Here are some of my favorite books that I’ve read over the years and would recommend to all you nice people. Listed alphabetically by author:
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This might be the greatest book ever written. It’s easy to read, funny as hell, and full of insight and, more importantly, hope. Don’t panic.
Samuel Beckett – Waiting for Godot
It’s ok if you don’t understand this play – just like it’s ok if you don’t understand life.
Robert Dimery – 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
The title speaks for itself, and I was surprised by how many songs I didn’t know. It’ll turn you into a well-rounded listener, and the songs are listed in chronological order, so you’ll get the hear how Western popular music has evolved over the past 100 years.
Syd Field – Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
This is a good introduction to screenwriting, but for non-film people this is also a great resource for understanding story structure and writing clearly.
Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections
People love to hate Franzen, but at least give this book a shot. You might be surprised by how well he knows your family.
James Joyce – Ulysses
The most pretentious book that’s actually worth reading. Here’s another reason why you should read it.
Jack Kerouac – On The Road
Run-on sentences have never been so compelling.
Stephen King – On Writing
Possibly the best book on how to write well, if not the most accessible. You don’t have to be a King fan to enjoy. Also check out Elements of Style, Several Short Sentences About Writing, and On Writing Well.
Austin Kleon – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
A self-described manifesto for creativity in the digital age. It’s so easy to read, you can show this to your parents and they’ll want to start writing a novel. Also check out Show Your Work.
Leil Lowndes – How To Talk To Anyone
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People for the 21st century.
Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer
It’s not for everyone, but it’s the book that inspired me to become a writer. There would be no Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, or Beat movement without this book.
Joseph O’Neil – Netherland
The best book about post-9/11 New York City and the American Dream. Read this instead of The Great Gatsby.
Ramit Sethi – I Will Teach You To Be Rich
This isn’t the only personal finance book that you should read, but it’s a great introduction for anyone who isn’t sure where to start learning about money management, investing, or saving for retirement (which you should start doing right now).
The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a good place to start.
Gary Shteyngart – Super Sad True Love Story
Because our iPhones will turn into Äppäräts sooner than you think, and Shteyngart is a Kurt Vonnegut for the Facebook generation.
Patti Smith – Just Kids
Read this before you jump on that train to New York City to pursuit your dreams, because once upon a time she was just like you. And once you’re in New York, read E.B. White’s Here Is New York.
John Steinbeck – East of Eden
Forget Grapes of Wrath, this is his best book.
Ian F. Svenonius – Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group
A hilarious and ironic “history” of rock n roll. Even if none of it is true, it doesn’t take itself too seriously like all the “indie” buzz bands in Brooklyn that Svenonius is making fun of.
Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
Because humans are Yahoos.
Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace
Because what else is there?
Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five
This is the classic novel from my favorite writer. My personal favorite is God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, but this is where you should start. So it goes.
Adelle Waldman – The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Fellow dude writers who live in Brooklyn, be aware: Waldman knows you better than you know yourself.
Andy Warhol – The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)
Part autobiography, part meditation on the pop culture that he helped popularized, Warhol is as ironic and detached as you’d expect in this 1975 book. However, what makes this book worth reading is that he’s surprisingly open about his hopes and fears and what role he believes art plays in life (hint: art is useless).
Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass
You can get away with only reading the first edition (it’s a lot shorter), but read it outside and become one with nature and America.
Meg Wolitzer – The Interestings
An ambitious novel that tries to answer the question: how do we accept our ordinary lives when we want to be extraordinary?
Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X
A powerful and painful look at race in America. This is Malcolm’s life, but Alex Haley’s brilliant ghostwriting elevates his story to required reading.
The Dhammapada, The Bhagavad Gita, The Quran, The Bible, and other religious text
Whether you believe it or not, it’s important to understand what each religion stands for, and you might actually learn a thing or two.
The Communist Manifesto, The Wealth Of Nations, Democracy in America, and other political & economic text
Same as the religious texts. Become an informed citizen. Read as much as you can.