"From my infancy I was
passionately fond of reading, and all the
money that came into my hands was laid out in the purchasing of books.
[...] I have since often regretted that at a time when I had such a
for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen my way ..."
- Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
Listed below are some
of my favorite books and books I'd
The categories are: non-fiction, fiction, books
you buy mostly for the pictures, humor, popular
Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago
- biography of WW II general George S. Patton and basis for the movie
starring George C. Scott.
West With The
Night by Beryl Markham (1942)
- autobiography of an early aviator. Ernest Hemingway said her book
was so well written that it made him "completely ashamed" to call
by Frank McCourt (1996)
- autobiography of an Irish youth, a great book that will make you hungry.
Bad Land by
Jonathan Raban (1996)
- a superbly written book about the settling of Montana in the early
The Time Of
Illusion by Jonathan Schell (1975)
- a great book about Richard Nixon and the effects of Watergate.
Aquarium: The Making Of A Top Soviet Spy by
- a fascinating book about the training of Soviet spies.
Fear and Loathing
In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
- a great book about The American Dream in the early 1970s.
Peter Wright (1987)
- humorous autobiography of the former Assistant Director of MI 5
Intelligence), banned in Britain.
by Bill Wyman (1990)
- story of life in a rock band by the bass player for the Rolling
Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
- mystery/adventure novel utilizing research on Biblical Criticism
and secret societies. Yikes!
Chronicle by John Cheever (1957)
- humorous tale of an eccentric family.
A Tale Of Two
Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
- classic novel about the French Revolution.
A Fable by
William Faulkner (1954)
- brilliantly written, very strange book - a vague allegory of the
first three Gospels set in WW I.
Light In August
by William Faulkner (1932)
- a study of a sociopath.
Jerzy Kosinski (1975)
- a former secret agent metes out his own style of justice.
The Painted Bird
by Jerzy Kosinski (1965)
- a very disturbing book about a boy living in Nazi occupied Eastern
Rum Punch by
Elmore Leonard (1992)
- story of a contemporary drug dealer - great dialogue.
All The Pretty
Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992)
- powerful story of young men taking a trip to Mexico.
The Captive Mind
by Czeslaw Milosz (1953)
- about the power and dangers of totalitarianism.
Twenty Love Poems
and a Song Of Despair by Pablo Neruda
- poems with great imagery.
The Grapes Of
Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
- classic novel about poverty and prejudice.
In Dubious Battle
by John Steinbeck (1936)
- a subtle study of fanaticism.
A Confederacy of
Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980) -
and humorous book!
Books You Buy
Mostly For The Pictures
Cars of the 1950s by the Auto Editors
of Consumer Guide (2007)
- illustrated solely from brochures and ads from the '50s, nicely
illustrates the chrome-encrusted land yachts of yesteryear.
The Library: A World History by James W. P. Campbell (2013)
- if you love books, this is the book to have!
Painting Techniques of the Masters by Hereward
- shows how they do it.
Classic Old House
Plans by Lawrence Grow (1984)
- contains drawings and floor plans of some classic mansions.
by Jessica Hodge (1994)
- an excellent short survey of his surrealist paintings.
Castles of Europe
by Molly Moynihan (1993)
- worth it just for the photo on the cover.
Peter Nelson (1994)
- survey of some incredibly elaborate treehouses.
Unique Homes, Volume Three by Shelley
Richard Goodwin (1994)
- great ideas for spending your lottery winnings!
The Deep: The
Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by
Claire Nouvian (2007)
- incredible pictures of incredible creatures!
Ultimate Impressionist by Sylvie Patin
- pocket sized, but a superbly written and well photographed book.
Jazz Covers by Joaquim Paulo and Julius Wiedemann (2012)
- classic covers of jazz albums.
Donald Sommerville (1995)
- a photographic survey of castles.
Van Gogh: A
Retrospective by Susan Alyson Stein (1986)
- beautiful collection of his works along with numerous letters by
Encyclopedia of Flags by Alfred Znamierowski
- shows a huge variety of flags and explains their symbolism.
Finest News Reporting, Vol. 1, ed. by Scott
and Robert Siegel (2000)
fake news articles (some of which are featured on my office door)!
The Big Book Of
Hell by Matt Groening (1990)
- The Ultimate Collection of Binky cartoons.
Letters From A Nut
by Ted L. Nancy (1997)
- Real letters written to various corporations, along with their
Some Good Books
In Popular Science
No Electrons: Electronics For Earthlings by Kenn Amdahl (1991)
- one of the most entertaining popular science books I've read.
Of The Universe by John D. Barrow
- a short book on the beginning of everything.
Gods, Graves and
Scholars by C. W. Ceram (1967)
- dated, but very well-written overview of the history of archeology.
by Jean-Pierre Changeaux (1985)
- dated now, but a very well written discussion of the biology of the
Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (1987)
- excellent discussion of evolution.
Why Do Buses Come
in Threes? by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy
- amazing account of the ubiquity of mathematics.
Science On Trial:
The Case For Evolution by Douglas
- superb discussion of the evidence for evolution.
Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould (1991)
- interesting tales in natural history.
The Fabric of the
Cosmos by Brian Greene (2004)
- excellent discussion of contemporary physics, more detailed than most.
The Birth of
Time: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the
Universe by John Gribbin (2001)
- slightly dated already, but a great read!
Universal Language by Denis Guedj (1997)
account of the history of numerals.
Infinity by Michael Guillen (1983)
- survey of the value of mathematics for people who hate math.
Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths
Among Us by Robert Hare (1999)
- fascinating account of the minds of psychopaths.
by Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil
- a nice overview of the stuff everyone should know.
