Some books just stand head and shoulders above others. And frankly, having some of these books on your shelf makes you look smarter.

Here are some books that are absolutely worth reading and will fool houseguests into thinking you’re a cultured person. There are two caveats to this list. One, this list isn’t comprehensive, so don’t get mad at me if your favorite book isn’t included. Two, I have not read all of these books, but are simply parroting the recommendations of others.

Because I’m also one of those idiots who loves looking cultured. So here we go.

Fiction Books

  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • 1984 & Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Michael Twain
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • The Animorphs Series by K.A. Applegate (my friend Adam made me add this)
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Warren Penn
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • The Time Machine & War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Inferno by Dante Alighieri


  • The Collected Poems of Robert Frost
  • The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemmingway
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Nonfiction Books

  • Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

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