Books have played an important role in shaping personalities since the fifteenth-century Print Revolution. It could be argued that they were a cultural force even before the printing press was invented, as manuscripts were popular among the nobility across kingdoms and empires. As rapid technological changes took place in the are of mass communication, books became popular among young adults. Even today, books about the unique struggles and aspirations of the youth are received with warmth by the general public. Non-fiction masterpieces by the likes of Plato and Aristotle to Maya Angelou and Yuval Noah Harari are considered essential for a child’s transition to adulthood. In no particular order, I present to you my list of books that are essential for a young adult, keeping in mind their readability and relevance to today’s world.
– I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (1969)
The Nobel Laureate and civil rights activist need no introduction. Her autobiography explores themes like racial prejudice, abandonment and rape candidly. Her writing underlined the prejudices of American society and their effects on young minds. The book speaks of the helplessness of the child who does not know of racism, who grows up believing in the lies of the society. It encapsulates the struggle that comes with living in a racist world and how different people deal with it. The book explores how a whitewashed neo-imperial narrative emasculates and humiliates coloured pride, and depicted the resistance raised by the people of colour. Her long journey from insecurity and shame to become a remarkable woman who inspired a generation of black women is inspiring to all, irrespective of their background.
-. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (1988)
Hailed as the greatest scientists of our time, Stephen Hawking beautifully explained some of the most complex concepts in Physics for the average person to understand. I consider his book to be a must-read, mainly because of its exhaustive and comprehensive nature. The book makes clever use of humour to put laymen at ease and this quality has led to its widespread popularity among the younger generations. If you’ve ever wondered how the universe came into existence and where will it be a billion years from now, you’ve chosen the right book to read.
-My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi (1927)
The Mahatma is widely credited as the champion of the poor and the oppressed, and this book is a peek into his saintly life. In the book, he mentions the events that shaped his life and inspired him to devote all of his energy for the upliftment of the poor. Despite his larger-than-life stature, Gandhi was a common man with very grounded concerns and objectives, and the book is a testament to that. Satyagraha, or non-violent agitation, which has considerably influenced India’s mass movements is taken up by him as a topic. His methods of living a worthy life are simple and easy-to-adopt, which along with his clear narration, have contributed to the popularity of the book.
-The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
The novel speaks of the heart-breaking struggles of people living in war-torn areas. It is a story of redemption as much as it is one of the unbreakable bonds. Set against the backdrop of the Afghan War, the story follows the journey of Amir from when he was a boy till when he became the man his Baba wanted him to be. It paints a painstakingly accurate picture of father-son relationships. The book won critical acclaim due to its coverage of real people that are caught in the political cross-fire. The warm and bustling Kabul we see in the beginning is lost in rubble by the end of the decade. The echoes of what could have been stayed with us for a long time after we finished the book, acquainting us with the reality on the other side of the world.
-To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)
A Pulitzer Prize winner, the novel became widely popular due to its depiction of racism and inequality from a child’s perspective. The story revolves around Scout, Jeremy and Atticus Finch, who live in the fictional Southern town of Maycomb. The book makes us question long-held beliefs and prejudices by looking at them through the innocent lens of a child. We mourn the injustice done to Tom Robinson which is compared to the senseless killing of songbirds. the narrative artfully questions the dehumanisation of the ‘others’ by a society who revels in the misfortune of others.