5 Must-Read Books More Important Than a College Degree

Must-Read Books
Picture of Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

What are the five must-read books you need to read?

Whether you are the best reader or about to take your first steps into the reading world, here are the five must-read books you should read at least once in your life.

Reading books can be one of the best and most enduring hobbies anyone can have. As we grow old, hundreds of books come across our lives to teach us something new. Maybe it’s a beautiful story, a captivating poem, or a shocking biography.

And what’s amazing about literature is that you are never too old to start or to retake after years of a long pause. The problem is that there are SO MANY options to choose from, and it can be challenging for a newcomer to know which must-read books provide the most value to your everyday life.

What you can learn and discover in a new book can be truly stunning, and what’s crazy is that sometimes, it can be as valuable as what you find in a college program.

Here at Gradehacker, we are the most trusted resource for non-traditional adult students. We know how important reading can be, and we want to share this exceptional knowledge as much as possible.

That’s why we list five must-read books that anyone should read at least once in their lifetime.

You Have no Excuse to Read Them!

Before we begin with our list, we have a super quick and tiny comment.

We’ll leave a direct link on each book so you can download their ebook or PDF version FOR FREE. You’ll find each of them on any of the sites we listed as the best websites to find free college textbooks.

You can also use them for any other book you need, but don’t stop there! From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Michelle Obama’s autobiography, you can find any book and get it for free!

You can learn more about these amazing websites in our video, too.

by Harper Lee (1960)

What better way to kick off this list than with one of the most classic books?

Even though To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is often required reading at many schools, many people forget about it once they grow up or choose to skip the book when they are young.

Must-Read Books

It’s a timeless story that Harper Lee wrote in 1960 to discuss racism and prejudice. It’s been over 60 years, and our society still needs to learn lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird.

It follows the trial of a black person accused of assaulting a White woman in a fictional Deep South throughout the 1930s. Everything through the eyes of an innocent child whose father is in charge of defending the wrongly accused man.

While it clearly addresses the importance of racial injustice, segregation, and inequality, Lee succeeds in keeping a light and humorous tone that makes her book an easy-to-read story for adults and children alike.

It helps a lot that the novel is written in a very simple and straightforward style. The author uses short sentences and paragraphs and avoids complex vocabulary, which makes her work super easy to understand and follow.

To Kill a Mockingbird is as accessible as it can be. But it never stops being compelling and crude by wisely addressing racial prejudice and discrimination.

It’s one of the best examples to prove that great literature doesn’t need complicated plots or convoluted prose. Just a good story that knows how to resonate with its audience and remain relevant through time.

A classic tale of courage and integrity that any adult should read once in a while.

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by Ray Bradbury (1953)

And we continue with a dystopian fiction that is a must-read for anyone interested in politics, history, and freedom of speech.

Written by Ray Bradbury in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 warns us about the dangers of censorship and propaganda. He wrote it because he believed that censorship would eventually lead to tyranny and oppression.

Must-Read Books

The story takes place in a future society where books are banned because they corrupt minds, create apathetic citizens, and lead to rebellion against authority. People live in fear of being caught reading them because they contain subversive ideas that threaten society.

The main character is Guy Montag, a firefighter who is in charge of finding and burning these forbidden books instead of putting fires off. However, as the story progresses, he discovers the transcendence of literature and the importance of freedom of speech.

It’s incredible how a dystopian future where books and information are restricted continues to resonate in today’s society. There are many books that deal with the role of an authoritarian government that restricts what people can do, but Bradbury’s focus on censorship and freedom makes his work stand out from the rest.

If you haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 yet, now is the perfect time to pick it up.

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And of course…

by George Orwell (1949)

If you’re looking for a story that directly tackles deep issues of politics, technology, culture, and society, then you need to read 1984 by George Orwell.

