Books To Read Before You Die 2019

Although this page is titled 'Books to read before you die', the focus should not be on death but on making the most of the life you have.

The collection of books below are all classics in their own right and are tremendous reads but also focus on topics such as relationships and friendship (The Wind in the Willows), treating all human beings with dignity and fairness (To Kill a Mocking Bird), morality (Lord of the Flies), father and son relationships (The Road) and making a stand for freedom and right (1984). It is a collection that should be enjoyed for both the narratives and the lessons to be learned.

If you read this collection bearing that in mind then you will not fail to come out at the end a better and improved person.


Our top 10 books to read before you die are:

The Wind in the WillowsKenneth GreeneView on Amazon
The AlchemistPaulo CoelhoView on Amazon
Naïve. SuperErlend LoeView on Amazon
To Kill a MockingbirdHarper LeeView on Amazon
The Kite RunnerKhaled HosseiniView on Amazon
Lord of the FliesWilliam GoldingView on Amazon
The RoadCormac McCarthyView on Amazon
King LearWilliam ShakespeareView on Amazon
1984George OrwellView on Amazon
The Diary Of A Young GirlAnne FrankView on Amazon
SiddharthaHermann HesseView on Amazon

The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Greene)

Wind in the Willows

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About the book

A tale of friendship acted out in anthropomorphic animals Mole, Rat, Badger, Toad and other friends, Kenneth Grahame’s book is a real classic that was first published in 1908. An adventurous and exciting read, that slows down in places to enable reflection, it takes the reader on a journey that shares the adventures and misadventures of the group of animal friends.

Throughout this reading, there are events that act as a lesson to us all. Set in Edwardian England, everything that each of these characters does in the story Graham tells has a magical adventure about it and leaves us wide-eyed and intrigued.

A deep tale of relationships and animal etiquette, there is much to be learned from Grahame’s tale, both for its target audience of younger readers as well as the not so young. An apparently innocent book to the young, when you re-read this book as an adult you’ll see more clearly the philosophical and religious messages this tale contains. Heartwarming and funny, you’ll be left appreciating what you have in the right here, right now a whole lot more.

About the author

Born in 1859 in Edinburgh, Kenneth Grahame was brought up by his grandmother after his mother’s death and because of his father’s problems with alcohol. Prior to writing The Wind in the Willows, he was secretary of the Bank of England. Moving to England in his early years he spent a considerable amount of time around the River Thames before moving back to Scotland for a spell.

After a somewhat turbulent childhood, Grahame found himself being educated at St Edward’s School in Oxford. He went on to become secretary of the Bank of England and when he took retirement from this role, he moved from the city back to Berkshire where he once again spent much of his time by the River Thames.

His life in many ways resembled the characters in his book. A life that revolved around the river and boats, it is easy to see where his inspiration came from. In fact, it is reported that the origin of the story was based on the bedtime stories he made up for his son.

The takeaways

This book will leave you feeling more appreciative of the here and now. We see the characters drawn to what they believe are bigger and better things only to find out that what they’ve left behind was the true route to happiness. This tale will inspire you to stop and think.

Who should read this book?

This book is such a classic, arguably everyone should read it in adulthood as well as enjoy it in younger life. It is particularly appealing to anyone who’s feeling a sense that the grass might be greener on the other side.

Great reasons to read this book

  1. It is a classic that is worthy of re-visiting in adulthood as well as childhood.
  2. It will leave you appreciating more what you have in front of you right now.
  3. It is a beautiful tale that will conjure up images in your mind that will stay with you for a very, very long time.

The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

The Alchemist - another of the books to read before you die

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About the book

First published in 1988, The Alchemist is considered a modern classic with the potential to change lives. The tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy keen to travel in order to find treasure, this book takes the reader on his adventure and enables us to share in the treasures he finds on his journey to Egypt. This international bestseller tells a story that is as romantic as it is inspirational, encouraging us all to reach for the stars.

Setting out on his journey to recover treasure which he has been told by a Romani fortune teller is in the pyramids in Egypt, Santiago, the shepherd boy gives up everything to follow his dream. The journey starts with the young Santiago meeting an old king who advises him to sell his sheep in pursuit of his Personal Legend – demonstrating that day to day happenings help people achieve their dreams.

Several encounters take place along the way, including a love affair whereby Fatima, the girl he falls in love with puts her own needs second to the pursuit of Santiago’s dream. When he encounters an alchemist he finds out all about Personal Legends and that the risk of not following your dream is significantly greater than the risk of so doing.

This book is all about finding your destiny and is hailed as much a self-help book as it is a novel. The overriding message is that when you really want something, the whole universe will “conspire so your wish comes true”.

About Paulo Coelho

Brazilian by birth, Paulo Coelho originally wrote this novel in Portuguese and it has since been translated into almost 70 languages. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1947, his dream was always to become a writer. Having been mocked by his parents for this dream, he is even reported to have been committed to a mental institution by them in his teenage years.

Later attempting to conform to his parents’ wishes, he went to law school before dropping out and living an off-beat life as a hippie and a drug user in the 1960s. Going on to become a successful songwriter, it was by walking the Road of Santiago de Compostello that he focused his mind and rekindled his dream of becoming a writer. A Guinness book of records record holder, this is the book that has been translated more than any other by a living author.

What to take from this book

The over-riding message in this entry from our 'books to read before you die' list is that we should all follow our dreams. No matter how far-fetched they may seem, the power of the world around us will help us realise them and achieve our goals.

Who should read this?

Anyone who has a long-lived, or even short-lived desire to do something but is hesitating for fear of the risk involved would benefit from reading this book. Its message is that the risk of not following your dream is, in fact, greater than the risks involved in following it, making it inspirational and potentially life-changing.

3 great reasons to read this book

  1. It is a gripping tale.
  2. Its message is potentially life changing.
  3. Even if it doesn’t change your life, you’ll certainly be left feeling much more optimistic than before.

Naïve. Super (Erlend Loe)

Naive Super

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About the book

This is a gripping read about a 25-year-old student who has lost interest in life and goes on to throw in the towel at the university to venture on a journey of discovery. Written from the point of view of the young man himself, this book is a true gem. An incredibly simple tale, it draws you in from the start and takes you by the hand on a journey that you’ll be able to relate to wholeheartedly. In fact, the story is so strong that at times it feels almost as if the narrator is reading your mind.

The young student jacks in his MA and squats in his brother’s apartment in New York while his brother is away on business. Feeling constrained by events and life itself he is, at the same time, overwhelmed by the choices available to him and unable to decide how he would like his future to look. The young man turns to lists to help him formulate his thoughts as well as simplifying what he can in search of true meaning and direction.

A book that is written in perfect harmony with the thoughts and actions of the narrator, its style draws us in emotionally so we feel his feelings and share his thoughts perfectly. A real opportunity to reflect on your own thoughts, obsessions and fears, this book will take you on a revealing and humorous journey. It is a real treat.

About the author

Erlend Loe is a Norwegian author, screenwriter and film critic. He was born in 1969 in Trondheim. Prior to becoming an author, Loe worked at a psychiatric clinic and was a freelance journalist. His writing style is distinctive, ironic and humorous. This is one of his most appreciated works and has been translated into 20 languages.

The takeaways from this book

The main takeaway from this book is that whatever we are feeling, we are not alone. While our own lives are 100% of what we experience and we may find our worries and concerns odd and strange, there are lots of other people out there stressing over the same things. The big topics covered by the book are presented in an accessible and appealing way, enabling you to feel completely connected with the main character.

Who should read this?

If you’re suffering any sort of crisis, questioning yourself, or the reasons for living, I think you’ll find this book is inspirational. Alternatively, if you’re lacking direction, this book will assure you that you’re not alone. A great boost to helping you work through your thoughts, it is a light, as well as an occasionally deep read. Gripping from start to finish, it lets you get up close and personal and take a bird’s eye view on the narrator’s life and how he worked through his issues and came out the other end.

3 reasons to read this book

  1. It will inspire you to consider bigger things than your immediate self.
  2. It will help you figure out your place in the world.
  3. It will make you feel as if you’re not alone in your concerns, worries or dilemmas.

To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

To Kil A Mockingbird

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About the book

Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was an immediate success and has since become a classic. Set in the American Deep South during the Great Depression, this book is almost autobiographical in its style. It is warm and funny even though it addresses some heavy and serious subjects such as rape and racial inequality. Said by some to be based on real people who touched the life of Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird it is an intimate tale of friendship, adventure and intrigue.

A story that is told in the voice of two children, this book is based on racial injustice and the loss of innocence, as well as other issues that are addressed by Lee, such as class, courage and compassion. With a resounding message encouraging tolerance and equality, this book is, in some areas controversially, on the reading list in many schools in the US. Notwithstanding the fact that it found its way on to school readings lists, it’s not a book that has drawn much in the way of literary analysis. That said, it is upheld by many as a must-read – in fact by some it is even put ahead of the bible.

