Essential Books

Reading is essential to our personal growth. There is no other opportunity available to spend 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  need 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 other eyes.

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 share 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. Banks – Affliction
  2. Banks – Continental Drift
  3. Banks – Rule of the Bone
  4. Banks – Sweet Hereafter
  5. Berger – Little Big Man
  6. Boyle – The Tortilla Curtain
  7. Brown – Dirty Work
  8. Brown – Father & Son
  9. Campbell – Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine
  10. Childress – Crazy in Alabama
  11. Childress – Tender
  12. Conroy – Beach Music
  13. Conroy – The Great Santini
  14. Conroy – The Lords of Discipline
  15. Conroy – The Prince of Tides: A Novel
  16. DeLillo – White Noise
  17. Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment
  18. Dreiser – An American Tragedy
  19. Duncan – The Brothers K
  20. Ellroy – American Tabloid
  21. Ellroy – Blood’s a Rover
  22. Ellroy – L.A. Confidential
  23. Ellroy – The Big Nowhere
  24. Ellroy – The Black Dahlia
  25. Ellroy – The Cold Six Thousand
  26. Ellroy – White Jazz
  27. Frey – Bright Shiny Morning
  28. Hellenga – The Fall of a Sparrow
  29. Hesse – Beneath the Wheel
  30. Hesse – Demian
  31. Hesse – Narcissus and Goldmund
  32. Hill – The Nix
  33. Hugo – Les Miserables
  34. Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
  35. Irving – The World According to Garp
  36. Kelton – The Time it Never Rained
  37. King – The Stand
  38. Knowles- A Separate Peace
  39. Kunstler – A World Made by Hand
  40. Kunstler – The Harrows of Spring
  41. Kunstler – The History of the Future
  42. Kunstler – The Witch of Hebron
  43. Lamb – I Know This Much is True
  44. Lamb – She’s Come Undone
  45. Lamb – The Hour I First Believed
  46. Lehane – Mystic River
  47. Lewis- Babbit
  48. Lewis – Elmer Gantry
  49. Markley – Ohio
  50. McCammon – Boy’s Life
  51. McCammon – Gone South
  52. McCammon – Swan Song
  53. McFarland – The Music Room
  54. McInerney – Brightness Falls
  55. McMurtry – Comanche Moon
  56. McMurtry – Dead Man’s Walk
  57. McMurtry – Lonesome Dove
  58. McMurtry – Streets of Laredo
  59. Meyer – American Rust
  60. Mitchell – Gone With the Wind
  61. Nichols – The Magic Journey
  62. Nichols – The Milagro Beanfield War
  63. Nichols – The Nirvana Blues
  64. Payne – Early from the Dance
  65. Payne – Ruin Creek
  66. Powers – Gain
  67. Quinn – Ishmael
  68. Rand – Atlas Shrugged
  69. Rand – The Fountainhead
  70. Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front
  71. Rawls – Where the Red Fern Grows
  72. Russo – Empire Falls
  73. Russo – Mohawk
  74. Russo – Nobody’s Fool
  75. Russo – Straight Man
  76. Russo – The Risk Pool
  77. Shaara – Killer Angels
  78. Shriver – The Mandibles: A Family 2020 – 2047
  79. Silko – Almanac of the Dead
  80. Sinclair – Oil!
  81. Smiley – Good Faith
  82. Steinbeck – Cannery Row
  83. Steinbeck – East of Eden
  84. Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
  85. Steinbeck – The Winter of Our Discontent
  86. Straub – Ghost Story
  87. Styron – Sophie’s Choice
  88. Vonnegut – Bluebeard
  89. Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle
  90. Vonnegut – God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
  91. Vonnegut – Hocus Pocus
  92. Vonnegut – Jailbird
  93. Vonnegut – Palm Sunday
  94. Vonnegut – Player Piano
  95. Vonnegut – Slapstick
  96. Vonnegut – Timequake
  97. Warren – All the Kings Men
  98. Williams – Stoner
  99. Wouk – The Winds of War
  100. Wouk – War and Remembrance
  101. Wright – Native Son