Only A Theory
by Kenneth R. Miller (2008)
- nice refutation of creationism
In the Blink of
an Eye by Andrew Parker (2003)
- offers and defends a theory that the evolution of vision caused the
Knocking on Heaven's Door by Lisa Randall (2011)
- accessible book on physics and scienttific methods.
The Man Who
Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks
- stories of patients with remarkable and unusual neurological
Big Bang: The
Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh
- great discussion of the development of the Big Bang theory.
Wrinkles In Time
by George Smoot and Keay Davidson
- great book on the search for the origins of the universe.
DMT: The Spirit
Molecule by Rick Strassman (2001).
- interesting study of dimethyltryptamine, a brain chemical that may
be responsible for religious mystical experiences.
Some Good Books in History
Globalism, Sixth Edition by Stephen E.
- excellent overview of American foreign policy since 1938.
What The Bible
Really Says by Manfred Barthel (1980)
- superbly written blend of archeology and history of Biblical times.
Religion and the
Enlightenment by James M. Byrne (1997)
- excellent discussion of the interrelationships among philosophy,
religion and politics during the Enlightenment.
Guns, Germs and
Steel by Jared Diamond (1997)
- fascinating account of the rise and fall of societies as a result of
geography and natural resources.
by Bart Ehrman (2010)
- well written account of the development of Christianity.
Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible
Lane Fox (1991)
- a fascinating tale of historical detective work.
The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman (2002)
- well-written book about the transition from reason to the Dark Ages in Europe.
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt (2011)
- great book on the move away from a Medieval world view and towards a modern one.
The Ends of Power
by H. R. Haldeman (1978)
- an insider's look at Watergate.
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby (2008)
- discusses the development contemporary anti-intellectualism.
Henry Kissinger (1994)
- excellent if long book about modern European history American foreign
policy written by a guy who made a significant portion of that history.
The Land Where
The Blues Began by Alan Lomax (1993)
- story of the birth of the blues and the South in the early part of
the 20th century.
The Age Of Reason
by Frank Manuel (1951)
- a brief overview of the Enlightenment.
American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard (1992)
- eye-opening book about the genocide of Native Americans by Europeans; you'll wonder how we could ever celebrate Columbis Day!
The Radicalism of
the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood (1993)
- a great book on the social changes surrounding the American Revolution.
recommended philosophy books are secondary, single
books accessible to advanced undergraduates and philosophy majors. They
provide an excellent introduction to the basics. A few of these are a
dated, but those that are are extraordinarily clear and still useful.
you're just starting out, I would instead recommend the books listed at
the end of my article entitled "What
and Philosophy ed. by William Irwin
- collection of essays discussing the philosophical themes of the movie
Matrix. Accessible even to those with no philosophical background!
What If... Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy by
Peg Tittle (2005) - fascinating collection of thought experiments!
Structure of Empirical Knowledge by Laurence
An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology by Matthias
Ethics by Anthony Quinton (1988)
Ethics, Second Edition by William Frankena (1973)
Basic Moral Philosophy by Robert L. Holmes (2006)
Modal Logic by Kenneth Konyndyk
Metalogic by Geoffrey Hunter (1971)
Possible Worlds: An Introduction to Logic and Its Philosophy
by Raymond Bradley and Norman Swartz (1979)
Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic by
by D. M. Armstrong (1989)
Contemporary Metaphysics by Michael Jubien (1997)
An Essay on Free Will by Peter Van Inwagen (1983)
Davidson by Simon Evnine (1991)
An Analytical and Historical
by Georges Dicker (1993)
by Anthony Kenny (1995)
and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy by Dan Garrett (2002)
Categorical Imperative by H. J. Paton
by R. S. Woolhouse (1983)
Stuart Mill by John Skorupski (1989)
Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist
Russell by A. J. Ayer (1972)
by Stuart Hampshire (1987)
Hundred Years of Philosophy by John Passmore
- covers Mill through Wittgenstein
The Cambridge Companions To ... (Hume, Locke, Plato, etc.)
consists of collections of contemporary essays which tend to be very
by Anthony Kenny (1973)
Philosophy of Language
and Reality: An Introduction to the
of Language by Michael Devitt and Kim Sterelny (1999)
Philosophy of Language by William Alston (1964)
Philosophy of Mind
Mind, Second Edition by Keith Campbell
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Mind by Jerome Shaffer (1968)
Mental Content by Colin McGinn (1989)
of Religion, by
Reason and Religious Belief, by Michael
et al, (2008)
The Miracle of Theism by J. L. Mackie (1982)
Philosophy of Science
Introduction to the Philosophy of Science by
Philosophy of Natural Science by Carl Hempel (1966)
The Copernican Revolution by Thomas Kuhn (1957)
State and Utopia by Robert Nozick (1974)
Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy
Analytic Philosophy by Milton K.
Analytic Philosophy by Barry Gross (1970)
Philosophical Analysis by J. O. Urmson (1956)
A Bit Of Almost Everything
Explanations by Robert Nozick
Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Paul
- a bit
dated now, and expensive (either 4 or 8
on which version you get), but still the best general reference work. A
supplemental update volume has recently been published.
The Oxford Companion
To Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
Dictionary Of Philosophy by Robert Audi
- these two
"dictionaries" are really more like
There are some true dictionaries of philosophy out there, but I
recommend any of the ones I have read. A word of advice regarding the
never look up a word unless you already know what it means.
are fond of adding their own shades of meaning to common philosophical
also published a series of books entitled
Companions To ... (Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Ethics,
etc.). These tend to be concise encyclopedias on the given topic
the format does vary).
Oxford has published a series of books entitled Oxford Handbooks each
devoted to an area of philosophy. These have been very good. Similarly for Routledge, Continuum and Bloomsbury!