About the Harper Lee

Harper Lee, born in 1926 in Monroeville Alabama, United States, died in 2016 aged 89 in her hometown. Best known for writing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee also wrote Go Set a Watchman in the mid-1950s, which was published just before her death in 2015. In 1961 she scooped the Pulitzer prize for To Kill a Mockingbird and in 2007 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature.

What is to be taken from the book?

This novel puts forward the argument that all human beings are equal and deserve to be treated with dignity, no matter their class, race or age. Reading this book has the potential to alter the way you view people who you currently consider to be marginalised or on the edge of society.   One character in the book, Boo Radley is portrayed by all as a ridiculous person, yet the story exposes him as a kind, sweet and gentle man who simply wants to be alone. He shows extreme kindness and ultimately saves Scout and Jem, two of the other character’s lives. This read is particularly valuable for anyone who finds themselves in a troubled moral situation or feels as if they might be judging others before really getting to know them.

Who should read this book?

This book is a modern-day classic that is worthy of adding to your reading list if you’re interested in the subjects of injustice and prejudice in society. It is a warm and encouraging read, particularly against the backdrop of world events today.

3 great reasons to read the book

  1. It is a heartwarming story that is incredibly well told.
  2. It contains an interesting, gripping and moral storyline that still has huge value and impact today.
  3. It will stop you in your tracks if you are someone who judges people before you get to know them.

The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

The Kite Runner

About the book

A book that was sparked by the banning of kite flying in Afghanistan by the Taliban, The Kite Runner started its life as a short story. Khaled Hosseini is reported to have been horrified when he read in the news that kite flying had been banned by the Taliban and put pen to paper to recount a fictional, yet somewhat autobiographical story about two boys flying kites in Kabul. With his story having been rejected by two major magazines, Hosseini left his script to gather dust for a few years, but then in 2001, decided to make it into a book.

A book that has the relationship between parents and their children running through every element of it, it is quite a dark story of survival against the odds and there are many parallels throughout the novel with Hosseini’s real life.

An intimate tale of life in Kabul in its peaceful times it tells a story of underlying, horrific violence. It also explores the battle for recognition and status that the youth live out to gain the respect of the older generations. Brutally interrupted by war it goes on to tell a tale of survival, love and loss. This book shares the horrific reality of war and the impact it has on individuals as well as society at large. A heart-wrenching tale, The Kite Runner is a book that grips you from the word “go”.

About the author

A medical intern prior to becoming a writer, Khaled Hosseini’s journey into writing is charming and appealing in equal measure. Born in the mid-1960s in Kabul, Hosseini grew up in the United States and became a doctor in California. Reported as never feeling truly at home in his role, he has published 3 books and has now stepped down from his medical profession to become a full-time writer. A man who openly states that he struggles with the guilt he feels for having escaped his country and living a privileged life, he now enjoys The New York Times Best Seller Status and is a highly successful author.

Key messages

This book shows how fragile societies are from time to time. It provides an up close and personal viewpoint of the impact of war and change. A real emotional rollercoaster of violence, love and loss, this gripping book leaves you in no doubt about how fortunate you are.

Who should read this book?

Anyone who has an interest in the human story of war will be drawn by it. If you are interested in the reality behind war or have a desire to get into the mind of someone directly affected, will find this book in equal measure disturbing, enlightening and gripping. It is likely to make you want to read Hosseini’s later books, A Thousand Splendid Suns and the Mountains Echoed.

Reasons to read the book

  1. It is a detailed story, told with credibility, intimacy and care.
  2. It gives context to recent world events in a way that is unusual and enlightening.
  3. It is a great introduction to an author who already has 2 other great reads to offer and will no doubt have much more to come.

Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

Lord of the Flies

About Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a book that was rejected by publishers first time around. In fact, with a reported 21 rejections before it was finally accepted, this, William Golding’s first book went on to become his most acclaimed work. Set around war time, the book tells the story of a gang of British teenage boys who, as a result of a plane crash found themselves stranded on a desert island in the Pacific Ocean. Despite their determination to create order amongst themselves, they went on to declare war on each other.

The story is a battle of personalities jockeying for power. Such is the disorder of the group that they become more and more lazy and more and more hateful towards each other. With tales of a “beast” on the island, the boys fail to keep smoke signals going to attract help and get distracted by the arrival of a fighter pilot who has been ejected from a plane, dying during his descent.

