Best Memoirs By Musicians

There have been countless books written about music. From historical accounts of the lives of such luminaries as Beethoven or Mozart, to the raucous scrawling of famed music journalist Lester Bangs, to present day analysis by academics of niche musical movements or lurid bestsellers about the excesses of pop stars, music books are everywhere.

With so much mystique surrounding successful musicians, it can be easy to lose track of the actual flesh-and-blood people behind the music. That’s what makes memoirs penned by musicians so intriguing. Sure, they’re often filtered through the skilled hands of a ghostwriter (or at least helped along by a co-writer), but that doesn’t make the stories any less real. The path to success in the music industry is a thorny one, often filled with both ecstatic highs and bottom-scraping lows. Not every musician’s autobiography is worth a read, but we as readers are often treated to fascinating prose when true music legends live long enough to put down their lives in print.

cashCash by Johnny Cash

Both Johnny Cash’s ascension to a music legend and his struggles with addiction are well-documented, but there’s no more direct access to the musician’s turbulent life than through his own words. What made Johnny Cash such an intriguing figure was how he experienced both the highs and lows of stardom, and he doesn’t hide anything from the reader in his account of a remarkable life. The man separates himself from the myths that have surrounded him, and the man in black tells it like it is, starting from his early days of childhood spent in Arkansas. In addition to his rise to stardom and the subsequent darker days when he battled addiction, Cash detailed his love and devotion to his wife, June, making Cash truly a story of both darkness and light.

milesMiles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

Unfortunately, drug abuse often goes hand in hand with success in the music industry, and that was certainly the case with the iconic jazz musician Miles Davis. In his memoir, Davis opened up about his life and his struggles with addiction. He also discussed his quiet years, when in the late ’70s he locked himself away in a self-imposed exile and didn’t perform for five years, prompting many to lament that he would never play music again. Thankfully, that was not the case, and he reemerged in the early ’80s, and continued to perform up until his death in 1991. With his autobiography, Miles Davis was able to talk about his life, the women he loved, and most notably the music he played.

vanGet in the Van by Henry Rollins

What’s better than reading a retrospective tome about a musician’s career? Reading actual tour diaries. While on tour with the hugely influential Black Flag, the volatile Henry Rollins kept detailed tour diaries that he pulled from for his book Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag. And whereas most musicians’ memoirs rely on the skill of a ghostwriter or co-writer to even achieve a readable status, Rollins is as well-known today for his writing, journalism, film work and other media endeavors as he is a musician. In this book, he details with a razor wit his six wild and crazy years crisscrossing the globe with Black Flag.

chroniclesChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan

You’d be hard-pressed to point to a more influential musician in the 20th century than Bob Dylan. Equipped with an unconventional voice, Dylan’s rise to the upper echelons of music came about largely thanks to his breathtaking songwriting and storytelling abilities, which are on full display in Chronicles, Vol. 1. Dylan also benefited from coming of age and rising to stardom during one of the more exciting and ever-changing periods of American history. In this book, Dylan’s early years are rendered vividly, as the soon-to-be world famous singer-songwriter first ventures out from the comforts of home and makes his way to the thrill of thriving Manhattan circa 1961. There’s perhaps no better way to tap into the spirit of the early ’60s than to read an account of it directly from Bob Dylan.

Best Sports Books

Sports hold a peculiarly powerful place in society. Sporting events like the Olympics can bring help bring together the world and allow us to set aside our difference (if only briefly) in order to enjoy physical competition. At the same time, nationalist or regional pride can make sports a great divider of people as well. For each transcendent moment on the field or court, there’s many more unseemly moments behind the scenes as competitors strive to do anything to get an edge. With as much money as changes hands over sports, corruption and political shenanigans may abound, but that ultimately can’t take away from the fact that humans are largely transfixed all the sporting competition embodies and signifies. Sports contain both great artistry and great ugliness. Simply put, sports can bring out the best and worst in humanity.

