105 books to read before you die 2/5

Before you read this list, make sure you have seen : The most important books to read before you die 1/5

  1. Madame de La Fayette —The Princess of Cleves – 1678: This novel explores life at the Court of the Valois. It inspired Honoré de Balzac in particular. It shows the importance of women in literature at that time.
  2. Charles Perrault – Les Contes de ma mère l’Oye — 1697 : The tales are much sharper and more daring than you think. In this version of famous folk tales, the story is already more romanticized, rosier. They have accompanied your childhood, that is reason enough to read them. Especially since the tales were originally more appreciated by adults than by children. You will find great classics, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb.
  3. Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe – 1719: Imagine you are lost on an island, where you survive for 28 long years. How do you manage? How do you overcome your loneliness? How do you grow up? For anyone with a thirst for adventure, Robin Crusoe is a must read. The reflection is great also on education.
  4. Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels – 1726: The satire par excellence. Gulliver’s Travels is not only an amusing story, with characters of various sizes. It is about breaking eggs, about giants, about feeding men with their excrement or about getting the sun rays from cucumbers. A nice program as you can see.
  5. David Hume – The inquiry into Human Understanding – 1748: here is a worthy empiricist. For Hume, our ideas are derived from the impressions we have, i.e. the sensible. If you want to be awakened from your “dogmatic sleep”, as Immanuel Kant was in his own words, then read David Hume. Hume is often cited as the favorite philosopher of philosophy teachers, and not for nothing.
  6. Cao Xueqin-紅樓夢/红楼梦 (Dream of the Red Chamber) – 1754-1791: the fourth monumental novel of classical Chinese literature according to Mao Zedong retained by UNESCO. It is at the beginning of the story … of a stone. A stone that discovers the human world. But the novel has no less than 448 characters.
  7. Voltaire – Candide – 1759: In the French satire, one does not make it better. Candide is a work with a lively, corrosive and witty style. “We must cultivate our garden” is the conclusion of the book. This is what you will do when you read this philosophical tale, full of common sense. Voltaire attempts to respond to Leibniz’s brave new world theory by creating a character who is optimism incarnate, and who becomes terribly endearing.
  8. Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations – 1776: the founder of economics, not less. For Amartya Sen, he is even “the greatest book ever written on economic life”. To recap: “founder” and “excellence” are the two attributes of this book. The economic world in which you live, for or against your will, was first taught by Adam Smith. One of his most famous theories, and also criticized, is that of the invisible hand. What is this invisible hand? You will have to read it to understand, but here’s a hint: liberalism and capitalism owe him a lot.
  9. Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason – 1781 and 1787: Schelling said of this work that “it will remain as something unique, as long as there is philosophy”. It is the summit of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. It is particularly difficult to read. So we do not ask you to read it in German (although that could be an excellent goal for you), but at least make an effort on the French version. It talks about a particularly interesting concept: the noumenon. But for that, you will have to go through time, space, phenomena, the limits of reason.
  10. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos —Les Liaisons dangereuses — 1782 : One has rarely seen such a psychological and effective work. Composed only of letters – yes, it is an epistolary exchange – , this work will make you blush as it describes your hidden feelings so well, the mechanisms of human nature, inner jealousies, and love relationships. Almost erotic.
  11. Jean-Jacques Rousseau – The confessions – 1782: A man who gives himself up in full, with his faults and his qualities. This was not common at the time, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was among the first. Here again, there is a psychological study of feelings, emotions, which is particularly interesting. You will develop a certain affection for Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was brilliant in many respects.
  12. Marquis de Sade —The Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom – 1785: the subtitle is as evocative as the title: the School of libertinism. Not to be put in the hands of young people.
  13. Marquis de Sade — Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu — 1791 : this work is pornographic. But it must be read, because it is also philosophical. The young girl Justine is put to the test, and encounters many difficulties, which lead her to more and more crude scenes.
  14. Denis Diderot – Jacques le fataliste et son maître – 1796: Diderot assures me that this is not a novel, but it looks like one. Jacques tells his master about his amorous adventures to relieve his boredom, but he is constantly interrupted.
  15. Jacob Grimm/Wilhelm Grimm – Tales of Childhood and Home – 1812–1815: this is the other name for the Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Another monument gathering tales that have lulled millions of children through the ages. “What Perrault began, the Grimm brothers have completed,” according to Joseph Jacobs.
  16. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice – 1813: We could put two words on this work, which is still today one of the public’s favorites, and the most listened to in audiobook: money and marriage. Jane Austen describes characters full of complexity, full of emotions, and creates a network of compelling relationships. And to make matters worse, a touch of humor is added to capture these characters even better.
  17. Stendhal – The Red and the Black – 1830: another novel. Julien Sorel is the hero, in the provinces and then in Paris. The title is not well understood: some argue that the red represents the army and the black clergy, which are the two poles towards which Julien Sorel tends. “Stendhal has inestimable merits, the double psychological view […] perhaps I am even jealous of Stendhal,” writes Friedrich Nietzsche.
  18. Honoré de Balzac —Le Père Goriot — 1835 : the 19th century is the century of great novels, here is a new one: Le Père Goriot. It evokes paternal love, Parisian society, and arrivistes. It is part of the Comédie humaine, which is a titanic work of 90 books, and even founds it. The title echoes Dante’s Divine Comedy, which we mention in this list. It is a real work of sociology that this work.
  19. Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist – 1838: The poverty and misery of Oliver Twist, a young orphan, form the basis of the novel. When he asks for more food, he is placed with a mortician, then runs away. He will rub shoulders with crime. Emma Westland says of this work that “the story of Oliver Twist is legendary in British culture”.
  20. Alexandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers – 1844: d’Artagnan leaves for Paris to join the Musketeers. The Three Musketeers is the prototype of the cloak-and-dagger novel. It will accompany your days and nights by making you love the history novel.
  21. Herman Melville – Moby Dick – 1851: Melville was a sailor. Hence his passion in this work for the sea, and the animal that is at the center of this book: the white sperm whale. The themes, in addition to the marine adventure, are those of society, or metaphysics. The success was not immediate, but was later recognized as a masterpiece of American literature.
  22. Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary – 1857: judged for “outrage to public and religious morals and decency”, the trial sets the tone of the book. Admired by some, hated by others, Madame Bovary leaves no one unscathed. The novel even gave its name to a new word: bovarysm, which expresses a kind of dissatisfaction.
  23. Charles Baudelaire – Les Fleurs du mal – 1857 : if you have this book, you hold a boiling work in your hands. The scandal that accompanies it is in the measure of the great upheaval that this collection of poems has operated. It is a real new philosophy that emerges, and in the most beautiful way, in poetry. The word “spleen” was born in this work, which evokes a haunting, deep despair. You will also find the theme of correspondences, which establish a link between the real and the unreal. Read the poem La Charogne to begin with, and you will immediately get into the tone of the work.
  24. Victor Hugo – Les Misérables — 1862 : never has a work carried its name so well and with such intensity as Les Misérables. The life of these miserable people is described in a novel that incorporates the perspective of romanticism. The novel has been adapted for the cinema countless times, and has been the question of many films, directors and producers, and even musicals, setting a record for longevity. Dive into the world of Victor Hugo, you will not come out the same.
  25. Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland – 1865: one could think that this book was written under LSD, so much it abounds in fantastic and marvelous characters, so much logic is exceeded. Originally written for adults, it was reworked for children, and nowadays everyone finds pleasure in discovering Alice’s extraordinary world.

→ LIST 3: The most important books to read before you die 3/5