This is a tale of good and evil and how the rules we face in society are the main reason why we don’t turn against each other. With tribal forces at large, the boys soon turn completely against each other with horrendous consequences. Full of symbolism and heightened emotions this is is a gripping, but a dark tale.

About the author

A tenacious character, William Golding was born in 1911 in Saint Columb Minor, Cornwall, England. A philosophy teacher, who had a spell in the Royal Navy, he struggled to get Lord of the Flies published when he sent it around publishing houses in 1953 before finally tracking down a publisher in 1954. This seems surprising today, bearing in mind that it has become a classic teenage read.

An ex-school teacher, Golding is reputed to have written the book while he should have been teaching and even asked his pupils to work on calculating the word count. A man who fought to get his book published, he later went on to be ashamed of it, describing it as ‘boring and crude’ when it remained more popular than his later books which he thought were superior. With a dark upbringing due to his abusive mother, he was a troubled man who described himself as a monster. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983 and died in 1993 not far from the place of his birth.

Takeaways from this book

This is a thought-provoking read about power, rules, rational and emotional reactions as well as morality and immorality. It is played out in the normally (relatively) innocent minds of teenagers which make it an even more interesting read. This book will leave you questioning how far we would go to achieve our own goals.

Who should read this book?

Few people won’t have heard of this book. Many won’t have read it. If you’re one of the people who hasn’t read this Secondary School classic, then it is well worth your time. It is also worth a re-read if you read it as a teenager and you’re now in your later years.

3 reasons to read the book

  1. It’s a real classic.
  2. It lays bare what happens when a group of wartime teenage boys find themselves in a situation where they face a choice of fighting for themselves or the good of the whole community.
  3. It is a thought-provoking novel, which is over 60 years old, but still, draws the reader in today as it did over half a century ago.

The Road (Cormac McCarthy)

The Road

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About the book

Essentially a book about a young boy and his father who are taking a journey after a global disaster, this book focuses on a host of significant themes including:

  • Death and violence
  • Paternal love
  • Good and evil
  • Trust
  • Faith and doubt
  • Survival and resilience

Set in the south-east corner of the US, the man and boy are amongst very few post-apocalyptic survivors and are faced with horrendous challenges on their journey, such as rough terrain, dead bodies and ghost-towns.

They come across every atrocity you can imagine from murder to rape and even cannibalism. Believing that good will overcome evil, they remain positive and carry on with their journey until the father’s health deteriorates to such an extent that he dies in close proximity to his son. The son is forced to leave his father and finds solace in a family he meets with whom he starts his new journey.

About the Cormac McCarthy

Born in 1933 in Rhode Island in the US, Cormac McCarthy has written 10 novels in all, a number of which have been transformed into films and plays. The third of 6 children, his birth name was Charles, but he preferred to take on the name Cormac, after an Irish King.

When he left the school he went to university and majored in liberal arts. As a young man, he served 4 years in the US Air Force, based in Alaska where he hosted a radio show. He then did a second stint at the university between 1957 and 1959 and took to writing while working as a car mechanic. He published his first novel The Orchard Keeper in 1965 before making the move from the US to Europe, where he stayed for a couple of years. A writer who gained lots of fellowships and grants, he wrote a string of novels and plays that have had varying degrees of success.

The takeaways

This book is an Aladdin’s cave of takeaways. Death, paternal love, good and evil, trust, faith and doubt, survival and resilience are at the core of this father and son’s struggle for survival in horrendous circumstances. Although the struggle that this father and son duo face is so far removed from the world we live in today, it leaves the reader with a host of unanswered questions and a desire to explore deeper into the reasoning and strength of this pair. It also makes us question our own being and our own place in the world.

Who should read this?

For anyone who is looking for a greater view on love, mortality, spirituality, isolation, strength and compassion, this book is a must. While it won’t necessarily provide you with answers, it will help you put structure around your thoughts.

3 great reasons to read the book

  1. It is a passionate and powerful story told with an almost alarming attention to detail.
  2. Although it is a complex story, it is written in a highly engaging and unusual way.
  3. It motivates you to move forward even in the face of hopelessness – it portrays survival at all cost.

King Lear (William Shakespeare)

King Lear

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About King Lear

A Shakespearean tragedy, King Lear is the play that tells the tale of a King’s journey to madness following the passage of his kingdom to two of his three daughters. Because of 2 of his daughters’ flattery, King Lear shows real favouritism, excluding his third daughter from his estate and his actions, spell disaster all round.

