This is my ever-developing personal canon: the books that have influenced my life to such a degree that they’ve become indispensable.
I revisit them at different points in my life to learn something new and deeper about the world, as well as myself. I hope one or more of these items speak to you, too.
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- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel has been described as the quintessential book on American politics. The prose is gorgeous; the story dramatic; and this is my favorite novel.
- Double Indemnity by James M. Cain: I came to this book via the film of the same name. Both are premier examples of their respective hard-boiled/film noir genres, but Cain’s original tale of murder and conspiracy is written in a delectable entanglement of tough-as-nails prose and fluid imagery.
- Poetics by Aristotle: If you only read one book on writing, this is it. Aristotle’s classic text examines the elements of story and rules of drama. It’s required reading in film and theatre classes, but it’s conspicuously absent from fiction workshops. The language is thick at times, but trust me, this will become your primary reference.
- The Constitution of the United States: Because it’s the Constitution. And because the clarity of thought and purpose this document communicates is so wholly impressive that I cannot suppress my amazement every time I read it. (It even values authors.)
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: A memoir about his time in Paris in the 1920s, this book is a great insight into his writing process and his interactions with artistic luminaries of the time.
- On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis: After reading five pages of the introduction, I knew this book would make the list. Like Aristotle mentioned above, if you are going to read one book on leadership, read this one.
- Getting Things Done by David Allen: Shortened as GTD, Allen explains his task management system that breaks projects into actionable items and declutters your head. I don’t know how I operated before such efficiency.