Recommended Reading

Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences,
information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia,
a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be
constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.

Italo Calvino

These books have been part of my journey–they have made an impact on my life and how I view the world. I recommend them to you for your consideration.

Table of Contents


My Favorites

In no particular order. These are repeated below in their respective categories.


Literature

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck – A mythic exploration of human depravity and freedom.
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – My favorite work of literature. Excellent characters, scenery, and plot. It has sustained multiple re-readings.
  • The Fault In Our Stars by John Green —Smart, funny, and so many feels.
  • Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice Series) by George R.R. Martin. It’s like Lord of the Rings for adults and with characters with more moral agency.
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien – The first book of literature I read after college. It left me with a desire to read more, and began my love of learning things outside of theology. The creativity of the man! It astounds me. The most incredible work of sub-creation I have ever read. I usually read this every year.
  • 1984 by George Orwell – The classic distopia.
  • The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – An interesting portrayal of human depravity.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Entertaining and witty.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – A great story.
  • Ishmael and My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – Quinn says that mankind enacts a story that makes him the enemy of the world. Through Socratic dialogue he takes the reader through his arguments and presents a creative interpretation of Genesis that is both challenging and intriguing. I don’t agree with many of Quinn’s ideas, but he has a knack for making the reader think which I appreciate.
  • The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams – Existential humor at it’s best.
  • The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – While not necessarily profound, it is an imaginative and gripping story. Excellent for introducing children into the joys of literature. I enjoyed them all, but I thought the last three were best.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – In the words of Abraham Piper, “An endlessly amusing, simple yet profound look at what it’s like to be a confused human being.”
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins — One of the first mystery novels.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Impressive sci-fi.

On Reading and Literature


Biography and Autobiography

  • John Adams by David McCullough – The book that made me interested in biography and history.
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson. Not a great bio to be honest, but it’s all we’ve got on Jobs right now.
  • Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

Cultural Studies

  • Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – A good primer on the bias of mediums (oral, typographical, visual). Well written. (Update: I don’t agree a lot of this anymore but it’s definitely worth reading still.)
  • Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford
  • The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry – A good compilation of Wendell Berry’s essays.
  • The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseduo-Events in America (1961) by Daniel J. Boorstin – Boorstin’s exposition of imagery, television, magazines, celebrities, pseudo-events, abridgements, travel, tourism, movies, corporate image, and advertising is a classic. Well-written and thoughtful. Includes Boorstin’s usual top-notch bibliography. Highly recommended.
  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell – Filled with fascinating anecdotes and examples, Gladwell convincingly argues that ideas and behavior spread as epidemics. Easily understandable and very interesting.
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (2004) by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter – Excellent analysis of countercultural ideas and insightful explanation of how our desire for distinction drives what we do.
  • Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath — Explains why some ideas stick and others die. Make your ideas stick.
  • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. This will change how you think of idea creation and the history of innovation.
  • How We Got To Now by Steven Johnson. A fascinating exploration on how ideas like refrigeration, clocks, lenses dramatically impacted the world.

Art and Aesthetics

  • “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki – I liked it so much I wrote an essay about it.
  • The State of the Arts by Gene Edward Veith – Fascinating introduction to art from a Christian perspective.

Food and Agriculture

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan – Pollan says we have a “national eating disorder” and highlights the irony that our stereotyped unhealthy country is so obsessed with “health food” and diets. He walks through his personal journey with industrial agriculture, organic agriculture, and hunting/gathering. You’ll never look at industrial (or industrial organic) food quite the same way again.

Science and History

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – Covers an immense amount of material in an entertaining and interesting way, while at the same time being concise. Highly recommended.
  • Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry – A good reminder that science can’t solve everything.
  • Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer – Helped me understand evolution from an evolutionist, instead of from creationist straw men.
  • From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun – A study of ideas through western history.
  • The Science of Good & Evil by Michael Shermer – An attempt to understand morality through our evolutionary origins.
  • The Demon-Haunted World (1995) by Carl Sagan — A great rebuttal to pseudoscience and superstition.
  • On Religion and Science

Economics

  • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell – The best economics book I’ve read. Easy to understand and filled with practical examples.
  • Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt – A good defense of free market capitalism.
  • Home Economics by Wendell Berry – A warning against the biases of free market capitalism and an exhortation to home economy.

Writing


Finances


Education


Humor and Satire


Business, Management, and Marketing


Web Design


Other


Other Reading Lists