  1. Adams – America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet
  2. Bissinger – A Prayer for the City
  3. Bissinger – Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream
  4. Brock – Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
  5. Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  6. Chapian – The Emancipation of Robert Sadler: The Powerful True Story of a Twentieth Century Plantation Slave
  7. Claiborne – Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
  8. Covey – First Things First
  9. Covey – Principle Centered Leadership
  10. Covey – The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
  11. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  12. Covey – The Speed of Trust: The One Things That Changes Everything
  13. Cullen – Columbine
  14. Davidson – The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age
  15. Domiguez – Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence
  16. dos Remedios – Men’s Health Power Training
  17. Egan – The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
  18. Faludi – Stiffed: The Betrayal of American Men
  19. Ferguson – Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America
  20. Fitzgerald – Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us
  21. Francis – Never Get Sick Again: Health is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It
  22. Fussell – Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder
  23. Gatto – The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling
  24. Geoghegan – Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on its Back
  25. Gifford – Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying)
  26. Greene – The Art of Seduction
  27. Greene – Mastery
  28. Greene – The 33 Strategies of War
  29. Greene – The 48 Laws of Power
  30. Greider – Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country
  31. Greider – One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
  32. Greider – Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country
  33. Greider – The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
  34. Greider – Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy
  35. Hayden – Reunion: A Memoir
  36. Hedges – Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
  37. Hewlett – The War Against Parents
  38. Isenberg – White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America
  39. Jensen – A Language Older Than Words
  40. Jensen – Endgame, Volume I: The Problem of Civilization
  41. Jensen – Endgame, Volume II: Resistance
  42. Jensen – Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture and Eros
  43. Jensen – The Culture of Make Believe
  44. Kaplan – An Empire Wilderness: Travel’s in America’s Future
  45. Keen – Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man
  46. Klein – The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
  47. Kohn – Punished by Rewards:The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes
  48. Koller – An Unknown Woman: A Journey to Self-Discovery
  49. Koller – Stations of Solitude
  50. Kotlikoff – The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future
  51. Kotlowitz – There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
  52. Kozol – Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation
  53. Kozol – The Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s School
  54. Kozol – The Shame of a Nation: The Return of Apartheid Schooling in America
  55. Krakauer – Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a Small Town
  56. Lappe – Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet
  57. Lawless – Formerly Known as Food: How the Industrial Food System is Changing Our Minds, Bodies and Culture
  58. Lowenstein – While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis
  59. Mander – Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
  60. Mander – In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations
  61. Mate – A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence
  62. Millman – Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior
  63. Millman – The Hidden School
  64. Millman – The Journey’s of Socrates
  65. Millman – Way of the Peaceful Warrior
  66. Postman – The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School
  67. Putnam – Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
  68. Rivlin – Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. – How the Working Poor Became Big Business
  69. Robbins- Awaken the Giant Within: Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Physical, Emotional and Financial Destiny
  70. Robbins- Unlimited power: The New Science of Personal Achievement
  71. Robbins – Diet for a New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth
  72. Robbins – Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secret’s of the World’s Healthiest and Longest Living People
  73. Robbins – The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World
  74. Robbins – The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less
  75. Rufus – Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto
  76. Schlosser – Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
  77. Sheehan – A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
  78. Sheridan – A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey Through the World of Fighting
  79. Sheridan – The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game
  80. Smith – Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation
  81. Solomon – The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
  82. Spwell – Black Rednecks and White Liberals
  83. Soweel – The Quest for Cosmic Justice
  84. Sowell – The Vision of the Annointed
  85. Swenson – Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (Experiencing God)
  86. Taibbi – The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
  87. Tracy – Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills That Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed
  88. Wagner – The Global Achievement Gap: Why the Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Kids Need- And What We Can Do About It
  89. Wiley – Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival