While fleshing out a full-length book manuscript based on the periodic Credidero series I ran here some years ago (sorry, I can’t link you to it, since I removed those articles from my digital domains), I found myself reflecting upon and consulting a variety of fiction and non-fiction tomes as both references and inspirations. The act of digging through old and recent titles alike led to me to further consider the books which have had the most profound impacts on what I believe, how I believe, and how I communicate my beliefs. Which, me being me, meant that I had to make a list. And then, of course, that meant that I had to share the list, which I do below.
The final 100-book list isn’t limited to the “big topic” themes covered in more detail in the Credidero manuscript, because I had, have, and will have strongly-held beliefs about a lot of “small” topics, too, both in the real world and in the created worlds of countless great story-tellers. Many years ago, Marcia affectionately called me a “crank.” I asked why she said that, and she explained “Because you have strong feelings about too many things.” She was, and remains, correct, and as I was working on the list posted below, I smirked regularly in realization that these are the books that most often pointed me forward in zealous pursuit of some new crank-like obsession or interest. That said, note that I am only including one book or one series (when relevant) per author, since there are a small number of writers who I’ve read in extreme depth, and it seemed reductive to dedicate line after line to such obsessions. I’ve opted to feature only the very most moving and influential works by each author included here, figuring that if one book suggestion moves you, you can find the other works as readily as I once did.
The dates cited in each entry in this list represent the current or most recent publication dates for the available works, per WorldCat.org, and not the books’ original dates of publication. I read a lot of these in the ’60s or ’70s, but most of the books that most moved my early years have since been subsequently released, so I’m going with the contemporary versions, to make it easier if anyone wants to find any of them. With that preamble complete, here’s the list of the 100 books that I’d cite as the most influential in my intellectual, spiritual, psychological, and emotional development over the past half-century-plus.
What would your list look like? Do please share, if you’re inspired to develop one!
The Holy Bible: King James Version. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2000.
Reef Points (1982-1983 Edition). Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1982.
Abbott, Edwin Abbott. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Vancouver, Royal Classics. 2021.
Adams, Douglas. The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan Books, 2020.
Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 2012.
Bae, Suah. Recitation. Dallas, Texas: Deep Vellum Publishing, 2017.
Baker, Nicholson. The Mezzanine. London: Granta Books, 2020.
Ballard, J. G. The Atrocity Exhibition. London: Flamingo, 1993.
Bazterrica, Agustina María. Tender Is the Flesh. New York: Scribner, 2020.
Brackett, Leigh. The Sword of Rhiannon. Bellevue, WA: Paizo/Palnet Stories, 2009.
Brown, Peter Currell. Smallcreep’s Day. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd, 2008.
Brosh, Allie. Solutions and Other Problems. New York: Gallery Books, 2020.
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Burn, Doris. Andrew Henry’s Meadow. New York: Coward-McCann, 1965.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. The Complete Barsoom Series. [United States]: SFBC, 2006.
Carroll, Lewis, John Tenniel, and Leonard S. Marcus. The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2005.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2020.
Catling, Brian. The Vorrh Trilogy. London: Coronet, 2016-2018.
Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End. London: Pan Books, 2017.
Crowley, John. Engine Summer. London: Gollancz, 2013.
D’Aulaire, Ingri Parin, and Edgar Dorin D’Aulaire. D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods and Giants. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986.
Davies, Robertson. The Cornish Trilogy: The Rebel Angels; What’s Bred in the Bone; The Lyre of Orpheus. London: Penguin Books, 2011.
Delany, Samuel R. Nova. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.
Dewar, Elaine. Smarts: The Boundary-Busting Story of Intelligence. Toronto: Debonaire Productions, 2015.
Dick, Philip K. The Valis Trilogy. New York: Book of the Month Club, 1990.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Eco, Umberto, and William Weaver. Foucault’s Pendulum. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2007.
Faber, Michel. The Book of Strange New Things. New York: Hogarth, 2015.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Modern Library, 1957.
Gardner, John. Grendel. London: Gollancz, 2015.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2016.
Gorey, Edward. Amphigorey. New York: Perigee Books, 1981.
Gould, Stephen Jay. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. New York: Norton, 2007.
Grass, Günter. The Flounder. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1978.
Groening, Matt. The Huge Book of Hell. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.
Harris, Rick. A Book With No Title. Fillmore South, FL: Thoughts on the Dead, 2017.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. New York: Harper Collins, 2018.
Heller, Joseph. Catch 22. London: Vintage Books, 2019.
