Top 5 Books to Read Before You Die

While I may not be the biggest book worm you will come across, when I find one that I like I literally cannot put it down. For Label’s first Top 5 weekly feature, I bring you my version of a list of must-read books before you die. With some classics and some more unusual entries, let us know what you think of my choices by tweeting @labelonline.

1) The Beach (1996) – Alex Garland

The Beach follows a young backpacker’s journey through Thailand in a desperate search and eventual discovery of an unknown isolated beach , untouched by tourism which a small community of backpackers have made their life-long home.  What makes this book so gripping is the number of dimensions it explores; at first appearing to be a travel novel it quickly delves in and out of elements of love, horror and mystery. It has been dubbed "A Lord of the Flies for Generation X" (Nick Hornby). Like many successful books, The Beach has also been turned into a successful film.

2) To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) – Harper Lee

This novel needs no introduction, a regular feature in many school and university curriculums and without a doubt, a classic of modern literature. Set during the Great Depression in Alabama, and narrated through the voice of a 6 year old girl, To Kill a Mockingbird explores the societal struggles, mainly racial discrimination, in the United States at this time, as the narrator’s father, a lawyer, has been assigned to defend a black man against his conviction of rape.

3) Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (2003) – Mark Haddon

One of the most unusual books you will come across, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time had me hooked from chapter 1. The narration was in part the reason for this, as it is narrated throughout by a 15 year old Aspergers sufferer, Christopher. The novel follows Christopher’s investigation of the murder of his neighbour’s pet poodle. It is a murder mystery novel like no other.

4) We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) – Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a thrilling, chilling and unnerving tale of a mother’s struggle with her new born son. From birth and throughout Kevin’s childhood, severe behavioural issues emerge, leading to numerous incidents and climaxing in one horrifying event near the end of the novel. It is not one for the light hearted, but nevertheless provides a chilling insight into the mind of a troubled young boy.

5) 1984 (1949) – George Orwell

Another book that needs no introduction, and the perfect book to end my list. If you have not yet come across 1984, I very much suggest you go out and buy it. Now.  Described as a “chilling prophecy about the future”, 1984 is set in a dystopian world where government surveillance exists throughout and any form of individualism is punishable. It follows the life of one man who lives through this totalitarian, war damaged world and whose job it is to rewrite the past to suit the ruling party. TIME magazine listed it as one of the 100 best English language novels from 1923-2005, it is without a doubt, a must-read.

Ella Stanbrook


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