Storytelling has existed ever since mankind learned to express themselves. We tell stories to pass on traditions, to entertain, to express our creativity. After the written word was invented, people started writing their stories down so that other people could read them even when the narrator wasn’t there. 

Recommending books to read can be very difficult. What captivates one person’s attention can be rather uninteresting for another. Yet, there are some works of fiction that are universally appreciated and considered worth reading. 

A recipe for such a book is actually very simple: a compelling story, well-developed characters with solid motivations, completed world-building (even if the story is set in real life, you need to establish the protagonist’s world), and preferably no clichés that have been used time and time again. 

Sometimes best selling books don’t necessarily mean the best ones for reading, and on the contrary, books that were not appreciated upon publication can find universal love and popularity decades later. In this article, we’ve collected a library-worth of books that have stood the test of time. How many of them have you read? Which ones would you pick next? Share your opinions in the comments below, and also let us know which book you’d like to be included on this list.

#1

To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960)

Ever since its publication, To Kill a Mockingbird has remained one of the most widely read books. Told from the perspective of a young girl, the story revolves around the events that happened in a small town in Alabama, when her father, a white lawyer, was appointed to defend a black man accused of raping an underage girl. Dealing with grave issues like racial inequality and injustice, the novel gave us the iconic character of Atticus Finch, an example of moral integrity for lawyers.

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is the best book ever, it is so good. I love it.

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#2

The Fellowship Of The Ring By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship Of The Ring By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954)

The opening part of the famous book series, The Fellowship of the Ring doesn’t need much of an introduction. It sets off the story of an unlikely group of heroes on their quest to save the world from a powerful evil. Initially, Tolkien was planning to publish the entire trilogy in one volume, with six subdivisions he called books. However, his publisher convinced him to publish it in three different parts.

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Mandy Teal
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yes, one of the best books ever written.

#3

The Little Prince By Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince By Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)

Equally loved by children and adults, The Little Prince is rightfully considered among the classics of world literature. The story describes the encounter between a young boy referred to as the little prince and an adult narrator, loosely based on Saint-Exupéry himself. The novel has been translated into over 505 languages, as the themes of friendship, love, loneliness, and loss the book addresses resonated with readers from different backgrounds and cultures.

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James016
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love this book, I have read it to my son several times. There is so much in it

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#4

Where The Sidewalk Ends By Shel Silverstein

Where The Sidewalk Ends By Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein, 1974)

This poetry collection is a true representation of children’s imaginations and common childhood worries. From “The Truth About Turtles” to “Who's Taller?” and the titular “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” it is full of imagination-inspiring stories and illustrations. The book stirred quite some controversy due to its subject matter and was banned in some libraries and schools. However, in 2007, the National Education Association listed it in the Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.

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Rae Tardif
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out

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#5

The Shining By Stephen King

The Shining By Stephen King

The Shining (Stephen King, 1977)

When Jack Torrance and his family moved to the Overlook Hotel, where Jack accepted the position of an off-season caretaker, the last thing they expected was a series of terrifying supernatural occurrences that eventually drove Jack mad and put his wife and 5-year-old son in danger. Based on King’s own experience, The Shining was his third published novel that firmly established him as the master of horror.

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#6

1984 By George Orwell

1984 By George Orwell

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James016
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Now seen as an instruction manual by a lot of governments

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#7

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)

After the Second American Civil War, a new totalitarian regime with a very strict class system is established in New England. Any women from the lower layers of society that fail to fit the rules engrafted by the ruling class are forced to become natal slaves, or handmaids, for noble families. Even though The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian future, its themes of female individuality and suppressing women’s reproductive and other rights hold relevant in our society.

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is a tie with the best book ever I stated above, To Kill A Mockingbird. A while ago I realised that basically every book I have ever read had all been written by male authors, I sat down and thought about the books I have read by women, Mockingbird, this, and Frankenstein, 3 of my most favourite books. Yet I still have some kind of in built misogyny as too often I have disregarded a book because it was written by a woman. I do not know where this comes from, I am not, in any way a misogynist in real life. Nowadays I am trying to make a concerted effort to read more books written by women.

