The best oldie, but goldie, books of the past century

The Books I Picked & Why

Mila 18

By Leon Uris

Book cover of Mila 18

Why this book?

Although not mentioned as often as some of his other masterpieces, in Mila 18 Uris spins an unforgettable tale that deftly combines fiction and nonfiction in a way few authors have been able to match. It is a truly unforgettable rendering of the events involved in the 1943 uprising against the Nazis in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. Like the other four I am recommending, this book was one that truly touched my soul. Mila 18 provides incredible insight into people’s determination to stand up against their fates in even the direst of circumstances. It is well worth the read.

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By James Clavell

Book cover of Shōgun

Why this book?

Set in 1500, an English navigator’s ship crashes off the shores of Japan. He ends up falling into the hands of a determined warlord seeking to become the Shōgun, the ruler of Japan. Caught in a totally isolated, alien world, he struggles to both survive, and learn. Masterfully written, the story contains a classic, but tragic, love story, tons of action, and a life and death struggle for power. Clavell’s intense tale will lift you up and place you right in the center of the world of the Samurai. 

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By James A. Michener

Book cover of Centennial

Why this book?

Set in the town of Centennial, Colorado, the story, like so many of Michener’s works, moves through the centuries from the Arapaho who inhabited the area, to the fur trappers, to the first settlers, all the way to modern times. Each generation is filled with incredible, remarkably vivid characters. You will find yourself anguishing over each and every passing. Yet remarkably, Michener is able to seamlessly transition into the next cast of characters with a skill few, if any, authors can match. Filled with action and heart-rendering people, if you enjoy historical works and broad tales, this American epic just might be for you.

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By Joseph Heller

Book cover of Catch-22

Why this book?

Heller’s classic is one of the funniest, yet most poignant, stories in American literature. Set in Italy in World War II, it is the tale of a young American airman, Yossarian, who, as his bombing missions increase wants only to survive the insanity of a war being played with ever-changing rules he cannot comprehend. Being able to write such a hysterical work against the backdrop of a world in flames is truly remarkable, yet Heller more than excels at it. You’ll be laughing uncontrollably by the end of the first page.  No library is truly complete without Catch-22

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All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Wesley Wheen

Book cover of All Quiet on the Western Front

Why this book?

I have always been passionate about history. As one who believes we can’t understand where mankind is going if we don’t understand where we’ve been this work found me in my teens and is one I’ve never been able to shake. Based on his years as a German soldier in the trenches of World War I, Remarque’s novel is a masterpiece on the realities of war. Inside its pages you will find a vivid, incredibly realistic tale, compelling characters, and a gut-wrenching story.

While all the books I am recommending are works of fiction, each provides compelling insights into the human psyche. If you’re looking for something new, something significant, something exceptionally well written, you might want to explore each of these classic 20th Century authors.

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