Or things that would be required reading if I were dictator.
I love short stories so I’ll start with some favorites:
Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut
Quarantine, by Arthur by C. Clarke
Letters From The Earth, by Mark Twain (perhaps America’s greatest author)
Memento Mori, by Johnathan Nolan
The Ceiling, by Kevin Brockmeier
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber
An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce
The Open Boat, by Stephen Crane
A Perfect Day for Bananafish, by J.D. Salinger
The Laughing Man, by J.D. Salinger
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Orange, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
It’s hard for me to not recommend all of Dawkins’ books because he is such a great science writer. If you like this book then The Extended Phenotype is a worthwile sequel.
The Greatest Show on Earth, also by Dawkins, is another excellent biology book that illustrates a journey through time through the lens of evoloution.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond
A history book written by a biologist, could it get any better? Everyone with an interest in world history and how different kinds of civilizations came to be should read this book.
The Arabs: A History, by Eugene Rogan
From The Economist:
“A fascinating story, and exceedingly well told…. What makes Rogan’s book particularly useful is the way it situates [the Arab-Israeli conflict] within the wider context of the Arabs’ long, and still unsuccessful, struggle to come to more equal terms with the West. Europeans in particular, and also Americans, need their memories jogged about just how arrogant, duplicitous and frequently stupid their governments have been in dealing with the Middle East.”
Classics of Strategy and Counsel, Volume 1, translated by Thomas Cleary
Cleary has perhaps the best translation of the Art of War that I’ve read. There are quite a few interesting books in the three volume series, which range from Art-of-War style texts into Taoist meditations.
Labyrinths, by Jorges Luis Borges
Quite possibly my favorite book. Labyrinths is a collection of stories and essays that are mysterious and dreamlike. Borges has an interesting method of reasoning through the world, both in his fiction and non-fiction, and it’s enormously stimulating just to follow along.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A real masterpiece of magical realism. One Hundred Years takes a while to read but is well worth the effort.
Too Loud a Solitude, by Bohumil Hrabal
“I stood there staring after the red lantern hanging from the last car, as I stood there leaning on a lamppost like Leonardo da Vinci, who stood leaning on a column and looking on while French soldiers used his statue for target practice, shooting away horse and rider bit by bit, I thought how Leonardo, like me, standing and witnessing such horrors with complete composure, had realized even then that neither the heavens are humane nor is any man with a head on his shoulders.”
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Possibly the best prose I’ve ever read. Nabokov writes in a lyrical fashion, seamlessly managing to be both horrific one moment and hilarious the next.
Ishiguro has this delicate writing style that is almost heartbreaking to read. Both books are hazy, first-person narratives that read like the narrator is not only telling a story, but also trying to reason out the events described.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
A favorite from younger years.
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, by John le Carre
Spy novels are a guilty pleasure of mine, and this one is my favorite. Definitely worth a read if you’re new to the genre.