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#8

A Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle, 1962)

This young adult fantasy novel is full of things you expect from the genre: adventure, time and dimension travel, fighting evil in the name of justice, saving the world, and – above all – concepts of love, friendship, and good versus evil. After an encounter with their neighbor Ms. Whatsit, the Murry siblings and their friend Calvin set out on a journey to save inventor Alexander Murry, who is also Meg and Charles Murry’s father. A Wrinkle in Time opens the Time Quintet series that follows Meg, Charles, and Calvin’s adventures.

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#9

Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy, 1878)

Even though Tolstoy had two major works and a number of shorter stories to his name before publishing Anna Karenina, he called it his first true novel. Although the main focus is on the protagonist and her extramarital affair with Count Vronsky, there are a number of other storylines and characters in the novel. Tolstoy draws attention to issues of family, happiness, high society in Imperial Russia, the differences between city and rural life, among others. 

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#10

Valley Of The Dolls By Jacqueline Susann

Valley Of The Dolls By Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann, 1966)

When Valley of the Dolls was published, it received largely negative reviews from critics, yet it went on to become one of the bestselling novels in history. Telling the stories of several characters working in show business and their subsequent involvement with drugs, it is largely believed to be based on some real-life big names in the entertainment industry. Susann never fully confirmed or denied this supposition.

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cadena kuhn
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I also recommend the movie about the author with bett middler

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#11

Dune By Frank Herbert

Dune By Frank Herbert

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Cannot get more than a few pages into this, never been in the right mind I suppose?

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#12

Man’s Search For Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search For Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl

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Powerful Katrinka
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This book actually changed my life. My whole perception of courage and suffering shifted in profound ways.

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#13

Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen

Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

Pride and Prejudice is not only Austen’s most popular novel that has been adapted for screen and theater numerous times, but it also often ends up in top positions on “must-read books of all time” lists. Centered around the Bennet family, who have five adult daughters but are on the brink of losing their property should the father of the family die, the novel explores the concepts of class, marriage, societal expectations and prejudices. Upon its first publication, the novel received very mixed reviews, from admiration to disappointment. Austen herself felt like her book lacked “shade.”

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#14

Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

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Tree P
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I had to read this in high school. I only remember the old lady still wearing her wedding dress.

#15

All The President’s Men By Bob Woodward And Carl Bernstein

All The President’s Men By Bob Woodward And Carl Bernstein

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ItsJess
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is on my reading list, I was born after this happened and can remember growing up in a time when the name "Nixon" was a dirty word...but surprisingly, we didn't really learn about the actual events surrounding Watergate in school. Seems like it would be a pretty significant time in US history that students should know, but all we learned is that Nixon is the only president to resign.

#16

Beloved By Toni Morrison

Beloved By Toni Morrison

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Paul Pienkowski
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

A very very hard read. Know what you're getting into with this book. It's extremely heavy. The subject matter, that is. However, please do read it! It's also very important. So very sad.

#17

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier By Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier By Ishmael Beah

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Disgruntled Pelican
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

EVERYONE should read this book. It's been probably 15 years since I read it and I still think about it regularly.

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#18

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir By Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir By Frank McCourt

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Marisol L. Banks
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This book was sometimes brutal to read. I’d be on the verge of tears reading how desperate their situation was. But some parts were also funny and mischievous. Not a summer beach read, but a good book for the lengthening days of Fall and Winter.

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#19

In Cold Blood By Truman Capote

In Cold Blood By Truman Capote

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Bear Hall
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I never understood why this book is so famous. It reads like an overlong newspaper article. Well, I guess originally it was ment to be one.

#20

Charlotte’s Web By E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web By E.B. White

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Deborah Harris
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Spoiler Alert.... It broke my heart when Charlotte died and I am not a lover of spiders at all.

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#21

Little Women By Louisa May Alcott

Little Women By Louisa May Alcott

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Deborah Harris
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I grew up reading these books, I think because I associated myself with Jo. A lovely lovely set of stories

#22

The Diary Of A Young Girl By Anne Frank

The Diary Of A Young Girl By Anne Frank

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Bear Hall
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

She could have been one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. It's so sad and aggravating at the same time.

