From Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, to Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, there are scores of books that many consider non-optional reads. Readers might’ve tackled them through their high school and undergrad educations—and though they’re adored for a reason, for many, today’s required reading might be remembered as long slogs.
Polls have shown that we’re reading fewer books each year, and it’s easy to see why. Presently, we’re faced with more entertainment options than we know how to handle. Netflix battles gaming consoles and smartphone screens for our attention, and we get it: TV’s in a golden age. But with everything moving so fast, it’s easy to forget what kind of beautiful possibilities rest between two covers.
Here at Paste, we’ve assembled a list of 30 titles that rest outside of the standard list of classics. The list is not an absolute; as Stephen King put it, the hope is that you’ve read a more than 30 books before you hit the age 30. The unifying theme within these titles is that, at some point, they reignited our passion for reading and delighted us as fans of great fiction. Some titles are contemporary, while some fell short of massive acclaim during their time. The unifying factor here is that we loved them, and we think you might, too.