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Add these time-tested reads to your book bucket list

By Kobo • January 19, 2024Recommended Reading

Books that have been intriguing and enthralling readers for decades

Some of these books are responsible for setting trends that waves of other books followed, while others have always stood alone as sui generis works of literary genius. In any case, each contains unforgettable characters and places with stories that will stay with you for a lifetime. And each one is worth spending time with at some point in any life well-read.

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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.

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The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Nigerian author Ben Okri’s Booker Prize winning novel (the first in a trilogy) was hailed as a masterpiece from the moment it was published in 1991. It’s the story of a spirit-child named Azaro, who can’t bring himself to leave the mortal world where his mother and father continue to toil. It’s a fantastical book, not exactly in the tradition of magical realism, nor tightly tied to any African traditions, but something altogether unique and enduring.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

What is supposed to be a grand adventure in the big city working for the prestigious Ladies' Day magazine turns into a waking nightmare, with 19-year-old Esther questioning her decision to pursue a career—while she still has the option to marry her college sweetheart and become a housewife. The events in New York slowly consume Esther’s life, plunging her into a deep depression that she may never recover from. Anybody who's ever been on the horns of a dilemma of life choices will relate to Esther's predicament.

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The Once and Future King by T. H. White

The legends of King Arthur are retold delightfully by T.H White in what would become the basis for the Disney film, The Sword in the Stone.

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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

Today Michael Chabon stands tall among the greatest living American novelists, but here in his first novel we see the artist as a very young man. It’s the story of the son of a money launderer for the mob who’s supposed to break from the family business and get a regular job in finance after finishing high school. All of Chabon’s hallmarks are here: characters with unusual careers, family legacies, and inconvenient love interests. Published in 1988, it was among the earliest novels published by a mainstream publisher to feature a non-heterosexual love story without a moral agenda.

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The Stranger by Albert Camus

A profound exploration of existentialism and morality, Camus' classic novel portrays an enigmatic man who commits a senseless crime and then calmly, and apparently indifferently, sits through his trial and hears himself condemned to death.

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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen

Here’s another novel where history gets chewed up and regurgitated as an unforgettable story that pushes aside the actual events and people it’s based on with its vivid reimagining. Jesse James is the legendary outlaw who, with his brother Frank, robbed banks and trains and became a popular folk hero thanks to fawning newspaper accounts. Though the title warns us of James’ demise and at whose hands it will come, the magic of the book is in showing us the inner life of Robert Ford, a member of the James gang who craves fame for himself.

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The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The sixth in Chandler's series of novels featuring private investigator Philip Marlowe. Written during a dark time in Raymond Chandler’s life, it features the most autobiographical portrayal of the author in the characters of the usually inebriated writer Roger Wade. The author regarded it as his best book.

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