What may be as difficult to achieve as excellence in a sport is excellence in writing about sports. Many sportswriters rely on the reader’s esoteric knowledge of the material. It can be difficult to find a sports book that doesn’t either appeal too strongly to romanticized notions and sentimentality, or one that simply doesn’t get bogged down in statistical minutia. Thankfully, like our sports champions, there are a good number of enthralling sports books out there that were done right. Here are some of our favorites.


moneyballMoneyball by Michael Lewis

There may be no other sport as focused on statistics as baseball. When you play 162 games a year, it makes sense that number-crunching of even the most obscure of statistics could be an effective way to get a leg up on the competition. In Moneyball, author Michael Lewis describes how the Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane was able to utilize empirical-based  “sabermetric” analysis in order to maximize his team’s effectiveness against opponents’ whose front offices had far deeper pockets. Despite the focus on data analysis, Moneyball makes for a fascinating read about an innovative professional who changed the system.



Open by Andre Agassi

Few autobiographies of famous athletes are as revealing as the compelling look into tennis icon Andre Agassi’s tumultuous career and personal life. In Open, Agassi details the intense tennis training he endured as an otherwise rebellious child. He accounts how his punk rock attitude, and unconventional fashion sense, helped to increase his visibility as a struggling young professional who first took the pro court in the 1980s at the tender age of 16. Agassi’s rise to sports excellence and incredible celebrity status inevitably led to a fall (and resurgence), and he details the events of his career and personal life (both good and bad) with painstaking detail and what many have called an almost photographic memory. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more revealing autobiography from a sports legend.


born to run

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Sport is most important when it taps into something greater than the mere results of a competition. In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall does exactly that as he chronicles the time he spends with a culture dedicated to running not only for sport but for spirituality. An avid runner himself, McDougall sought the wisdom of the reclusive Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe who dwell in the Copper Canyons when he couldn’t find a solution to the foot problems he’d encountered as a distance runner. The Tarahumara are known to run over 100 miles at a time, and often in little more than thin sandals.The Tarahumara run for the intrinsic pleasure and for a spiritual connection. McDougall covers a lot of ground in this book, from chastising the advent of modern running shoes (which he blames for many of the distance running injuries) to discussing the “endurance running hypothesis” that early humans left forest-dwelling behind largely because of our unique ability among primates to run long distances.


fridayFriday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

You may be more familiar with “Friday Night Lights,” the popular television show in the late 2000s, or the successful 2004 film of the same name, but it all got started with H.G. Bissinger’s bestselling 1990 non-fiction book. Bissinger originally set out to write a book about how high school football ties together small rural communities. Selecting a high school in Odessa, Texas as his focus, Bissinger’s book ultimately details a negative portrayal of a football-obsessed culture that puts sports ahead of academics and where fandom has created a culture that leads to misplaced priorities both financial and personal. Following its release, the people of Odessa didn’t take too kindly to their portrayal, but the accuracy of Bissinger’s report has held up over time. Friday Night Lights bears an important moral in mind: at the end of the day, it’s just a game.


seabiscuitSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

Sports legends aren’t limited only to human competitors. In the late 1930s, the race horse Seabiscuit captured the imagination of many Americans. A relatively small Thoroughbred, Seabiscuit made for an unlikely champion, and provided inspiration to many in a society still reeling from the Great Depression. Laura Hillenbrand’s 2001 book about the champion racehorse is an intriguing and accessible look in the races of that era. Especially praised for her meticulous research and expert storytelling, Hillenbrand’s book was named the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

Books That Should Be Made Into Movies

Let’s face it, there are a lot of movies out there that probably didn’t need to be made. And it’s common knowledge that, when it comes to adaptations, the book is often better than the movie. Heck, we’ve even covered some of those books that were much better than their movies. With Hollywood often out of fresh ideas, it’s a wonder that the titles listed below haven’t already made their way from the page to the silver screen.

We’d be remiss not to the mention the handful of other great titles that also belong here but, for one reason or another, have already been featured elsewhere on the site. Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos would make for an ambitious science fiction film, with some of the story taking place 1 million years in the future, when humans have long since evolved into a small-brained aquatic ape. But that book already appeared on our Best Sci-Fi Books list. Meanwhile, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, in the right hands, would make for one of the trippiest horror movies ever with its frightening portal into uncharted time-space. That book showed up on our list of Best Horror Books. And we’d say that Philip K. Dick’s fascinating alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle deserves a spot here, but you’ll be able to watch what happens in a world where the Axis Powers prevailed in World War II in a TV series that’s being produced by Amazon Studios.