Based on a mythological character, Shakespeare started to draft this book in England in the early 1600s. A dark and somewhat depressing story, it majors on human suffering and kinship. Hailed as one of his best works by many, bizarrely the play has been revised during its lifetime to be performed to audiences with a happy ending.

It tells the tale of King Lear himself who, wishing to retire from the throne promises to pass the greatest part of his realm to the daughter who loves him most. Allowing his daughters to express the extent of their love one by one, he starts with the oldest and by the time he gets to the youngest, he is enraged by her response and splits her inheritance between the other two. This gives rise to a myriad of events that splits not only Lear’s direct family but his indirect family too. Without stealing the story’s thunder, the daughters who inherited soon turn on their father exposing their false declarations of love.

The twist in the tale is that the daughter who was rejected by her father is the one who saves him but pays a horrendous price. This is a gripping tale of right and wrong, of justice, reconciliation and redemption.

About the William Shakespeare

Born in April 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom, William Shakespeare died on April 23rd, 1616. An English poet, playwright and actor he is arguably the most celebrated English-language writer of all time. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, his works are studied in schools throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Amongst his other works, he wrote a reported 38 plays and some 154 sonnets. King Lear is amongst one of his most known works alongside Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth.

The takeaways from this 

The over-riding message in this play is to look beyond face value. The two elder daughters of King Lear exaggerated their love for their father for material gain. His youngest daughter was cheated out of her inheritance because she expressed herself less well and was more reserved, yet it was her who came through in the end to save him.

Who should read King Lear?

Because this play is such a classic of all time, it deserves a place on any reader’s bucket list. If you haven’t read it before, I’d recommend you put it on your list and even if you have, and it was some time ago, you’re likely to enjoy this read again. Given the strong theme of death within the play it is somewhat ironic that it is included in our Books To Read Before You Die list.

3 great reasons to read the play

  1. It’s an all-time classic that you may have been forced to read at school and is well worth a re-visit with more willing and more mature eyes.
  2. Every time you read this book you’ll get something new from it that you didn’t see the last time.
  3. It’ll inspire thoughts and questions that will get you to re-think the status quo.

1984 (George Orwell)


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About the book

The originator of the phrase 'Big Brother is watching you', 1984 is all about life without freedom. First published in 1949, 1984 is a tale that takes place in an undesirable world, that is much worse than the world we know and live in. Set in Oceania, one of 3 fictional superpower states, the book centres around an existence where individuals are observed by authority figures and discouraged from any form of free thinking.

Based on two key characters, Winston and Julia, it is the story of struggle against the loss of freedom that exists in Orwell’s 1984. Free enterprise and individual freedom have been replaced by super domination and ultimate control. In this world, everything, right down to Winston’s clothing is supplied by the government.

A story of determination, love against all odds, being pushed to the limits and betrayal, 1984 is a chilling revelation as to how people can be influenced by events and powers that they can’t even see. Thanks to propaganda, rules and brainwashing, the population in 1984 is obsessed with making things the way the superpowers want it and are severely punished for stepping out of line: cue Room 101. In many ways a description of the world when it was written, 1984 shows the price that Winston pays when he chooses to fight the system.

About the author

George Orwell was born in Motihari, India in 1903 to the name of Eric Arthur Blair. An English writer, he adopted the name George Orwell for his books and essays. A man is known for his interest in social injustice, his book list includes Animal Farm, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia as well as 1984. An outspoken supporter of democracy, it’s important to remember that Orwell wrote 1984 at a time when Nazism and Stalinism were still in full force in the world.

What to take away

The overriding takeaway from Orwell’s 1984 is the importance of standing up for our rights for freedom of thought. The observations he made, almost 40 years before the date itself were uncanny in certain ways. In today’s world, it could be argued that there are three zones of influence – one where the people are ruled in a similar way to Orwell’s world and the others who are highly influenced by the might of the US. A fight to keep democracy alive, 1984 acts as an effective warning to what could happen in the world one day.

Who should read 1984?

This book is a classic and arguably should be on everyone’s reading ‘bucket list’. A deep and chilling vision of how the world could look if power took too strong a grip, if nothing else, it will motivate you to continue to stand up for your freedom.

3 great reasons to read this

  1. It’s a classic.
  2. It was written 40 years ahead of its time and made some chillingly accurate predictions about the future.
  3. It’ll focus your mind on how much freedom we do (or don’t) have today.