Herbert, Frank. Dune. London: Gollancz, 2021.
Herzog, Hal. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. New York, USA: HarperCollins, 2022.
Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Row, 1995.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. London: Faber and Faber, 1975.
Juster, Norton and Jules Pfeiffer. The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis and Other Stories. London: Penguin Classics, 2020.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Penguin, 1996.
Klosterman, Chuck. Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. London: Faber & Faber, 2013.
Koja, Kathe. Skin. New York, NY: Dell, 1994.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Clitheroe, England: Joosr Ltd, 2016.
Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019.
Kruse, Kevin Michael, and Julian E. Zelizer. Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Penguin Books Ltd, 2018.
Lee, Karen An-hwei. The Maze of Transparencies. Jackson Heights, NY: Ellipsis Press LLC, 2019.
Lewis, C. S. The Space Trilogy. New York: New Canadian Library, 2014.
Lewis, Michael. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. Waterville, Maine: Thorndike Press, 2017.
Loeb, Avi. Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. John Murray Press, 2021.
Liu, Cixin. Rememberance of Earth’s Past Trilogy. New York: Tor Books, 2014-2016.
McDonnell, Patrick, Karen O’Connell, Georgia Riley De Havenon, and George Herriman. Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2004.
McNeal, James R., and Scott Tomasheski. The Herndon Climb: A History of the United States Naval Academy’s Greatest Tradition. Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2020.
Montell, Amanda. Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism. New York: Harper Wave, 2021.
Morgan, Fred T., and Virginia Ingram. Ghost Tales of the Uwharries. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Bandit Books, 2007.
Morrow, James. The Godhead Trilogy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Moskowitz, Samuel. Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History and Anthology of Science Fiction in the Popular Magazines, 1891-1911. Westport, CT: Hyperion, 1974.
Nash, Ogden. Bed Riddance. Camp Hill, Pa: Book-of-the-Month Club, 1970.
Neal, Charles. Tape Delay: Confessions from the Eighties Underground. London: SAF Pub, 2001.
Nichols, Peter. A Voyage for Madmen. London: Profile Books, 2011.
Niven, Larry, and Jerry Pournelle. The Mote in God’s Eye. [United States]: SFBC, 2005.
O’Gieblyn, Meghan. God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning. New York: Doubleday, 2021.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Penguin Books, 2021.
Oyler, Lauren. Fake Accounts. New York: Catapult, 2021.
Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae. Ann Arbor: Cumberland Yale University Press, 2014.
Peake, Mervyn. The Gormenghast Trilogy. London: Vintage, 1999.
Peary, Danny. Cult Movies: The Classics, the Sleepers, the Weird, and the Wonderful. New York: Gramercy Books, 1998.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. London: Flame Tree Collectible Classics, 2021.
Powers, Richard. The Overstory. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2021.
Priest, Christopher. The Islanders. London: Titan Books, 2017.
Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49. New York: Harper Perennial, 2014.
Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. New York: Delacorte Press, 2018.
Ressner, Philip, and Jerome Snyder. Jerome. New York: Parents’ Magazine Press, 1967.
Robbins, Tom. Another Roadside Attraction. Harpenden, England: No Exit Press, 2007.
Rockwell, Theodore. The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference. Annapolis (Md.): Naval Institute Press, 1992.
Shahn, Ben. The Shape of Content. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1994.
Sinclair, Andrew. Gog. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967.
Smith, J. Eric. Eponymous. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2001.
Swarthout, Glendon Fred. Bless the Beasts & Children. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2014.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Ulysses. Placerville: Blackwood Press, 1979.
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1998.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. London: Harper Collins, 2014.
Turco, Lewis. The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2020.
Untermeyer, Louis. The Golden Treasury of Poetry. Racine, WI: Western Pub. Co, 1972.
VanderMeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. London: 4th Estate, 2018.
Vollmann, William T. Fathers and Crows. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.
Vonnegut, Kurt. The Sirens of Titan. London: Gollancz, 2014.
Walton, Evangeline. The Mabinogion Tetralogy. New York: The Overlook Press, 2002.
Waters, John. Shock Value. New York, N.Y.: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995.
Watters, Ethan. Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the Western Mind. London: Robinson, 2011.
White, T.H. The Once and Future King. New York: Penguin Books, 2016.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass (1855-1892). New York, N.Y.: Library of America, 1984.
Wigginton, Eliot. The Foxfire Book. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973.
Zamyatin, Evgenii. We. Garden City, NY: Dover Publications, 2021.