100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

At one point or another, most major outlets discussing books broach the subject of what you should be reading. Book lists are always popular, and I’ve certainly produced my own here. Often, they rally around absolutes: here are the 100 best books to read in a lifetime! And yet it always seems like the same books are highlighted — primarily ‘classics’ — tossed around with the occasional contemporary novel so the authors can offer up something fresh.

And sure. They’re harmless lists. However, I have a hard time believing that different authors consistently wading through the wild world of books always come up with the same titles. More so, the concept of a one-size-fits-all lifetime of books seems inconceivable. The same works can’t have the same impact on every reader.

Reading is such a personal experience. What one reader loves is insufferable for another. Think of your favorite book — one that has had a deep influence on you, that you love — and look at its one-star rating on Goodreads. Yikes, right? But that’s the point. How do you proceed when tasked with another list pushing Ulysses, Vanity Fair, and The Great Gatsby? Yes, you just might love them, but for others, wouldn’t it be better to devote yourself to a life of reading actually tailored to your likes and needs?

So rather than writing another list, here are my guidelines for a well-read lifetime:

  • Read 100 books.
  • Read 100 books that make you laugh.
  • Read 100 books that make you cry.
  • Read 100 books that challenge you.
  • Read 100 books that comfort you.
  • Read 100 books that you get lost in.
  • Read 100 books that you never finish.
  • Read 100 books that you share.
  • Read 100 books for yourself.
  • Read 100 books that you love.
  • Most importantly: Read.


  1. Great post with a worthwhile theme to ponder. The only thing I would disagree with for myself is Read 100 books you never finish. There is so much reading calling to us that I don’t think that would be the best use of my reading time. Also the teacher pleaser and rule follower in me just has a hard time not finishing something I start.🙃😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I have most of them covered except books you never finish. I don’t have time for that one. I’m also the odd duck who thinks that you should read books that are classics whether you like them or not. There is a reason they were awarded prizes and there is a reason that they are classic. I didn’t care for Ulysses or The Great Gatsby but I’ve read them both. They provided both information and enlightenment regarding the times they were written for and the times in which they reflected. If I only read what pleased me I wouldn’t be half as intelligent as I am nor would I understand as I do. It’s important to read but it also is important to read books that will help you to grow and mature in your thinking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really need to fix that line … I wrote it thinking that we should start 100 books without fear of casting them aside if we don’t like them— not necessarily read them cover to cover. But I wasn’t clear at all! And I do agree with you about the classics. They’re a good reminder that for all of our progress and evolution, there are a lot of constants — good and bad — and literature is a great space to explore that. I just have a beef with these lists because they always press the same works. Heck! There are plenty of solid classics that never make these lists that are just as good.


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