1. 1984
    Re-read it. The structure is amazing, the prose superb. The iconic plot is somehow the least impressive thing about a re-read.
  2. White Teeth
    Superb, overflowing story with heart, wit, and plot. Both traditional and fresh. A masterpiece of storytelling.
  3. Notes from Underground
    This book, more specifically the Underground Man, is dark, twisted, bitter It will shock you and rake you over the coals. But the short novel also has moments of (albeit dark) thoroughly uncomfortable humor. It's a stunning read. I don't know if any author gets to the soul of depraved humanity the way Dostoevsky does.
    Suggested by @LizDawson
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird
    Cliche for a reason
    Suggested by @joemurphy
  5. Animal Farm
    Political overtones, religious undertones and oh so (frighteningly) truthful.
    Suggested by @shanaz
  6. Beloved
    Toni Morrison changed contemporary America's relationship to slavery with this groundbreaking and horrifying novel.
    Suggested by @lstblkgrl
  7. The Book Thief
    Suggested by @arianavandyck
  8. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
    Given the recent cultural fascination with the true crime genre, revisiting the best example of a "nonfiction novel" is a must.
    Suggested by @goertli
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    Suggested by @marilinabedros
  10. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    In the style of James Baldwin, this short read simply and directly explains the pain inherent in Black life, and America's role in creating/perpetuating it. Profoundly moving.
    Suggested by @bware427
  11. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
    "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." Meta-fictional narrative told through the memoirs of a captured Nazi propagandist as he awaits trial for war crimes--carried out as part of his mission as a US War Dept spy. Asks you to consider whether a worthy end can justify questionable means. Highly charged but underlined with wry humor.
    Suggested by @communistcasino
  12. The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson
    Suggested by @JessicaBalboni
  13. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    Suggested by @molliekatzen
  14. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
    This is an important read because it has a complex central character, really embodies existential angst, but most importantly it braces us for the inevitable truth that adults are, in fact, phonies.
    Suggested by @selenarox
  15. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    Suggested by @ConorTripler
  16. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
    Suggested by @clearcourses
  17. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
    Suggested by @theallieway
  18. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
    Suggested by @holly70
  19. A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines
    Suggested by @StanOverstreet
  20. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
    Everything Carver has ever written should basically be required, but this particular short story is essential.
    Suggested by @americson
  21. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
    Suggested by @BradenCorliss
  22. The Time Machine by HG Wells
    Suggested by @zt
  23. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Suggested by @courtney__jill
  24. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
    A comprehensive history of the US from everyone's point of view except the old white guys.
    Suggested by @poppy
  25. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    Not only is it an excellent quarter-life crisis read, you will will also get the reference towards the end of Aziz Ansari's show Master of None
    Suggested by @brrosenau
  26. The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    Because it shows how you can be a shy, confused, vulnerable loner and the people who are most important will seek you out, find what makes you special and encourage that in you. Charlie echoes the character of Holden Caulfield in the Catcher in the Rye and you'll see a bit of yourself in him.
    Suggested by @cariturner