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

The Diary of a Young Girl

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About the book

This book tells the story of a young Jewish teenager, Anne Frank who lived in Holland during the second world war, having fled from Germany to escape the wrath of Hitler. It spans a couple years of her life, the largest part of which she spent in hiding from the Nazis.

Anne’s journal is written to an imaginary friend who she calls Kitty. This gives the book a beautiful and intriguing narrative style and makes it a highly intimate as well as a gripping read.

The book tells the story of when Anne and her family joined another family, the Van Daans and a dentist called Albert Dussel to hide from Hitler and the Nazis in an apartment in the Otto Frank’s office building. A journal that started off focused on Anne’s own life, her angle changes when she hears that the government is keen to put together a collection of diaries and letters about the war. At that point, she takes a more journalistic approach to her writing. She tells stories about the war as she is hearing them and the impact they’re having on her. The end result is a book that gives a really close up view of her life; warts and all.

A tragic story with a highly political angle, it is more of a tale of good over evil than anything else. Although Anne is living in a society where Jews were highly restricted in their actions, she still manages to be optimistic. It is hard at times to see how Anne’s heart can be so big, but it is a highly credible and heartwarming story nonetheless. Her positivity, her optimism and her love of others is simply inspirational.

About Anne Frank

Born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, Anne Frank spent most of her life based around Amsterdam in Holland. Annelies Marie Frank to give her her full name is today one of the most renowned victims of the Holocaust. This is in very large part because of the popularity of this book, which has been read globally as well as being the subject of numerous plays and films.

The takeaways

This book is proof that wherever there is life, there is hope. Even in the most horrific of circumstances, the young Anne Frank was optimistic and positive. Touching on the challenges of adolescence as well as what was happening around her, the book takes the reader on a journey where generosity and greed is examined. All in all, this is a book that leaves you feeling fortunate and blessed.

Who should read this book?

This classic should be read by anyone who is interested in personal accounts of wartime living as well as anyone who needs reminding of how lucky they are. A truly inspirational read, set amongst a backdrop of hatred and destruction, the optimism it oozes is infectious.

3 great reasons to read this book

  1. It tells an intimate, true story of good and evil.
  2. It is an all-time classic.
  3. It will leave you feeling incredibly grateful.

Siddhartha (Herman Hesse)


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About the book

Siddhartha is one of Hesse’s later books. Published in 1922, it encompasses a culmination of visits to Asia and the Middle East. Based around similar themes to his earlier books, Siddhartha’s plot centres around alienation and desire for self-knowledge. Unlike his other publications, however, this work is presented from a Buddhist angle.

Later to become Hesse’s most well known and most celebrated book, Siddhartha is about a young man born in ancient India. A handsome man with a respected father, Siddhartha’s life was assumed to be laid out before him by all around him (rather like Hesse’s himself), but the book tells the story of his struggle to find true happiness and peace. Believing there is more to the world than his entourage can see or have experienced, he is drawn by a wandering group of ascetics which he joins with a friend.

Stripped of all the material trappings of life Siddhartha finds the true spiritual enlightenment that he has been yearning, but only until they are seduced away by another promise of Nirvana.

Continually disillusioned, he goes full circle and ends up embracing a life of pleasure and materials that spiral quickly out of control, leading him once again seeking simplicity and true happiness and peace. This is a spell-binding tale of a search for meaning that is beautifully told and will grip you from the first page.

About the author

Hermann Hesse was born into a missionary family in 1877 in Calw, not far from the Black Forest in Germany. Hesse’s entourage assumed that because of his background he would join the clergy himself. However, following several emotional and behavioural problems, he quit education and worked in a range of book shops. Becoming obsessed with books, Hesse’s life path led him to write. He published his first, in part autobiographical novel in 1904 when he was 37 years of age. Influenced by World War 1, Hesse took a political stance and worked as a journalist for a short time. This experience had a huge impact on him and led to personal issues that drew him to the writings of Sigmund Freud and even direct contact with Carl Jung.

The takeaways

This book is all about a search for enlightenment, a battle between inner and outer influences, such as wealth and power versus happiness and peace. A love story, it portrays the wisdom of indirection – how we often find things when and where we least expect to.

Who should read this book?

Anyone who seems to be constantly battling with a notion that the grass is always greener on the other side would benefit from reading this book. It is an up close and personal tale that almost any adult can relate to and is beautifully told.

3 great reasons to read this book

  1. It is a gripping tale that’s beautifully told.
  2. It is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1922.
  3. It is truly inspirational and has the potential to change your life if you let it.