5 books you should read, or re-read, every five years

There are books you loved, books you hated and some books that made you think.  Maybe you didn’t like them.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them.

If you’ve read these books, read them again. They’re full of lessons and advice that we all need reminding of.

 1. On Writing Well

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

Whether you’re a writer or not, this is a valuable read. William Zinsser covers the basics of grammar as he discusses usage and word choice, making the text handy for first-time writers and seasoned veterans looking to refresh their basics.

The most reinforced, though unofficial, rules revolve around the elimination of “clutter.” Zinsser reminds writers to omit needless constructions to write concisely.

Zinsser also addresses different forms of writing regarding business, travel, memoirs etc. Though the keys to writing well remain the same, Zinsser explores the small details that bring average writing to excellence.

On Writing Well is a short, easy read for anyone who cares to better their communication skills. Mastery of language produces better communication to the audience.

 2.     The Art of War

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

Assumed to be authored by Sun Tzu, this collection of his teachings is one of the most highly-praised and recommended texts for business associates, educators and scholars. It’s a short read composed of 13 chapters concerning strategy, preparation and execution.

When undertaking “war,” or any type of strategic movement, the author indicates that the reader must observe five principles before engaging in conflict, those being: moral law, heaven, earth, the commander, method and discipline. Though, at first, the nomenclature may seem medieval, it’s easy to substitute current examples in their place.

For example, using “my boss” instead of “the commander,” or
“research, practice and preparation,” instead of “methods and discipline” makes the text more applicable to that presentation you were asked to prepare.

The text addresses any and all considerations for war from financial to geographical, preparing the reader for their own field of warfare, whether the conference room or the firing range.

Because of this manual’s popularity, it is available for free in PDF format when searched online, or most digital readers offer it in their stores for less than one dollar.

Translations are offered for free for download as an audiobook on Librivox.

3. 1984

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

If those words made you shudder, you’re not alone. This dark, dystopian novel by George Orwell explores a future where the government is in total control. People are monitored relentlessly by “Big Brother” and “The Ministry of Truth,” keeping them in a perpetual state of fearful obedience. The story is set in a time of perpetual war, while Winston Smith, employee of The Ministry of Truth, explores his inner feelings of rebellion and hatred for Big Brother’s regime.

There are a few challenges within the text. For example, “Newspeak,” a future language in which frequently-used words are combined and shortened into new ones. This makes it difficult to immediately follow the dialogue.  To prevent confusion for a first-time reader, make sure to purchase an edition with an included glossary.

Even if it takes you some time, read the entire novel.  The story helps develop critical thinking about the presentation of information and the importance of skepticism.

If you finish this book with questions, it’s done its job.

 4. Fahrenheit 451

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

In this dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury, the story details a time where books are considered so dangerous that they are burned on sight by “firemen.” These, being people employed to burn the possessions, homes and books of people possessing the outlawed materials.

The protagonist, Guy Montag, is challenged by the ideals of a free-thinking teenage girl, Clarisse McClellen. When Montag is later burning down a book-filled home, he steals one of them and hides it in his home. The rest of the story follows Montag on his search for truth, fulfillment and the written word.

Not only is this book wildly entertaining, but it also addresses deeper questions of the importance of language. Bradbury considers consequences which would stem from the total destruction of books.

The story explores the effect of literature, or lack thereof, on society, and addresses how essential language is to the development of critical thinking. This is a great and insightful read that will never lose relevance.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

This 1960’s novel by Harper Lee explores timeless themes of morality, loyalty and truth in a coming-of-age story through the eyes of a child. Six-year-old Scout Finch lives with brother Jem and widowed father Atticus in Maycomb, Alabama. Her father has been called on to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused with raping a white girl.

The book addresses questions of racism through the innocence of a child’s point of view. While Scout grows from observing her father’s litigation at Robinson’s trial, she also grows through her interaction with town shut-in, Boo Radley.

Through Scout, the reader is challenged to evaluate judgment, specific to their perceptions of those around them. As Scout questions how she has judged Radley and Robinson, the reader questions how they have judged others in their own lives.

This timeless book challenges the reader to self-evaluate,

encouraging them to justify their own methods and reasoning for judging others.

These five reads are eternally insightful and transcend the limitations of time and environment. So, reading, or re-reading, can only solidify the importance of the lessons these texts express within.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons
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