Books Everyone Should Read

by talkbackty on Apr 2, 2012

Part 2 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. To see all entries, click here.

Ever wake up one day and realize that over the years you've become something? Through time and dedication you barely registered as such, you have joined the ranks of some club/group/segment of the population. My realization came in high school when it became clear that I read a lot more than my peers. Even in college, the supposed pantheon of the educated, I still outpaced the men and women around me.

I read a lot. That is all I wanted to say. Because I read a lot and my interests are varied I have had the chance to read things from nearly every genre. And while books are slowly being replaced by online articles, blogs and videos as the go to medium for everyone, including myself, I thought a collection of my favorite books would be worthwhile.

Further ado; these are in no particular order.

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. I recommend this book to everyone. There's even a few copies I've given to students floating around out there with a message to keep passing it along, pay-it-forward style. Written in the same vein as its more famous cousin, The Art of War, this short book is all about overcoming the forces that stop you from achieving your goals. Is it a little self-helpy? Yes. Will some be turned off my the author's mystical tendencies? Yes. I do not care. It is great and everyone should read it.

The Postman by David Brin. The magnificent thing about a post-apocalyptic setting is that it removes all the social biases we are familiar with as readers. What we are left with is a picture of how the author really sees the world. Brin presents a harsh reality where America has fallen and one man struggles to survive but throughout everything he retains hope. And that's a message worth being reminded of. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Green (and his brother Hank. Nerdfighters!) Have slowly invaded my mind since I found them on youtube a few years ago. Both are inspiring individuals, but John is also one of the best young adult writers in the country. His latest book is a masterpiece. It is the heart-warming (and heart-breaking) story of two teens who meet at a cancer-support group. Funny, endearing and honest. Read it, then check out all the awesome nerdfighter stuff on youtube.

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. If you are constantly flicking between Bill O'Reily and whoever MSNBC throws up to compete against him you owe it to yourself to check out CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. He is an Indian American reporter who graduated from Yale and Harvard, was a columunist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International and editor-at-large of TIME. The guy is smart, direct and well-spoken. In his third book he looks at the changing global landscape and how America is dealing with "the rise of the rest" (other nations getting power). It should be a staple for all those with an interest in politics, which in my opinion, should be everyone. Which is why it is on this list.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The first of the Kingkiller Chronicles. A fictional masterpiece about a young man who retells his heroic rise and fall. The author wrote the entire series years ago and has been editing and refining ever since. The result is some of the best prose one can find. Literary, sweeping and beautiful.

The Illustrated World's Religions by Huston Smith. My college two different universities. It has become a staple of every religion department for good reason. Including every religion you've ever heard of and most you have not. Simple and beautiful, and as the title suggests, full of wonderful pictures. Enjoy.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. If you are unfamiliar with this novel I will just give you the long-form title in hopes of sparking your interest. Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, a Fourth-Generation German-American Now Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Code (and Smoking Too Much) Who, as an American Infantry Scout, Hors de Combat as a Prisoner of War, Witnessed the Fire Bombing of Dresden, Germany, "The Florence of the Elbe, a Long Time Ago and Survived to Tell the Tale. This is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic, Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where the Flying Saucers Come From. Peace.

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt. A look at behavioral economics in a humorous and easy to understand way. One of the first real efforts to take the heavily mathematically-inclined field of economics and make it digestible by the average person. Levitt seems to know exactly what chords to strike to enlighten and inspire.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. A powerful novel about the spiritual journey of an Indian man set around the fifth century BCE. This is a timeless tale and an excellent introduction to Eastern philosophy and religious beliefs.

World War Z by Max Brooks. The zombie book that will define zombie books for many if 2013's movie starring Brad Pitt is a hit. Regardless of the film, this book has it all. It is captivating, emotional and terrifying. Using a "reporter" to interview survivors of the zombie apocalypse, readers are able to experience an event from numerous different viewpoints. Even those not interested in the horror genre should be entertained by this novel.

My goal with recommending these books is not to showcase the greatest writers in the world. Notice how there is no Shakespeare, Twain or Hemingway. Instead, I am hoping to inspire. Each book is a nice intro to big ideas. Freakonomics is a great introduction to economics, and it is a topic I became really interested in during college specifically because of the book I read in high school.

Each book has the capacity to inspire and that is what I have always gotten from books. Whether it is inspiration to save the princess or fight off zombies or see the world. Books have a wonderful ability to transfer our consciousness to another realm. A realm where we create our own reality by dreaming. And I think it is a good idea to share that capacity with as many people as possible.