There’s little argument that, if James Franco is able to make adaptations of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, a more talented director needs to get to work making the following books into movies.

Blood Meridianblood_meridian by Cormac McCarthy

It’s borderline shocking that Blood Meridian still hasn’t been made into a film. Many of Cormac McCarthy’s other novels have already fared well. The Road was a post-apocalyptic tear-jerker and No Country for Old Men won a Best Picture Oscar. Meanwhile, All the Pretty Horses and Child of God (also directed by James Franco) didn’t do as well critically, but still made it to the silver screen. Blood Meridian may be McCarthy’s most brutally violent book, and that may be part of the reason it hasn’t yet hit movie theaters. But its villain, Judge Holden, is such a frightening character that he might even be able to give Anton Chigurh pause. We may just be lucky enough to see this book turned into a film yet, though, as it is currently listed at IMDb as being “in development.” Fingers crossed.


One Hundred Years of Solitude100years by Gabriel García

Despite having many of his other novels and short stories adapted into films, and having done some screenwriting himself, Gabriel García
Márquez never agreed to sell the film rights to his crowning achievement. It’s been adapted into a play, but has never been made into a movie. And what a movie it would be, one that would need to span a whopping eight generations and incorporate both realistic and fabulist elements. Sadly, Márquez passed away in 2014, so there’s always the off-chance that his estate may one day sell the film rights. But until then we’ll have to be content with simply reading this literary triumph by a Nobel Prize winning writer at the top of his form.



The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Stephen King is certainly no stranger to the cinema. Dozens of his novels and scores of his short stories have been turned into films and TV mini-series. IMDb currently lists his writing credits at nearly 200. He’s such a prolific fiction writer that he gets his own Best Stephen King Books list here on the site. But somehow his most expansive of works, The Dark Tower fantasy series, hasn’t made its way to a film adaptation yet. Granted, the entirety of the series spans some 4,250 pages, but one needs look no further than Harry Potter to see how Hollywood loves long series of films. For now, The Dark Tower‘s blend of fantasy, horror, science fantasy, and Western can only be enjoyed in its purest form: the written word.


invisibleInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison’s novel about the challenges confronting African-Americans during the early 20th century would fit in well with other similarly themed films in recent years. 12 Years a Slave was adapted from a non-fiction book by Solomon Northup and won Best Picture in 2014. Meanwhile, Selma received an Oscar nomination for its moving depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights activism. But despite the presence of many similarly titled sci-fi/horror films, Ellison’s 1953 novel, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, has yet to be adapted. With racial issues still persisting in America, and throughout the world, a film version of Ellison’s great work would be more poignant than ever.

Spellbinding Travel Books

One of the most magical things about books is their ability to transport the reader. Stories can not only put us in the shoes of another person, but they have the ability to take us to far off lands, to places both real and imagined, unbound by the constraints of time and space. But there’s something especially fulfilling about reading a good travel book, an author’s real-life experiences in places across the globe that we may be unlikely to ever experience firsthand.

Travel book authors have many reasons to write what they do. Sometimes they are simply telling an intriguing story that simply happens to have included globetrotting. Other times, the author sets out to specifically examine a certain culture, climate or cuisine. And of course there’s always the inspirational journeying-to-find-oneself stories that oftentimes make their way onto best-seller lists.

Whatever the angle, travel books can provide some of the more intriguing stories about the world we live in. They’re another chance for us to educate ourselves while being entertained. Pick up one of the books listed below, and embark on a journey without ever leaving the comforts of home.

into thin air

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Needless to say, not all that many people get the chance to summit Mt. Everest. Tragically, not everyone who attempts it even manages to come back alive. Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction bestseller Into the Air documents a doomed expedition to the top of highest mountain on Earth, a trek that would tragically leave eight people dead. A “rogue storm” led to the deaths and the stranding of several other climbers. Krakauer, who was present for the climb that was led by famed guide Rob Hall, recounts the efforts made by guides to rescue the imperiled mountain climbers, and his book has been met with a fair amount of controversy about how he questions the judgment of one particular Russian guide whose efforts saved two lives but may have endangered others. Whether mountain climbing sounds exhilarating or insane to you, Into Thin Air is a breathtaking read.


