Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.



Last active Dec 24, 2016
What would you like to do?
A list of my favorite books, in no particular order and with no particular applicability in mind.

A List of my Favorite Books

I've categorized the books--roughly--by Big Theme: the header to each sub-list.

The Idea of America

  • "Debate on the Constitution, Vol. I and II", various (Library of America)
  • "The Praire Traveler", Randolph B. Marcy
  • "An American Tragedy", Theodore Dreiser
  • "The Great Gatsby", F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • "Poison Penmanship", Jessica Mitford
  • "Hard Rain Falling", Don Carpenter
  • "American Psycho", Bret Easton Ellis
  • "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business", Neil Postman
  • "Sidewalk", Mitchell Duneier
  • "Whose Names are Unknown", Sanora Babb
  • "The Executioner's Song", Norman Mailer
  • "The Ugly American", William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick
  • "Moby Dick", Herman Melville
  • "Under the Banner of Heaven", Jon Krakauer
  • "Into the Wild", Jon Krakauer
  • "Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States", Pete Jordan
  • "The Naked and the Dead", Norman Mailer
  • Everything by Henry David Thoreau
  • "Post Office", Charles Bukowski
  • "Imperial", William T. Vollmann
  • "Riding Toward Everywhere", William T. Vollmann


  • "Among the Thugs", Bill Buford
  • "Ulysses", James Joyce
  • "The Toilers of the Sea", Victor Hugo
  • "The Atlas", William T. Vollmann
  • "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America", Barbara Ehrenreich
  • "The Working Poor: Invisible in America", David K. Shipler
  • "O'Connor: Collected Works", Flannery O'Connor, (Library of America)
  • "Angela's Ashes", Frank McCourt
  • "Up in the Old Hotel", Joseph Mitchell
  • "Poor People", William T. Vollmann
  • "Tunnel People", Teun Voeten

Life in Represive Regimes

  • "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty", Bradley K. Martin
  • "Cement", R. V. Gladkov
  • "The Captive Mind", Czeslaw Milosz
  • "Life and Fate", Vasily Grossman
  • "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea", Barbara Demick
  • "Europe Central", William T. Vollmann
  • "Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall", Anna Funder
  • "The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and It's Dangerous Legacy", David E. Hoffman
  • "The Commissariat of Enlightenment", Ken Kalfus
  • "The Appointment", Herta Muller
  • "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • "Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories", various (edited by John Joseph Adams)
  • "The Orphan Master's Son", Adam Johnson
  • "Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War", Mark Danner
  • "Tyranny on Trial: The Trial of the Major German War Criminals at the end of Warl War II at Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-1946", Whitney R. Harris
  • "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror", Mark Danner
  • "Chernobyl: Confessions of a Reporter", Igor Kostin

Misc. Literature

  • "The Remains of the Day", Kazuo Ishiguro
  • "Journal of the Plague Year", Daniel Defoe
  • "Thirst", Andrei Gelasimov
  • "Dracula", Bram Stoker
  • "Timequake", Kurt Vonnegut
  • "Tree of Smoke", Denis Johnson
  • "Revolution Road", Richard Yates
  • "The Collected Stories of Richard Yates", Richard Yates
  • "Lady with Lapdog and Other Stories", Anton Chekhov
  • "The Reader", Bernhard Schlink
  • "The Sign of the Cross", Colm Toibin
  • "The Berlin Stories", Christopher Isherwood
  • "The Sagas of the Icelanders", Penguin Classics (Deluxe Edition)
  • "Argall", William T. Vollmann
  • "The Complete Stories", Franz Kakfka
  • "The Tain", translated by Thomas Kinsella
  • "The Stranger", Albert Camus
  • "The Fall", Albert Camus
  • "The Old Man and the Sea", Ernest Hemingway
  • Everything by Fyodor Doestoevsky
  • "The Bridge of San Luis Rey", Thornton Wilder
  • "Cathedral", Raymond Carver
  • "Saga of the Volsungs", translation by Jesse L. Byock
  • "Trainspotting", Irvine Welsh
  • "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", Muriel Spark
  • "Death on the Installement Plan", Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  • "Journey to the End of the Night", Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  • "The Night Triology: Night, Dawn and Day", Elie Wiesel
  • "Istanbul: Memories and the City", Orhan Pamuk
  • "The Iliad", Homer (translated by Richmond Lattimore)
  • "The Odyssey", Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald)
  • "Into Thin Air", Jon Krakauer


  • "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism", Robert A. Pape
  • "A History of the Vikings", Gwyn Jones
  • "The Forever War.", Dexter Filkins
  • "Early Greece: The Bronze and Archaic Ages", M. I. Finley
  • "The Prince of the Marshes", Rory Stewart
  • "Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations", Norman Davies
  • "Empires of the World: A Language History of the World", Nicholas Ostler
  • "Europe: A History", Norman Davies
  • "The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950 - 1953", Clay Blair
  • "A History of Modern Iran", Ervand Abrahamian
  • "Iran: A People Interrupted", Hamid Dabashi

Engineering as a Culture, Computer Science and Logic

  • "Real-Time Systems: Design Principles for Distributed Embedded Applications", Hermann Kopetz
  • "Informal Logic: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation", Douglas N. Walton
  • "The Manhattan Project", edited by Cynthia C. Kelly
  • "Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin", Francis Spufford
  • "On Formally Undecided Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems", Kurt Godel (Dover edition, with R. B. Braithwaite's brilliant preface)
  • "Copenhagen", Michael Frayn
  • "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", Richard P. Feynman
  • "Technology in Western Civilization, Vol 1.", various
  • "The Practice of Programming", Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike
  • "Programming Pearls", Jon Bentley
  • "The Art of UNIX Programming", Eric S. Raymond
  • "The Collapse of Complex Societies", Joseph A. Tainter
  • "Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight", David A. Mindell
  • "XIII: The Apollo Flight That Failed", Henry S. F. Cooper, Jr.
  • "Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay", Charles Perrow
  • "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety", Eric Schlosser
  • "Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster", Svetlana Alexievich
  • "Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies", Charles Perrow
  • "Engineering in History", various (Dover edition)
  • "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", Richard Rhodes


  • "Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs", various
  • "Working: People Talk about What They do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do", Studs Terkel
  • "Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams", edited by M. L. Liebler
  • "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work", Alain de Botton

Science Fiction

  • "Federations", edited by John Joseph Adams
  • "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", Robert A. Heinlein
  • "Starship Troopers", Robert A. Heinlein
  • "I, Robot", Isaac Asimov
  • "Fahrenheit 451", Ray Bradbury
  • "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War", Max Brooks

Letters, Essays and Plays

  • "Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person from Harper's Magazine", various
  • "The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkein", edited by Humphrey Carpenter
  • "Bash: Latterday Plays", Neil Labute
  • "The Story of Utopias", Lewis Mumford
  • "Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist", edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp
  • "Out of My Later Years", Albert Einstein
  • "Philosophy of Law: A Very Short Introduction", Raymond Wacks
  • "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Televion", Jerry Mander
  • "The Problems of Philosophy", Bertrand Russell
  • "The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present", Phillip Lopate

This comment has been minimized.

Copy link
Owner Author

@blt blt commented Jun 8, 2014

This list grew out of a smaller list for the Write the Docs, Portland OR crowd, here:


This comment has been minimized.

Copy link

@josephtoles josephtoles commented Dec 24, 2016

I've never seen a reading list with "The Art of Unix Programming", "The Forever War" and the Middle East on it before. If you have similar taste to me (and judging by this list you do) you may enjoy "Year Zero: A History of 1945".

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment
You can’t perform that action at this time.