a book that a stranger gifted me…
“There would be no chance to get to know death at all …if it happened only once.”
Coming across this book was a luck by chance. I happened to stumble in a shop in front of the Tibetan Monastery in McLeodganj to find the book about “Heart Sutra”. There I met a guy who gifted this book to me.
It is a powerful tome that guides its readers through Buddhist philosophy, a monk’s journey and transition into death. In our modern world people are about as afraid of death and as they are of life. People either avoid talking about them or when they talk, the conversations are seldom a ray of sunshine. If the topic of life or name of death cause fear and anxiety in you, then this is the book for you to read. Its fresh perspective will soften your viewpoint of death and aging.
The book is also about how to be compassionate towards those nearing death and care for them.
The Perk of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The book that I read in college…the book that made be feel better about everything…
“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”
This book has a coming-of-age story of an introverted teenager, Charlie. It was first published in 1999. Set in early 1990’s, this epistolary novel will take you on a journey that you will also relate with. Chbosky spent 5 years creating the characters and other elements in this story with his own memories.
The book deals with a number of real-life-aspects. This includes suicide, homosexuality, drug abuse, mental illness, molestation, adolescence, body image, depression, and introversion.
The protagonist, Charlie, is writing letters to a hypothetical friend, who may as well be you (the reader). This connection between the book and reader makes this novel one of its kind. It will take you into your own mind through Charlie’s and you will learn that dealing with extremities of life is no more a lonely job.
By the end of this book, you may also have a terrific playlist in your phone.
There is also a film adaptation of Perks of Being a Wallflower (hyperlink movie) starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller.
Boredom by Alberto Moravia
Finding this book was serendipity…
“You can’t think on purpose about somebody or something. Either you think about them naturally or you don’t think at all.”
Boredom was originally published in Italian in the year 1960. I have read its English translation by Angus Davidson. If you read the book, do not skid the introduction that is written by William Weaver. It gives insights of Moravia’s life and about the kind of person he were, without knowing which the book may not make much sense.
The book does not really teach the readers anything but makes them feel a lot. Several times through the story, the book will make you exclaim “Oh my god, that’s so me.” or “Yes, yes I know what you mean.”
It talks bluntly about the monotony in life, loss of inspiration, confusion, obsession, and frustration that ensue. The book explores taboos and dwells shamelessly upon the male psyche. The protagonist of the book, Dino, is about as flawed as anyone of us and even more. His forever struggle and tussle with the trappings of his own minds will have you ask some serious questions to yourself. His long and tiresome explanations about what he feels and why maybe putting your feelings into words or revealing your own hidden side that you never knew existed.
Reading the story of Dino is like introspecting your own life.
To put it bluntly, this book will either be utter trash to you or a brilliant piece of art- there won’t be any in-between.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The book that didn’t let me sleep…
“You see, some things I can teach you. Some you learn from books. But there are things that, well, you have to see and feel.”
Published in 2007, this novel revolves around the lives of Mariam and Laila, two women in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan. The books dives deep into the world of women and the injustice, cruelty, abuse and violence they are forced to endure. It is a slap on our modern world that pulls our conscience out of the comfort zone and brings it all the reality that is refuses to face.
The book does not minx words and is brutally honest about what it says. You will not be able to help but connect with the characters as if you knew them forever. Hosseini’s narration brings forth several different perspectives of women who suffer in the hands of social norms and their straitened standpoints. The book etches male characters who are forced to act in a certain way because they acquiesce to the norms of society, thus telling us a lot about men too.
It will make you feel mix rays of emotions. It strings many ordinary incidents to create an extraordinary story of Mariam and Laila.
The book will first make you cry and then will feed you with courage to break free from the unrealistic and limited views of social norms.
Walden or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
Read this in my hometown, surrounded with trees, close to the forest…
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”
First published in 1854, Walden is a detailed account of Thoreau’s 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days that he spent living in a cabin in the woods. Contrary to the wide belief, Thoreau lived just a few miles from the town and was not bound with certain rules like a typical hermit. He did not go to live in the cabin to prove a point but for self-discovery or as a thought experiment.
The idea is still popular among people who are trying and struggling hard to know who they really are, what is their purpose of living, and the meaning of life.
