Books to Save from a Burning Building


A student recently made the mistake of asking me for a reading list comprised of the most important books I’ve read.  Joke’s on me, I guess, as I thought it would be easy.  The list kept growing the more and more I thought about it!  After winnowing down the numbers, here are the books I’d have to save in case of a fire.  I hope my house never burns down!

If you know me personally, you can probably guess why certain books appear here and why they’re categorized a certain way. If you’re interested in the reasoning behind each, just ask.

Anyway, were is the list, categorized and in no particular order.  Love some of these books or want to add some?  Let us know in the comments!


The Iliad – Homer
The Odyssey – Homer
The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lightning Thief series – Rick Riordan
The Hunger Games series – Suzanne Collins
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – Douglass Adams
The Dark Tower series – Stephen King
His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass) series – Phillip Pullman
Close Range – Annie Proux
The Plague – Albert Camus
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac – Gabrielle Zevin
Ender’s Game series – Orson Scott Card
Interpreter of Maladies – Jumpa Lahiri
The Namesake – Jumpa Lahiri
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Saffron Foer
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Looking for Alaska – John Green
Ishmael – Daniel Quinn
1984 – George Orwell
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin
Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare

Hamlet – William Shakespeare


I Am Malala – Malala Yousefsai
The Heart and the Fist – Eric Greitens
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
Into the Wild – John Krakauer
Get in the Van – Henry Rollins
Walden on Wheels – Ken Ilgunas
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
Escape from Camp 14 – Blaine Harden
Bossypants – Tina Fey
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
I Am the New Black (Get the Audiobook Version!) – Tracy Morgan
Decision Points – George Bush
My Life – Bill Clinton

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Clayborne Carson


The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss
Shop Class as Soulcraft – Alex Crawford
The Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Quiet – Susan Cain
The Dip – Seth Godin
1776 – David McCollough
Mayflower – Nathanial Phibrick
Masters of Chaos – Linda Robinson
Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell
American Sniper – Chris Kyle
Uniquely Human – Barry Prizant

The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin

Fitness and Nutrition

The Blue Zones – Dan Buettner
Never Gymless – Ross Enamait
Infinite Intensity – Ross Enamait
Jiu-Jitsu University – Saulo Ribeiro
8 Weeks to SEALFIT – Mark Divine
The Paleo Diet – Loren Cordain
The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf
Thrive – Brenden Brazier
The Warrior Diet – Ori Hofmekler
Engineering the Alpha – Jim Romaniello and Adam Bornstein
In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan

Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser

Religion and Philosophy

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki
The Republic – Plato
One Bird, One Stone – Sean Murphy
Resilience – Eric Greitens
The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers
The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics – Scott M. James


The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan
A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
The Universe in a Nutshell – Stephen Hawking
The Elegant Universe – Brian Greene
The Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Greene
The Story of the Human Body – Daniel Lieberman

Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki


Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
Good to Great – Jim Collins

Linchpin – Seth Godin


Mindset – Carol Dweck
Bounce – Mathew Syed
The Warrior Elite – Dick Couch
The Finishing School – Dick Couch
Chosen Soldier – Dick Couch
Teacher Man – Frank McCourt
Reign of Error – Diane Ravitch
Failure is Not an Option – Alan Blankstein

The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin


The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
On Writing – Stephen King
Story – Robert McKee
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
[Editor’s note: Most links lead to the Amazon affiliate program; any purchases made will support this site.]

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