The Best Version of Mankind: 10 Classic Books That Bring Out the Best in Humanity

Whether we accept it or not, human beings are nothing but animals. The only thing that sets us apart from all other species is our intellectual reasoning prowess. Since the emergence of mankind, people have used their intellect to build society. We have indeed come a long way from the caves and forests of yore. Today, we pride ourselves on building a modern world. If we introspect, we will find that the modern world is nothing but a concrete jungle. Though the perils of animal attacks and elements are almost negligible now, this concrete jungle of ours poses a completely new kind of danger. In our rush to achieve money, fame, and convenience, we seem to be losing the most important thing that makes us human. We are losing our humanity. In the hustle of today’s life, it is very important to be kept reminded of the significance of love, hope, optimism, kindness, and compassion. Nothing can accomplish this as smoothly as reading. Books not only help us escape the daily grind but also keep us grounded.

Let us have a look at ten classic books that have been successful in bringing out the best in humanity over time.

The Book That Ended Slavery

Book: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Image source: Public domain

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one book that can rightfully claim to have played a role in shaping today’s world. I first came across this book in the sixth grade. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel opened my eyes to the horrors of slavery for the first time. Published in 1852, this world-changing novel brought the atrocities of slavery to the public eye. The travails of Uncle Tom, an African-American slave made the readers feel the pain of servitude on a personal level. Abraham Lincoln went as far as to credit the anti-slavery book as the cause of the Civil War. The mark that Uncle Tom’s Cabin left in the history of humanity is undeniable.

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The Dark Side of Man

Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Image source: Public domain

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those novels that continue to resound with people everywhere years after its publication. Harper Lee’s classic book is set in the Depression Era South. A grown-up Scout talks about a profound incident from her childhood. When she was just a young girl, her father, Atticus Finch, defied conventions and took up the case of a Black man, Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused of rape. The overwhelming reaction of their small town still astounds me. This case taught some heavy lessons on morality and prejudice. Finch’s strong defense of justice, irrespective of race and prejudice, is an inspiration to children and adults alike. Arthur “Boo” Radley, the town recluse, is an enigma even today. This 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner is a timeless classic that truly brings out the best in humanity.

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Ghosts of the Past

Book: Beloved

Author: Tony Morrison

Image source: Public domain

Beloved by Toni Morrison is the powerful story of Sethe. Born a slave, Sethe managed to flee Kentucky and begin a new life in Ohio. However, try as hard as she did, the memory of her dead baby continued to haunt her. The 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner left a searing mark in the literary world. The heights that a mother is willing to go to ensure that her children remain untouched by slavery astounds us even today. The 1998 movie version of the same name, starring Oprah Winfrey, does a marvelous job of bringing the life-changing story to screen.

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When Words Speak as Loud as Actions

Book: Inspired Talks

Author: Disciples of Swami Vivekananda

Image source: Public domain

Swami Vivekananda was a prolific speaker in addition to being one of the greatest proponents of philosophy. Inspired Talks is a meticulous collection of all his lectures during the period of mid-June to early August 1895. Sarah Elden Waldo, who later assumed the name of Haridasi, complied his lectures and published them as a book in 1909. Vivekananda’s inspiring speeches at the 1893 Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago were met with resounding success. His subsequent public lectures in Detroit and New York struck a chord with countless people. Such was the hype of his lectures that students hounded him for his knowledge even at his private lodgings. Vivekananda never charged anyone for these private hearings as that went against his principles. Eventually, one of his disciples offered him her cottage at Thousand Island Park where he could conduct classes for his beloved students. When people willingly spend their breaks listening to lectures, it can only imply that the lectures contain something special. Inspired Talks is a compilation of these extraordinary sermons that is bound to urge us to become better versions of ourselves.

