Readers are a community. When you find someone else who reads, you will have endless fodder for conversation. Have you read such-and-such an author? What did you think of so-and-so’s latest? And, inevitably, one day you will come across someone who is shocked–just shocked!–that a fellow bibliophile has not yet read one of their very favorites. Here’s a list that might show up in a conversation near you.
Fahrenheit 451: Confession–I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451. I love Bradbury’s short stories, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but I managed to miss this one in high school and still haven’t read it all these years later.
Pride and Prejudice: What?! You haven’t read Austen? You’re kidding, right? Be careful though. Austen has a mysterious effect on some people. First you’re reading about Darcy and Elizabeth; next thing you know you’re having tea in a waistcoat, cravat, or bonnet with the rest of the Empire-waisted Jane Austen Society. It can be life-changing.
Moby Dick: Long sections of detailed information about 19th century whaling techniques. What’s not to like? And a confession: haven’t read it. Don’t feel bad.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Wait, has anyone not read this book? If you haven’t, this is me giving you flak. Come to the library. Check it out.
Harry Potter: I held off so long before reading Harry Potter. I have an admittedly snobby belief that anything with that broad a fan base couldn’t possibly be good. I was wrong.
The Great Gatsby: Fitzgerald ripped the American Dream to absolute pieces in this Jazz-Age novel. Hence, everyone in America should read it at least once, right?
Anything by Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy readers are devoted fans, evangelists for their favorite authors and series. Sanderson is at the top of that favorites list for a lot of folks, and if you lend them an ear, they will tell you why you should pick up Mistborn or one his many other excellent novels.
A Tale of Two Cities: It’s the short Dickens, and you must read Dickens at least one in your life.
The Hobbit: Surely you’ve read Tolkien?! See above, re: fantasy evangelists. Tolkien fans are the original, and still the best.
Shakespeare: If you’ve graduated from a secondary school in America, chances are you were persuaded to read some sort of Shakespeare in high school. Having been a high school English teacher in a former life, I think I can safely assume that some of you have still never read it, whether you passed 10th grade language arts or not. However, I’m going to fight the whole crazy notion of canonical writings and suggest that you enjoy Shakespeare’s plays the way they were meant to be enjoyed: in the theater. And if you must read them (and I do like to read them) try reading them aloud, even the sonnets.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Maybe it’s a librarian thing, but when I first started working here, at least 10, maybe 10,000 of my coworkers asked me if I had read Margaret Atwood. I hadn’t then. I have now.