Sunburned Country

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a travel writer extraordinaire, trotting the globe to study each new place and bring the information straight to your bookshelf or coffee table. His 2000 travelogue, In a Sunburned Country (released as Down Under in the United Kingdom), focuses on his journey across Australia via car and railroad, as he takes in the culture of each area of the vast country/continent and documents not only the people and their histories, but the landscape itself and the wildly varying plants and animals that live there. He splits his book into three parts, shining a light on the Outback, on civilized Australia, and on the fringes of the country. Bryson injects humor into his travelogue, while also dipping back into Australia’s highly fascinating 19th century history, making In a Sunburned Country a well-rounded and nourishing read about a unique and compelling part of the world. 


great railwayThe Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux may be best known for his novels, some of which have been made into feature films. But his travel writing is also worthy of note, especially his 1973 travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar. As the title suggests, the travel book recounts a journey Theroux took by train. Spending four months winding from London through Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and back through Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Published in 1975, the book appeared relatively early in Theroux’s career, and, over 30 years later, he would revisit the trail he took in order to write a follow-up book in 2006 about how the people and places along his famous route had changed.


blissThe Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Longtime National Public Radio foreign correspondent Eric Weiner has put together a pair of a travelogues that don’t just explore various regions but also tackle the big questions. In Man Seeks God, he toured the globe to learn more about various religious practices, and in The Geography of Bliss he travels to places such as Iceland, Qatar, Moldova, and Bhutan in search of how people in different parts of the world define and pursue happiness. As with Man Seeks God, this book is not only a recounting of his travel experiences but also a journey of personal discovery, as Weiner turns the focus inward to search for what happiness means to him. As a result, The Geography of Bliss is not only a travel book, but a highly inspirational read as well.

Best Alternate History Novels

When it comes to science fiction, sometimes the best subject matter isn’t just speculation on what might be coming in the future, but rather on what might have been. Alternate history is a subgenre that’s provided rich fodder for great sci-fi writers to go back to key junctures in time and simply imagine how the world would be different today if things had gone differently during some of history’s biggest turning points. Whether its something as simple as different types of technology being developed at different time periods, or something as Earth-shattering as the opposite side winning a World War, alternate history novels can not only provide vividly imaginative escapism, but can also provide incisive social or political commentary and tackle some heavy philosophical questions.

Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The name Philip K. Dick is virtually synonymous with science fiction, and one of his greatest achievements was the alternate history masterpiece The Man in the High Castle. This book asks the question of what the world might look like had the Axis Powers prevailed in World War II. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have cleaved the former United States in two. Now engaged in a Cold War as the uncontested superpowers of the world, Germany controls the East Coast and Japan the West Coast, and the two territories are separated from each other by a Rocky Mountain buffer zone. With Hitler succumbing to syphilis, Americans have a whole new set of dictators to worry about.  This electrifying book follows a loose collection of characters as they live under the iron fist of the various totalitarian overlords.



The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

An alternate version of World War II also plays a role in Michael Chabon’s critically acclaimed novel, though in a far different fashion. In this world, the fledgling state of Israel is destroyed shortly after its establishment in 1948. This followed a temporary establishment of Jewish refugees that was set up in Sitka, Alaska in 1941, during World War II. Set in the alternate present day, Sitka is now a thriving metropolis where the primary language is Yiddish. The book’s setting is based on the Slattery Report from 1940, which would have authorized the formation of European Jewish refugee settlement in the then-territory of Alaska if it would have won support and been authorized.


16321632 by Eric Flint

You likely won’t find a more elaborate alternate history project than Eric Flint’s 1632 book series. In this story, a small fictional town and its hillbilly inhabitants are transported through a rift in space-time from West Virginia in the year 2000 to Germany in the year 1631. Suddenly, these modern era townsfolk find themselves inexplicably thrust into the center of the Thirty Years’ War. Ultimately, this novel kicked off a series that would involve the collaboration of dozens of writers and hundreds of other contributors. The film is about more than just a disturbance in the space-time continuum, as the modern-day townsfolk have to deal with issues ranging from a language barrier to more social, political and class conflicts.



