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The 50 Books Everyone Needs to Read, 1963-2013

The thing about reading is this: it takes a long time. There are innumerable books in the world, and many more good ones than can be read by any mortal in a lifetime. It’s hard to choose — especially if you’re a slow reader. So, to go along with the list of the best albums from 1963-2013, here you will find a single must-read book from each of the last 50 years. Of course, this is by its very nature an absurd undertaking, and many books have gotten the short end of the stick — there’s no other way to do it. The choices here are influenced by the following: the stipulation that any specific author should not be chosen for more than one year, a general focus on fiction over other genres, and the tastes/whims/glaring prejudices of Flavorwire’s literary editor. Feel free to argue in the comments, but keep it nice. Unless you’re Martin Amis.

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1963 — The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s only novel manages to be both elegant and filled with raw, seething emotion – no small feat, and not the least of the reasons the reading world is still obsessed with her. There were a host of other great books this year, but the Plath legend (not to mention the Plath legion) still looms so large in our collective unconsciousness that this one seems by far the most essential to a modern reader’s repertoire.

Also recommended: Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak; The Group, Mary McCarthy; V., Thomas Pynchon; Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut; The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan

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