#23

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe By C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe By C.S. Lewis

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Shelby Moonheart
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The Chronicals of Narnia is a great series. I've read them many times.

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#24

The Lord Of The Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord Of The Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien

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#25

Animal Farm By George Orwell

Animal Farm By George Orwell

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Tree P
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Another book I read in school.

#26

Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have heard that this is one of the books some schools in 'Murica want to ban. Funny if a joke, sad if it is true.

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#27

Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

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Deborah Harris
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Reading this as a child and again as an adult put a whole new view to it

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#28

The Complete Tales And Poems Of Edgar Allan Poe By Edgar Allan Poe

The Complete Tales And Poems Of Edgar Allan Poe By Edgar Allan Poe

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago (edited) Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I do not get on with Poe, I find his stories daft. The Raven is a cracking poem though.

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#29

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn By Mark Twain

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn By Mark Twain

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Lyop
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oh this book had me in stitches while reading it! Hilarious!! Actually prefer it to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

#30

Frankenstein By Mary Shelley

Frankenstein By Mary Shelley

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#31

Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, And Lead By Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, And Lead By Brené Brown

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Powerful Katrinka
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Shame is incredibly destructive, yet few people even recognize when they're feeling it.

#32

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone By J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone By J.K. Rowling

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Kate Fei
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Nah. Reading the book again in my adulthood I must say nope, it shows the inexperience of the writer. Sure, the story is nice but the next books are better and better.

#33

The Iliad By Homer

The Iliad By Homer

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OneHappyPuppy
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oh we had to read this in HS... I literally couldn't get to page 2. I read page 1 over and over again and not a word made sense to me... I was lucky Troy was in theaters later that month...

#34

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass By Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass By Lewis Carroll

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Cubbypotato
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oh my gosh it was good! The original one is a beautiful book!

#35

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

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#36

The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck

The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck

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Maggie
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Loved this read, what hardships they endured.

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#37

Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift

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#38

Fairy Tales And Stories By Hans Christian Andersen

Fairy Tales And Stories By Hans Christian Andersen

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Tree P
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Read some of these stories as a child, the Little Mermaid story is really sad.

#39

Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut

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Nathaniel
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

One of two books that made me cry. The descriptions of Dresden are horrific. The Allies were not the good guys, only the lesser of two evils.

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#40

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald

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#41

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales By Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales By Oliver Sacks

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Marisol L. Banks
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love everything Oliver Sacks writes. He writes about complicated issues in a way that humanizes the issue. It’s a wonder we’re not more messed up given how little it takes to detail us from concepts of “normalcy.”

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#42

The Odyssey By Homer

The Odyssey By Homer

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#43

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

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Paul Pienkowski
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Read this!!! This woman gave everything. Her life, her family. And they got nothing! Her immortal cells saved countless lives!

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#44

The World According To Garp By John Irving

The World According To Garp By John Irving

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Kate Musso
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the most exquisite books I have ever read. I wish I had never read it so I could read it for the 1st time again

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#45

And Then There Were None By Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None By Agatha Christie

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Emma Starr
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The class and race issues are painful to read with today's sensibilities but a great story.

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#46

The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

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#47

The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic, And Madness At The Fair That Changed America By Erik Larson

The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic, And Madness At The Fair That Changed America By Erik Larson

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Marisol L. Banks
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I normally don’t like stories about serial killers, but this book pulled me in. It was part historical novel, part horror story. It was absolutely riveting. Holy Moly.

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#48

Hamlet By William Shakespeare

Hamlet By William Shakespeare

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#49

The Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger

The Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger

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ItsJess
Community Member
5 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I guess it would be a good read if you're trying to understand how to write an insufferable, entitled, unlikeable main character.

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#50

The Golden Compass By Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass By Philip Pullman

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Note: this post originally had 200 images. It’s been shortened to the top 50 images based on user votes.