Essential Books

Reading is essential to our personal growth. There is no other opportunity available to spent countless hours with the greatest minds alive (or to have ever lived). The human heart and the means to a great life have been mapped out for us – we simply to to take the time to access this gift.

What we read matters. We should read deeply.  Books should be unpleasant, searching, drastic, stinging and relentless. They should push us outside ourselves, force us to evaluate different experiences, perspectives  opinions and beliefs – to see the humanity – and SIMILARITY – in others. To see the world through the eyes of another.

Great fiction is hypnotic. Pushes us to  reflect, analyze, and connect our  own memories and opinions. It gives us time to establish an intimate relationship with the author and characters.

The best non-fiction presents the opportunity to learn from the greatest among us – through the vehicle of books they shares their acquired insights, knowledge and experience – and we are their benefactors.

Reading is an immense gift, but only if words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed and received in unhurried delight…reading that enters our souls as food enters our stomachs, spreads through our blood and becomes – love and wisdom. – Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book

Here are the books that have most significantly impacted my heart and mind (They are not necessarily “great” books, but they have helped my personal growth in some way). Some are recent, other’s I read 25+ years ago, yet they all linger within me.


    1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
    2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
    3. Affliction by Russell Banks
    4. All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren
    5. American Rust by Phillip Meyer
    6. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
    7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    8. Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse
    9. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
    10. Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
    11. Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney
    12. Cannery Rowby John Steinbeck
    13. Continental Drift  by Russell Banks
    14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    15. Demian by Herman Hesse
    16. East of Eden  by John Steinbeck
    17. Gain by Richard Powers
    18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    19. Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
    20. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    21. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
    22. Lonesome Dove: A Novel by Larry McMurtry
    23. Mohawk by Richard Russo
    24. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
    25. Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
    26. Native Son by Richard Wright
    27. Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
    28. Ohio by Stephen Markley
    29. Rule of the Bone: A Novel by Russell Banks
    30. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
    31. Stoner by John Williams
    32. Straight Man by Richard Russo
    33. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
    34. Sweet Hereafter: A Novel by Russell Banks
    35. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
    36. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    37. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
    38. The Magic Journey by John Nichols
    39. The Mandibles: A Family 2020 – 2047 by Lionel Shriver
    40. The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
    41. The Nirvana Blues by John Nichols
    42. The Nix by Nathan Hill
    43. The Prince of Tides: A Novel by Pat Conroy
    44. The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
    45. The Stand by Stephen King
    46. The Time it Never Rained by Elmer Kelton
    47. The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle
    48. The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
    49. The Winter of Our Discontent  by John Steinbeck
    50. War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    51. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
    52. White Noise by Don DeLillo


  1. A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan
  2. A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen
  3. A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence by Ferenc Mate
  4. An Empire Wilderness: Travel’s in America’s Future by Robert Kaplan
  5. Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. – How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin
  6. Champions Way: Football, Florida and the Lost Soul of College Sports by Mike McIntire
  7. Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock
  8. Columbine by Dave Cullen
  9. Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country by William Greider
  10. Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us by Matt Fitzgerald
  11. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
  12. Endgame, Volume I by Derrick Jensen
  13. Endgame, Volume II by Derrick Jensen
  14. Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
  15. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  16. Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger
  17. Healthy at 100 by John Robbins
  18. In the Absence of the Sacred by Jerry Mander
  19. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne
  20. Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T. S. Wiley
  21. Listening to the Land by Derrick Jensen
  22. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (Experiencing God) by Richard Swenson
  23. Mastery by Robert Greene
  24. Men’s Health Power Training by Robert dos Remedios
  25. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a Small Town by Jon Krakauer
  26. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet by Mark Adams
  27. Muscle by Samuel Fussell
  28. One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism by William Greider
  29. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam
  30. Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America by Charles Ferguson
  31. Punished by Rewards:The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn
  32. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  33. Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country by William Greider
  34. Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying) by Bill Gifford
  35. Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph by Dennis Prager
  36. Survival+ by Charles Hugh Smith
  37. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  38. The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence Kotlikoff
  39. The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen
  40. The Emancipation of Robert Sadler: The Powerful True Story of a Twentieth-Century Plantation Slave by Marie Chapian
  41. The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School by Neil Postman
  42. The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan
  43. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–And What We Can Do about It by Tony Wagner
  44. The New Good Life by John Robbins
  45. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
  46. The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools by Dale Russakoff
  47. The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell
  48. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
  49. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
  50. The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy by William Greider
  51. The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
  52. While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis by Roger Lowenstein
  53. White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
  54. Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy by William Greider
  55. Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge
  56. Your Money or Your Life by Robert Domiguez