100 Books Everyone Should Read

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There are a lot of books out there.

Around 3500 BCE, somebody scratched out ideas (or a business plan or legal dispute) in symbols on clay. Thus the first writer was born. Approximately two minutes later, someone else scratched out those symbols in a fury. Thus was born the first critic.

Ever since that day, writers and critics have struggled to pull from the vast oceans of writing just a bucketful of the world's most essential books. Early on, the Library of Alexandria collected the top scrolls of the ancient world and in the ninth century, Baghdad's House of Wisdom became the lighthouse of world knowledge. Scholars in both fought brutally over their best-books lists.

In 1994, Harold Bloom winnowed the "Western Canon" down to just a few hundred books, admitting his list was far from complete.

The latest bold attempt is Amazon's 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, a mixture of fiction and nonfiction covering earliest childhood to the Golden Years. You will never again ask, "What should I read next?" You'll be the authority.

Around 130 million books (and counting) have been published since the dawn of time. Don't get lost wandering through that tangled jungle. The Amazon 100 will lead you out of the darkness and not waste a moment of your precious time.

Here are some highlights from the Amazon 100:

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein - Every childhood should be filled with this sort of mad whimsy, with a little danger and lot of nonsense. Silverstein plays among imaginative worlds storming with unbridled emotions, helping kids think more critically about their experiences. That's all you can ask of fiction at any age.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi - What if you could condense the stories of countless people impacted by the war between Iran and Iraq into a brilliant comic book for adults? Satrapi changed the conversation about what literature could and should be.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers - Everyone who has ever sat down at a writing desk has hoped to create something like this: a postmodern, witty memoir of the author's family tragedy, every bit as sad and self-referential as the title. A fitting end to the 20th century.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond - The title is anthropologist Diamond's answer to the question: why are some countries/regions developed and others considered developing? Alternately wild and chilling, the book is a dioramic tour of cultures in conflict across thousands of years. 

Ready to browse the full list?

Mark T.

Mark T.

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Data storyteller -- Mark T is a professional writer on Chicago's Data Lakefront, using hard data and scientific research to tell data stories about innovation, startup culture, emerging global trends, and next-gen tech.

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