50 Books to Read Before You Die by Complex

Complex Magazine's selection of 50 must-read books.

  1. 1. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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    Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature, Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the ...


  2. 2. I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda

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    Collects eleven short stories about individuals longing to connect with others.

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  3. 3. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

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    To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: "the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself." You see exactly what he means in this cor...

    - Time

  4. 4. White Noise by Don DeLillo

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    Set at a bucolic midwestern college known only as The-College-on-the-Hill, White Noise follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who has made his name by pioneering the field of Hitle...


  5. 5. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

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    Chabon’s extraordinary story of one turbulent weekend in the life of a struggling writer, a satire of the permanent adolescence of the creative class A wildly successful first novel made Grady Trip...

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  6. 6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

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    Narrated by the gigantic but docile half-Indian "Chief" Bromden, who has pretended to be a deaf-mute for several years, the story focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, a ...


  7. 7. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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    The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Whil...


  8. 8. The Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

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    Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a 1973 novel by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the fictional town of Midland City, it is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old ...


  9. 9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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    The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not specify the name of th...


  10. 10. The Shining by Stephen King

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    The Shining is a 1977 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The title was inspired by the John Lennon song "Instant Karma!", which contained the line "We all shine on…". It was King's third...


  11. 11. Earth Abides by George Rippey Stewart

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    Returning from a field trip, Isherwood Williams discovers that a mysterious plague has destroyed human civilization during his absence and makes his way to San Francisco, where he finds a few survi...

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  12. 12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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    The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roar...


  13. 13. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...


  14. 14. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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    A family relocates to a small house on Ash Tree Lane and discovers that the inside of their new home seems to be without boundaries.

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  15. 15. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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    At this challenge, Mary Shelley began work on the 'ghost story' that was to evolve into the most celebrated horror novel in literary history. Frankenstein was published the next year and become the...


  16. 16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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    Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cite...


  17. 17. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

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    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that ha...

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  18. 18. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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    Lord of the Flies discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results....


  19. 19. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

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    The Fortress of Solitude is a 2003 semi-autobiographical novel by Jonathan Lethem set in Brooklyn and spanning the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. It follows two teenage friends, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude...


  20. 20. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

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    Watchmen is a graphic novel—a book-length comic book with ambitions above its station—starring a ragbag of bizarre, damaged, retired superheroes: the paunchy, melancholic Nite Owl; the raving dooms...

    - Time

  21. 21. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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    The title is taken from an old Cockney expression, "as queer as a clockwork orange" and alludes to the prevention of the main character's exercise of his free will through the use of a classical co...


  22. 22. The Stranger by Albert Camus

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    Since it was first published in English, in 1946, Albert Camus's extraordinary first novel, The Stranger (L'Etranger), has had a profound impact on millions of American readers. Through this story ...


  23. 23. The Notebook: The Proof ; The Third Lie : Three Novels by Agota Kristof

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    These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a frac...

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  24. 24. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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    The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se...


  25. 25. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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    First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly p...

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  26. 26. Books of Blood by Clive Barker

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    Five stories deal with an ax murderer, a race with death, a telekinetic killer, a terrifying demon, and a murderous ape.

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  27. 27. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

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    Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that ha...

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  28. 28. The Intuitionist: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

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    Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist wowed critics and readers everywhere and marked the debut of an important American writer. This marvellously inventive, genre-bending, noir-inflected novel, set ...

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  29. 29. Tales of H. P. Lovecraft by H. P. Lovecraft

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    When he died in 1937, destitute and emotionally as well as physically ruined, H. P. Lovecraft had no idea that he would one day be celebrated as the godfather of modern horror. A dark visionary, hi...

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  30. 30. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the title of the first of five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams. The novel is an adaptation of th...


  31. 31. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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    Set in the London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embod...


  32. 32. Flicker by Theodore Roszak

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    Jonathan Gates finds himself on an unwitting quest to discover the secret life of a forgotten director of silent movies, only to discover that the truth behind the director's strange films may be m...

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  33. 33. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

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    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the name of both a 1981 collection of short stories and the title of a story within the collection by the American writer Raymond Carver. Plots from...


  34. 34. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

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    Haunted is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you'll ever encounter. They are told by the people who have all answered ...

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  35. 35. The Stories of Ray Bradbury by Ray Bradbury

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    A volume of 100 top-selected stories by the iconic writer includes Martian tales, pieces inspired by life in Mexico and offbeat reminiscences of a childhood in Green Town, Illinois. By the National...

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  36. 36. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a best-selling novel written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised...


  37. 37. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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    The Big Sleep (1939) is a crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and a...


  38. 38. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

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    Calvino's anti-novel is about the efforts of his two characters — a man called only The Reader, and the Other Reader, a woman named Ludmilla — to read ten very different novels. They are never able...


  39. 39. The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall

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    On the windswept front of Morecambe Bay, Cy Parks spends his childhood years first in a guest house for consumptives run by his mother and then as apprentice to alcoholic tattoo-artist Eliot Riley....

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  40. 40. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

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    Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery...


  41. 41. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

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    An apocalyptic cult member carries out a gas attack on a rush-hour metro, but what links him to a jazz buff in downtown Tokyo? Or to a Mongolian gangster, a woman on a holy mountain who talks to a ...

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  42. 42. Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson

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    Collection of short stories from Denis Johnson


  43. 43. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

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    New Year's Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their quest: to track down the obscure, vanis...

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  44. 44. Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. Dick

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    Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick contains twenty-one of Dick’s most dazzling and resonant stories, which span his entire career and show a world-class writer working at the peak of his powers. In...

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  45. 45. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialized in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915 and published in book form in 1916. It depicts the formativ...


  46. 46. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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    The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely st...


  47. 47. Native Son by Richard Wright

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    The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into troubl...


  48. 48. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

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    A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険, Hitsuji o meguru bōken?) is a novel published in 1982 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It is the sequel to Pinball, 1973, and is the second book in Murakami's "Trilo...


  49. 49. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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    One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning car...


  50. 50. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

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    Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles upon a transaction gone horribly wrong. Finding bullet-ridden bodies, several kilos of heroin, and a caseload of cash, he faces a choic...

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