If you have ever dreamt of being a nomad, living a thrifty life away from the rest of the world – behold this wonderful classic book. Thoreau was a man who uprightly expressed his resistance towards the government and cared little for society’s ills. He not only believed that hoarding wealth was unnecessary but also the labor put in earning that wealth was pointless too. The next thing everyone knew was Thoreau had packed his bags and left for the woods.
Unlike most books, Walden is most interesting in the beginning. His sarcasm, wit, smart DIY, arguments, and lifestyle will keep you hooked to the book and might bring you some unexpected revelations that will change your life.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
The book that was like none other…the book that hailed Ayn Rand as my Godmother…
“To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.”
Published in 1943, The Fountainhead is, hands down, a masterpiece.
It caught itself up in controversies because of the radical ideas that it promoted. This story of Howard Roark is a constant battle between conformity and independence/individuality. The craftsmanship of this novel goes beyond the plot and style of narration.
The book is all about maintaining your individualism and surviving against a world that is persistently asking you to kneel down to its ways. The story takes you through visions, greed, lust, betrayal, crime, and loss. It is the chaos in the book that will bring clarity to you. This is a book that is started by most but completed by only a few readers. It is a book that, once read, is unforgettable.
The Fountainhead will challenge your perspective, your viewpoints, and way of thinking on every single page. It will peel your thoughts, shred them into threads and weave them anew. If there is one book that you are going to pick from this list, I shamelessly insist you start from The Fountainhead.
Mahabharata by Vyasa
My favorite bedtime story which I have listened to and read a thousand times…
A man should never despise himself, for brilliant success never attends on the man who is contemned by himself.
One of the major Sanskrit epics or ancient India, Mahabharata is a legendary narrative of Kurukshetra War and all the events that fueled the anguish and contempt into the hearts of Kaurava (antagonists) and Pandavas (protagonists) which led to this fatal fate.
While, the epic is now largely associated with Hinduism and has become an integral part of the culture and religious sentiments of Hindus, I insist that you read it independent of these conventional notions. Read it as you would read any other literary text.
Being the longest poem ever written till date, reading it is not an overnight task. But, it is all worth it since the story reveals a lot about human nature and what it is capable of. There will be times when you will hate the protagonists and sympathize with the antagonists. The lines between good and bad easily blur in the book.
Though said to be written between 8th and 9th century BCE, the tale encircles everything that still persist in the modern days. This includes greed, lust, betrayal, molestation, love, and finally dharamyudh which was a crusade for the true vision against visionary illusion.
Whether a fantasy fiction or life of Gods and demigods, The Mahabharata is an influential narrative which will change your perspective.
Pro tip: Bhagvat Gita, said to have been spoken by God himself (Krishna) during the war, is 700-verse scripture and 6th book of the Mahabharata. You can read it as an independent piece of literature and still understand what it is trying to tell you through the medium of conversation between Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) and Krishna (the God himself). The book operates in layers including poetry, scripture, philosophy, and as a self-help guide.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The one you are going to enjoy…
“They’re trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
No one’s trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?” Yossarian asked.
They’re shooting at everyone,” Clevinger answered. “They’re trying to kill everyone.”
And what difference does that make?”
A satire against the government, Catch-22 is a story set during the Second World War. It is a narrative of smart captain of Air Force, John Yossarian. He is always trying hard to get out of the war which he does not wish to fight. His character will fuel your inner rebel while cautioning you to not blindly put your faith into the system. The book will ask you to question everything, stand up for what you love, and keep your sanity intact. While the theme this classic book partakes is serious, its narration is downright hilarious.
Meaning of Catch-22: A bureaucratic rule that a man who willingly continues to fly dangerously combat missions will be considered insane, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
Found it while looking for a detailed history of Buddhism…I never forget it…
I have little knowledge about its origin and background but that does not change my view of the Heart Sutra. It speaks for itself. To put it simply, reading and understanding Heart Sutra took years of re-reading and searching, but once understood, it eased my monkey mind.
I am sure a list of 10 does no justice to the long list of influential classics. Therefore, maybe I will do a part or two more. If there is a book you’d like me to include in the coming parts, either drop a mail or comment in the section below.