23 Books Everyone Should Read (At Least) Once In Their Lives

A lot of us stop reading the second we don't have to for school. But, when looking for a much-needed break from screentime, nothing hits the spot like a good old-fashioned paperback.

Disney / Via giphy.com

(aka old-school Kindles.)

So, Reddit user u/bugtanks33d took it to the web and asked: "What's a book everyone should read at least once in their lives?"

In one of the most genuine threads I've seen on Reddit, the responses came in hard and fast. Check some out below!

CW: Psychiatric hospitalization

1.The Phantom Tollbooth

"Maybe one of my favorite literary moments…

Milo: Many of the things I’m supposed to know seem so useless that I can’t see the purpose of learning them at all.

Princess of Sweet Rhyme: ...what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”


2.The Giver

"That book made my 9–10-year-old mind really think about what was important in society. It was the first time the idea of 'good' things having a negative consequence' was presented to me. I think what makes it work is that we are learning how this whole society really works alongside a character who has lived in it his whole life. As the facade of the utopian society begins to fall away to show devastating consequences of the 'perfect life and society,' the reader not only feels their shock, but the main character’s shock... This book, written for 9–13-year-olds, made for great discussions."



"By Elie Wiesel. It is absolutely heart-wrecking, and I hated every moment of reading it, which is exactly the effect it is supposed to have." — u/gedehamse


"If you are younger, come back to the book when you are a little older and have read a bit more. I think sometimes these types of books do require a little life experience before you start seeing the book for what it really is.

I first read Catch-22 at age 26, and it is still the best book I have ever read — at times hilarious, poignant, and challenging.

It changed my views on politics, war, morality, corporations, determinism, authority, and blind nationalism/loyalty. It's also a master class on writing.

There are jokes in the book that take the entire book to get to the punch line. It can be a long read, but it is well worth it. Try again in a few years."


5.All Quiet on the Western Front

"Knocks any silly ideas you may have had about war being glamorous or exciting right out of your fucking head. I read it when I was 10. I didn't even really like playing war after that... This book should be mandatory reading in every high school on earth." — u/seemonkey

6.The Grapes of Wrath and/or Of Mice and Men

"Both are heartbreaking, but not for the sake of being heartbreaking — instead they provide a glimpse of how freaking hard life can be, but also how beautiful it can be." — u/spicy_quicksand

7.The Count of Monte Cristo

"I love The Count of Monte Cristo... No one else I know has read it except the others I went to high school with.

My teacher explained the moral as "the happiness one is capable of can only be measured by the sadness one endures."

So like, if '0' is neither happy nor sad, if you only ever experience a sadness that is (-1), then you can never be happier than (+1). If a serious trauma happens on your life that's (-10), then it's possible to feel happiness that's (+10).

And that got me through so many heartbreaks and disappointments in my life; I don't even know how I'd have done it otherwise." — u/Aztechie

8.The Brothers Karamazov

"By Dostoevsky. Surprised I haven't seen it here already, so I'll add it... In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut said it could teach everything that we needed to know about life, except that wasn't enough anymore..." — u/ghostofcrilly

9.War and Peace

"I love that book. There are no villains. Just people with good and bad in them — like all of us.

I think sometimes that almost everyone I have ever met has been like one of the characters in War and Peace." — u/beyondwhatis

10.The Westing Game

"A librarian here — such a terrific book. I have gotten so many kids to read it by hooking them with the fact that the reader can play the game and has all of the clues. And good luck, as it is fiendishly clever." — u/Duedsml23

11.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


"Adams has one of the 'unique' voices in writing. Almost no one writes like him." —[deleted]

12.The Princess Bride

"My friends and I read this in high school in 1977. Everyone had a favorite part — literally something for everyone. When the movie came out I was happy, and I love it, too, but the book has so much more!" — u/lapsedpoet

13.Man's Search for Meaning

"When I was 17, I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for the first time. My boss, from a fast-food joint called Harvey's (it's Canadian, great food — 20 years later I still run into her outside of the restaurant!), got my call saying I'd need a couple weeks off, and I trusted her enough to tell her where I was.

Half-hour later she shows up with two books, that being one of them. I read it that night. I still have it. It is a great book; it really helped. I read it a few times over my three-week stay, and I had brought a lot of books, and we had a library. It was just good and inspiring.

She also gave everyone gift cards to the restaurant. She was great. She visited a few times. Thank you, Anne."


14.The Stranger

"By Albert Camus."


15.Johnny Got His Gun

"It’s so intense, but it’s so good. Metallica’s song 'One' is based off this book. Guy has his arms and legs blown off, goes blind and deaf, and is left to live like that. I only read it once, but it’s forever engrained into my memory. It hits you like a freight train." — u/_AskMyMom_


"It’s a classic for a reason, and no movie adaptation has ever really done it justice." — u/boop-oop-a-doop

17.Flowers for Algernon

"Just came here to say that I also have phenylketonuria, the same disability that Charlie Gordon has in the book, which is one of the many reasons why it is one of my favorite reads. It is incredible how far medicine has come in just a few decades. When the book was written in the '60s, Charlie’s prognosis was pretty typical for the time. Over the years, treatments, medication, and understanding of the condition have allowed me, and many others, to lead a completely normal life (albeit with some tweaks). I was lucky to be born at a pretty good time (1995), which was precisely when treatment of phenylketonuria was perfected. As a result, my brain didn’t suffer any developmental damage like Charlie’s did in the book, to a pretty incredible extent — I just finished a master’s degree and am applying to law school. It’s pretty wild to think that even if I were born ~10 years earlier, I would very likely not be in the same place I’m in today. What was considered science fiction just 60 years ago is now reality for the few thousand people born with phenylketonuria every year!"


18.Crime and Punishment



19.The Outsiders

"I was stupid in my youth, and I wound up in jail my senior year of high school. One of my teachers came to see me and gave me a copy of that book. I still have it. Mr. Simpson was a goddamn saint." — u/daddy_J_Pow

20.Brave New World

"It has my favorite lines of any book ever:

"Consider the horse.

They considered it."

While being somewhat absurd, it's also an unironically beautiful piece of prose."


21.The Very Hungry Caterpillar

"I know this book isn't like the other great novels listed, but it definitely brings me back to when I was a kid and my parents read it to me." — u/MEUP14

22.The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

"I can’t think of a more perfect book for right now.

"The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance." — u/justlikehoneyyyyy

23.And finally, not a particular novel, but an author: Kurt Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut in a suit and polka dot tie posing with giant chess pieces

"He has a way of stating truths about humanity in a way that is so direct and beautifully simple." — u/sparklysneakers

Cypress Films / Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Also, a tip for a lot of people reading this right now:

Tons of books in stacks, some spine out and some page-side out

"Many of the books mentioned here are in the public domain and in audio book form. Go through YouTube, Random House, Audible, and OverDrive for all the classical goodness you want. It almost totally eliminates the financial/time commitment that many will cite for not picking them up. I listen to books on double speed all the damn time." — u/pgottscht8iukjnfr

Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

What are some of your faves that aren't on the list? Let us know in the comments!

And check out the entire Reddit thread here.

Note: Some answers have been edited for length/clarity.