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An Inspiring Victorian Tale

Book: Oliver Twist

Author: Charles Dickens

Image source: Public domain

Charles Dickens’ second full-length novel, Oliver Twist, captures the plight of the poor and underfed orphans in Victorian England. Published in the late 1830s, the book gives us a snapshot of London’s criminal underbelly and the horrendous conditions of workhouses during the Industrial Revolution. Oliver Twist, an orphan raised in the deplorable conditions of a workhouse in the fictional town of Mudfrog, escapes to London in the hopes of finding a better life at the age of nine. Dickens’ satiric classic tale espouses the importance of kindness and goodness.

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An Intricate Sketch of Society

Book: Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life

Author: George Eliot

Image source: Public domain

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a realistic social novel penned by George Eliot aka Mary Anne Evans. Set in a fictional Midland town in England, the book follows the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Eliot highlights myriad social issues that were prevalent in the 19th century. This idealistic novel portrays endless generosity towards the follies of mankind. This is one of those classics that shows that it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn our lessons from them.

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The Voice of Woman

Book: A Doll’s House

Author: Henrik Ibsen  

Image source: Public domain

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is a searing tale of a woman finally asserting herself in a male-dominated society. Ibsen sheds a glaring light on the role of a husband and a wife in a traditional 19th-century marriage. The play follows Nora, a frivolous housewife for all intents and purposes. Her husband, Torvald, thinks of her as nothing but a silly “bird.” Little does he know that Nora is much more in touch with the harsh realities of life than he himself is. It is indeed a delight to watch Nora finally find her voice in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 three-act play entitled A Doll’s House.

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The Never Ending Story of Life

Book: The Grapes of Wrath

Author: John Steinbeck

Image source: Public domain

The Grapes of Wrath is a devastatingly tragic yet awe-inspiring classic penned by John Steinbeck. Set in Depression-era America, the novel follows the Joads family as they leave their home in Oklahoma and set out for California. In their quest for economic security and dignity, the characters undergo terrible hardships. Yet, they never lose hope. The 1939 National Book Award recipient and Pulitzer Prize winner makes us realize that no matter the circumstances, life goes on. It is worth mentioning that John Ford’s 1940 on-screen portrayal of the story, starring Henry Fonda, is a classic in its own right.

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A Coming-of-Age Tale

Book: RAT

Author: Priscilla B Shuler

Image source: Used with permission from the author

Priscilla B Shuler’s RAT is a roller-coaster ride of a novel that takes the reader on a journey of a lifetime along with a young urchin from London. An orphan boy assumed the name Rat as he tries his best to make something of himself. His quest to find himself takes him aboard a ship and eventually deposits him on the shores of the New World. However, things do not end there. He has a long way to go before he finally reaches his ultimate destination. RAT is a historical fiction that underscores the fact that even a nobody has the right to be a somebody. After reading this beautiful tale of self-reliance and perseverance, anybody can understand the significance of never giving up.

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A Guide to Life From Ancient Rome

Book: Meditations

Author: Marcus Aurelius

Image source: Public domain

Marcus Aurelius was one of the greatest Roman emperors. Meditations is a collection of his own principles and introspections. Written between AD 161 and AD 180, his writings were meant for his own use. The twelve books of Meditations were all penned in Koine Greek. Through these meditations, he tried to make sense of the universe. His intention was to create an ethical standard for himself. Marcus Aurelius was the last of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana. His rule signified peace and stability. Undoubtedly, there is much to learn from this great ruler of ancient times. We are indeed fortunate to have his writings to help us be better human beings.

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We, humans, pride ourselves to be God’s best and most prized creation. To prove the truth of it, we need to ensure that we do not forget to retain our humanity. Over the course of history, man has done some truly atrocious things, abandoning the very essence of mankind. Believe it or not, many of these times, books have come to rescue us from our own follies. There are many literary tomes that have made us realize the value of humanity. Books often prod us to be amazing versions of ourselves. Here is my humble attempt to list ten books out of millions that continue to bring out the best in humanity time and again.

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