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.
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
In no particular order. These are repeated below in their respective categories.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
- Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- 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
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Adler & Doren. Essential reading.
- An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis
- How to Read Slowly by James Sire
- The Low-Information Diet (free PDF) by Tim Ferriss – Why is this in the reading category? Because the section on speed reading almost doubled my reading efficiency. I’ve tried a number of different speed reading programs, but they never worked for me. In two pages, Ferriss gave me something that worked.
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
- 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
- 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.
- The Elements of Style (4th Ed.) by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White – The classic guide to writing well.
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser – Good advice that embodies what it teaches.
- The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
- On Writing by Steven King — Interesting and sprinkled with advice from one of our most prolific writers. Don’t do drugs and write every day.
- “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell
- “Some Thoughts About Writing” by Thomas Sowell
- “A Guide to Writing Well” by Joshua Sowin (a compilation)
- Personal Finances for Dummies by Eric Tyson— This was very helpful to me to get my finances in order. Good advice — when I didn’t take it, I usually regretted it.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki — Inspirational.
- Eight Steps to Seven Figures by Charles Carlson — See my review.
- Mastery by Robert Greene — A must read. Learn to become a Master.
- Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman
- Teaching as a Conserving Activity by Neil Postman
- The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer
- The Intellectual Devotional — Daily readings in history, literature, philosophy, math & science, religion, visual arts, and music. I use this and find it helpful.
Humor and Satire
- Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson – Genius.
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson — It will have you laughing at loud.
Business, Management, and Marketing
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries — Go lean. This will change the way you & your business works. Or at least it should.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss — The best, most inspirational business/productivity book I’ve ever read. Read it as soon as you can.
- The $100 Startup — More practical than 4HWK
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin — Make your niche business remarkable.
- The Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki — Good advice about starting anything.
- First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham — Great managerial advice.
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith — Stop those bad work habits!
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey — The classic.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — Read it early, scan it often.
- The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch — Read part one and three. Part three alone is worth the price of the book. Skip part two unless you enjoy statistics.
- Manage Your Day-to-Day by 99u — Lots of great short essays on productivity.
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish — Once your company starts growing beyond $1m in revenue, you need to read this book ASAP.
- Online Articles
- “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow” in Harvard Business Review — Most companies go through predictable stages of evolution and revolution… and it’s important to know them as your business grows.
- “How Fast Can Your Company Afford to Grow?“ in Harvard Business Review — This is financially heavy but very helpful in teaching how to apply levers of growth to your business model.
- “Makers Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” by Paul Graham — Maker’s and managers have different work schedules and habits for good reasons.
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug — Foundational usability principles.
- The Design of Sites by Van Duyne, et. all — Many, many examples of problem-solving solutions. Comprehensive and a great reference.
- Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites by Andrew Chak.
- Designing the Obvious by Robert Koekman, Jr.
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Essays of E. B. White – One of the greatest essayists of the 20th century.
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard – Fascinating.
- Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck – An interesting travelogue.
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson — Hilarious, fascinating, and will make you want to get on a plane to Australia.
- One Summer by Bill Bryson — A brilliant historical and cultural recreation of the summer of 1927.
- The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate — An excellent anthology of personal essays through the centuries.