Building a Damn Good Reading List (And YOUR Top 100)

Nothing changes our world or the way we live our lives more than reading books.

Now obviously there are many different kinds of books with many different kinds of effects. For instance:

  • There are books that connect us to mainstream culture. The Harry Potter Series. The Hunger Games. 50 Shades of Grey. (I didn't read it. Yet...).
  • Books that are beautiful. You read it and want to cry because THAT SENTENCE IS JUST SO PERFECT. And you write the sentence down because you think it's incredible, but when you read the quote later, it's kind of bland out of context. But like... the book's still amazing.
  • Entertainment. Ender's Game. Random fantasy series. Those cheap romance novels. Michael Crichton, or John Grisham, or Stephen King, or those other authors who seem to write twelve books a year. Those books that make an airline delay a little more tolerable.
  • Education. Non-fiction. Those geeks who read biographies and histories with their bifocals on. Or I guess Warby Parker's now that glasses are sexy (again?). I don't know that they were ever sexy. But maybe.

But regardless, when thinking about your bookshelf and what gets you excited about books...

...what type of books do you read?

What category of book gets you to sit down and read something, cover-to-cover?

For me, personally, I look for books that will change my life. As I've said before, 2016 has personally been a year of new beginnings. Transformation. Now, transformation implies two things:

knowing where you've been


knowing where you want to go.

As I thought about where I want to go, I realized I'm not the only one who had tread this path. My friends had as well.

And books had likely guided them on their own personal journeys.

So with that in mind, I got onto my personal Facebook page, and asked the following question: 

If you had to recommend a book to change someone's life...

...what would it be?

What I didn't expect at the time was that I would receive 93 comments. And within those 93 comments were exactly 90 book recommendations.

90 life-changing reads.

So without further ado, here they are, in order [links included]:

  1. The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
  2. You Are A Badass - Jen Sincero
  3. The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
  4. Start Something That Matters - Blake Mycoskie
  5. How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
  6. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
  7. The White Album - Joan Didion
  8. The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
  9. The Velvet Rage - Alan Downs
  10. A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
  11. The Last Lecture - Jeffrey Zaslow and Randy Pausch
  12. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
  13. A Theory of Justice - John Rawls
  14. The Idea of Justice - Amartya Sen
  15. Tao Te Ching, The Bible, Quran
  16. The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
  17. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
  18. Veronika Decides to Die - Paulo Coelho
  19. Tiny Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed
  20. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
  21. Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
  22. The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
  23. White Girls - Hilton Als
  24. The Nature of College - Jim Farrell
  25. Lit - Mary Karr
  26. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
  27. Notes from a Native Son - James Baldwin
  28. An American Childhood - Annie Dillard
  29. The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
  30. A Child Called 'It' - Dave Pelzer
  31. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
  32. The Five Love Languages - Gary Chapman
  33. The Seven Levels of Intimacy - Matthew Kelly
  34. The Nature of Things - Lucretius
  35. The Idea of the Holy - Rudolf Otto
  36. The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan
  37. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
  38. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
  39. Nine Stories - JD Salinger
  40. The Hours - Michael Cunningham
  41. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran
  42. The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
  43. 100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick
  45. A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
  46. The Book of Awakening - Mark Nepo
  47. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  48. Conversations with God - Neale Donald Walsch
  49. Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder
  50. Half the Sky - Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  51. Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv
  52. The Nature Principle - Richard Louv
  53. When Enough is Enough - Candy Finnigan
  54. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster
  55. The Unsettling of America - Wendell Berry
  56. Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
  57. Stonecutter - Jon Muth and John Kuramoto
  58. The Firestarter Sessions - Danielle LaPorte
  59. The Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
  60. Train Dreams - Denis Johnson
  61. Tenth of December - George Saunders
  62. The Years of Lyndon Johnson - Robert Caro
  63. America in the King Years - Taylor Branch
  64. The Aeneid - Virgil
  65. Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner
  66. Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
  67. The Idea Factory - Jon Gertner
  68. Stiff - Mary Roach
  69. Of Bees and Mist - Erick Setiawan
  70. The Red Letter Revolution - Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo
  71. Travels - Michael Crichton
  72. Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
  73. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L Frank Baum
  74. The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
  75. Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur
  76. When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi
  77. The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran
  78. Consilience - Owen Wilson
  79. The Deportation Officer Handbook - Claiborne Tchoupitoulas
  80. Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
  81. The Art of Possibility - Benjamin and Rosamund Zander
  82. Every Day a Friday - Joel Osteen
  83. How to Develop Emotional Health - Oliver James
  84. Feminism Without Borders - Chandra Mohanty
  85. The How of Happiness - Sonja Lyubomirsky
  86. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
  87. She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb
  88. The Razor's Edge - W Somerset Maugham
  89. The Miracle of Mindfulness - Thich Nhat Hanh
  90. The Power of I Am - Joel Osteen

Luckily, I've already read 14 of them, so I have a head-start. And since you probably want to know - here are my own recommendations. I'll leave out the three best book recommendations to instantly transform your life, since that was a prior post. But my top ten picks are:


  1. Swann's Way - Marcel Proust [most beautiful prose; I linked my preferred translation]
  2. The Giver - Lois Lowry [only book I've reread 10x]
  3. Blindness - Jose Saramago [the only book to make me cry twice as an adult]
  4. Labyrinths - Jorge Luis Borges [a collection of the most beautiful, bizarre, thought-provoking short stories I've ever read]
  5. I Am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe [it's Mean Girls, except as a novel; despite the fact you might therefore gloss over it, it is one of the most compelling novels I've ever read, a provocative analysis into human nature, and a deep satire of higher education, gender, and the interplay between sex and power]


  1. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller [what even a staunch atheist should understand about Christianity]
  2. Reflections on the Revolution in France - Edmund Burke [the most eloquent expression of conservative thought I've ever read]
  3. Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Nietzsche [a deconstruction of every philosophical value system you've ever known]
  4. The Brain That Changes Itself - Norman Doidge [how our brain affects everything... and how our actions change the structure of our brains]
  5. Never Eat Alone - Keith Ferrazzi [a beautiful business/personal development book on the HOW and WHY of personal networking]

NOW TO YOU: What books did I miss? What category of book reader are you? Comment below and add to our community! I might include what you share in a future book list.

So my advice is this: try your own experiment and ask this question on social media! If it's useful, even consider sharing this post with others.

P.S. If you click on the links to the books above, it will link to an Amazon page where you can buy each of the books. Full disclosure, because I'm like that: buying the books via these links will give me a small portion of the buying price. That said, A) I would never recommend something I would not use/read myself, and B) I use this money to keep my site running, since I pay for operating costs out-of-pocket (I've made $2 so far - woohoo!).

P.P.S. if you comment on this post below, it actually tells Google that my writing is worthwhile to people out there and it improves how my blog appears to search engines everywhere. So not only do you add to the discussion - you help me out tremendously. Thanks for all your support :)

P.P.P.S. Don't forget to subscribe!!!

Internal medicine resident at NYU in New York City with an interest in heme / oncology (cancer care).