My life revolves around books, football and music. I unapologetically give book and music recommendations to everyone around me.
When you start off with a reading habit, the first five books you read are very important, as these books are going to help you set the motivation and momentum for your future reading. Therefore, it is good to keep a couple of points in mind while you choose the first set of books to read.
- It should actually be a book that you like: You don’t have to read books out of peer pressure. Choose a genre that you like. Choose a topic that you like. And as a beginner, it is okay if you leave a book half way.
- You may choose books written in simple language: books written in heavy literature style may put you off if you are unfamiliar with such writings. Simple language and interesting storyline will help you focus more and help you finish the book.
- Number of pages: It is better to choose a book with around 300 pages. This will help you finish more books at the beginning and will give you a sense of accomplishment. Some books in this list will cross over the 300 pages threshold that I suggested. But don’t worry, the ease of reading will make up for the extra pages.
Keeping in mind the above three points, I have chosen 10 books from different genres and writers - both fiction and non-fiction. Now, let us look into them in detail.
1. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime...”
First published: 2003
Number of pages: 371
The Kite Runner, set in Afghanistan, is a heartbreaking story about two boys who were childhood friends and how a single event changed their friendship. It also portrays the political turmoil that happened in Afghanistan due to Soviet invasion and later Taliban. A book about love, loss and betrayal, this story will stay with you even after you finish it. I remember me finishing this book in one go. The writing style is really compelling.
2. Animal Farm, George Orwell
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
First published: 1945
Number of pages: 141
Another politically relevant book from the author of 1984, Animal Farm is filled with thought provoking metaphors and dialogues. As the title says, it is a story about an animal farm. One day, tired of the constant work and mistreatment, the farm animals put up a rebellion and take over the farm from the human owners and turn it into a self-governing farm. The farm established upon the laurels of self-governance slowly gives into autocracy. Soon you will find yourself referring to the quotes in the book whenever you discuss politics with people around you!
3. Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”
First published: 1915
Number of pages: 201
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is not an action-thriller. It is a slow painful story. Gregor Samsa, the protagonist wakes up one day and realises that he has become a gigantic insect. The story moves forwards with his family's reactions to his transformation and other unknown challenges. Ever wondered how your family would react if you became an ugly gigantic beetle overnight? What if Gregor turning into an insect is a metaphor for someone being diagnosed with depression or other mental health issues? The book gives you a lot to ponder.
4. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
“It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
First published: 1988
Number of pages: 182
There is a high chance that you might have already read this book. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is a widely popular book, especially among beginner readers. It is a story about a shepherd boy named Santiago, who travels from Spain to Egypt in search of a treasure. If you are into books that provide personal revelations, spiritual insights and self-help notes, then this book is for you. I remember reading this book while I was in school and it propelled me to read five more Paulo Coelho books in a row!
5. Swami and Friends, R. K. Narayan
“Swaminathan had never thought that this story contained a moral. But now he felt that it must have one since the question paper mentioned it.”
First published: 1935
Number of pages: 190
Set in the fictional town of Malgudi, Swami and Friends revolves around a 10-year old boy named Swaminathan and his friends, and portrays the middle class situation in pre-independent India. It depicts a child’s thought processes amidst complex life situations. The thing I find most commendable about this book is its excellent character portrayals. It will sure take you back into the beautiful moments of your childhood.
6. Almond, Sohn Won-pyung
“I was just unlucky. Luck plays a huge part in all the unfairness of the world. Even more than you’d expect.”
First published: 2017
Number of pages: 272
If you are into the Young Adult category of books, you may enjoy Almond by Sohn Won-pyung. The protagonist is a young boy born with a condition called Alexithymia - the inability to identify and express one's own emotions. He does not know fear. He doesn't feel sadness. He doesn't know when to smile. If this health condition wasn't enough, he had more challenges waiting for him. Another interesting thing is the name of the book. The book is named Almond, because amygdala, the region of the brain associated with emotional processes, is derived from the Latin word for almond, as it is said that the amygdala looks similar to an almond in shape.
7. Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
First published: 1946
Number of pages: 165
Man's Search for Meaning is one of my all-time favourite books. The author Victor E. Frankl is an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor and the book is a memoir of Frankl’s own experience in the Nazi camps and how he coped up with the suffering. A book about the value and significance of hope in life, Man's Search for Meaning is written from the heart. Every quote from the book can be printed on a gold plaque, the book is that insightful!
8. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
First published: 1947
Number of pages: 283
This book needs no introduction. These diary entries of a thirteen-year old girl, which later turned into a world classic, is a mirror to the horrors of the Second World War and human sufferings. Anne Frank wrote the diary while she was in hiding from Nazis. She wrote in Dutch as she was practicing the language at that time. The diary was a gift she received on her 13th birthday (June 12, 1942). 1 August 1944 was the last entry on the diary. They were captured three days later and were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Anne was 15 when she died in the camp. Only their father, Otto Frank, survived. It is him who later took the initiative to publish the diary entries as a book.
9. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have?”
First published: 2012
Number of pages: 315
Cheryl Strayed, struggling with her mother’s death, addictions and a troubling marriage, takes an impulsive decision to hike over 2000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, despite the fact that she has zero experience or training in mountain hiking. Wild is a memoir that tells us the story of how a solo hike transformed her life forever. The author changes her last name to Strayed after the journey. The book keeps the suspense and excitement till the end. The book was further popularized by its 2014 movie adaptation of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon.
10. Becoming, Michelle Obama
“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child - What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
First published: 2018
Number of pages: 426
One of the most anticipated and popular books in recent years, this autobiography tells us the story of Michell Obama’s dramatic life turn, from an ambitious Chicago school girl to the First Lady of the United States of America. We also get to read the exciting behind the scenes stories from the moment Barack Obama was declared the president. Her storytelling style keeps us glued to the book till the end.
That is the end of the list. Please note that the ordering of books in this list is random and has nothing to do with any preferences.