Orwell’s work of literary fiction is a classic from 1949 that he wrote during World War II, inspired by the rise of fascism in Europe at the time. The book describes a totalitarian society where citizens live in fear of Big Brother, who watches them constantly and controls every aspect of their lives through telescreens and brainwashing techniques.

Must-Read Books

1984 is a book that warns us about the dangers of totalitarianism and shows us how it would be to live in a society ruled by fear and paranoia. It explains that if we let governments control every aspect of our lives, we could lose our freedom and right to live.

While Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 also revolves around a dystopia and shares some similarities, the world created by Orwell is very different. Here, technology plays a key role, and while it all seemed as futuristic and impossible when it was published, we can now find many of these ideas turned into reality.

The fact that we are becoming increasingly dependent upon technology, yet we still haven’t learned how to use it responsibly, clearly demonstrates how much this book understands how society works, where it is headed, and where it’s going.

1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel that every fan of literature must read.

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by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)

Undoubtedly, Malcolm X is one of the most influential figures in American history.

So, if you want to learn directly from his words and what he lived or read, one of the most relevant nonfiction books of the last century, we strongly recommend you start here.

Must-Read Books

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a posthumous book published in 1965 after his assassination with the help of journalist Alex Haley. Instead of being an author in charge of summarizing Malcolm’s entire life, Haley worked as a collaborator who silenced his voice and focused on transmitting the idea that Malcolm was directly talking to the reader.

Malcolm wanted to tell the world about his experiences.

It’s based on interviews with Malcolm X and tells his life in a narrative style while pondering his philosophy of black pride, nationalism, and pan-Africanism. It spans from his childhood and first steps in the Nation of Islam to the last years of his life.

But not only is it a testimony of what he lived and how he perceived the world but also about his legacy and timeless words. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a true American classic that continues to resonate today.

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by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

And to finish our list, why not one of Latin American literature’s best literary fiction works?

One Hundred Years of Solitude was written in 1967 by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the most well-known authors from Colombia and Latin America. His specialty was magical realism, and this book might just be his best work.

Must-Read Books

The story spans 100 years in the life of the Buendia family in the fictitious town of Macondo, which spans several generations.

Garcia Marquez uses this magical setting to tell a story about life, death, love, and hope. His writing style is poetic and lyrical, and his characters are unforgettable.

The novel uses vivid characters and colorful language to tell the story of a country torn apart by war and revolution. It also explores themes of poverty, class struggle, corruption, and injustice.

The author uses his characters to explore themes of history, colonialism, politics, religion, culture, and philosophy. He explores these topics through the eyes of different characters, who each represent a different generation of the Buendia family.

It became a worldwide sensation, and it’s been translated into over 40 languages and sold millions of copies. And the cherry on top was the Nobel Prize for Literature Garcia Marquez won in 1982.

One Hundred Years of Solitude was written at a time when Latin American literature was virtually unknown outside of the region. Garcia Marquez broke down barriers between cultures and languages, and he changed the face of world literature forever.

If you haven’t read this book, please add it to your reading list.

It’s a great introduction to Latin American literature and a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about the culture and history of South America.

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Must-Read Books

Start a New Reading-Hobby With Any Of These Must-Read Books

From literary fiction to dystopian worlds and critical autobiographies, you have a wide range of options to choose from. But there is no reason you have to stop there!

There are many more books we can recommend to you to read in your daily life, like Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, and famous authors from the 20th century like Dale Carnegie, Agatha Christie and Jonathan Franzen.

Start reading, and when you find a genre, theme, or author that interests you the most, research and read as much as you want!

If you are looking for more college reading books or need help with your school path, contact us, and we will be happy to help!

If you want more tips on how to expand your knowledge, check out our related blog posts:

Picture of Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea is a curious and creative journalist who first helped many college students as a Gradehacker consultant in subjects like literature, communications, ethics, and business. Now, as a Content Creator in our blog, YouTube channel, and TikTok, he assists non-traditional students improve their college experience by sharing the best tips. You can find him on LinkedIn.