The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

The divergence point in Kingsley Amis’ alternate history novel took place at the Protestant Reformation. Namely, in this book, the Reformation never occurred. Unfortunately for 10-year-old Hubert Anvil, the “alteration” of the title also applies to the fact that, blessed with a remarkable singing voice, the even more powerful Pope has decreed that the child be subjected to castration rather than undergo the voice-changing ravages of puberty. This sets into motion a series of events that cross paths with alternate versions of well-known cultural and political figures. One other interesting aspect of this alternate world is that it refers to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. 

Best Monster Books

Monsters populate many of the first stories we’re told. As children, we may be afraid of what might be lurking under the bed or just outside our windows, but that doesn’t stop us for reveling in campfire stories, fairy tales, and storybooks where the antagonists often take the form of hideous creatures. We’re both drawn to and repulsed by monsters, and it’s the visceral reactions we often have to them that make monsters such great literary characters.
So it should come as no surprise that we’ve already touched upon quite a few of literature’s best monsters in previous lists. In our Best Books About Psychopaths list, we featured a number of fiction’s most frightening serial killers, but the monsters we’ll focus on here are all of the fantastical variety. Of course, our Best Horror Books list knocked a few other notables out of contention here, including the most famous monster of them all, Frankenstein (yes, yes, we know that was actually the name of the scientist, not the monster). Cthulhu also appeared there, but that didn’t keep another story by Lovecraft from this list. And Stephen King certainly has cooked up a fair share of monsters in his day, but we treated him to his very own list
That still leaves us with four of the more notable literary monsters to ever skulk across the page.  

strange case of dr jekyll

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson’s classic tale of a doctor who discovers a way to transform himself so he may indulge his vices without fear of reprisal is such a staple of pop culture at large that “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a common term in modern society. While that term is often used to describe someone who seemingly has a “split personality” or can act very differently from one situation to the next, Stevenson’s Jekyll could actually physically transform into the ugly, nearly disfigured Hyde, who would than wreak havoc, even committing murder. Given how popular transformations have become in horror and sci-fi, Stevenson was way ahead of his time when he published this classic in 1886.


mountain sof madness

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

Though Cthulhu may be his most famous, Lovecraft conjured up many other monsters. In this horror novella, geologist William Dyer heads an expedition to Antarctica where, in a mountain range higher than the Himalayas, he discovers remnants of fourteen different ancient life forms that look completely alien to anything else on Earth. There’s also a lost civilization that was once built by Lovecraft staples, the Elder Things. These ancient creatures created shape-shifting beasts known as “Shoggoths” to help build their civilization. However, these black, oozing masses ultimately destroyed the Elder Things, and Dyer must flee for his life as the creatures are still alive in tunnels under the ruined city, living for eons off enormous blind penguins that were once bred to feed them.



Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Long before there were vampires that sparkled, there was Anne Rice. She developed her classic 1976 novel off a short story she’d written during the previous decade. She also used the recent death of her daughter as inspiration for the child vampire. In this book, a vampire named Louis de Pointe du Lac sits down with a journalist and recounts his 200-year life story. As a young man, and in the wake of his brother’s death, Louis chose to allow the vampire Lestat to make him undead. The two dwell together, with Louis feeding only on animals rather than to murder humans for food. Ultimately, he bends under his vampire nature and begins feeding on humans, including the young plague-infected girl Claudia, whom Lestat turns into a child-vampire to keep Louis from leaving. It’s her eventual death that leaves Louis exhausted with the rigors of immortality, and leads him to sit down for the interview.


ppzPride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Much like Frankenstein’s monster, this book is a sewn-together creation. A mashup of Jane Austen’s classic novel and the kind of zombie fiction popular in the modern day, this book may be a parody but that doesn’t make it any less effective as a monster story. Grahame-Smith manages to follow the same plot as Pride and Prejudice, but places the setting in a version of Regency-era England that’s set in an alternate universe. In this parallel world, zombies shamble around the countryside. The stuffiness of that era’s affluent class is paired with the everyday threat of couriers being eaten or discussion of whether it’s too “un-ladylike” to carry a musket for protection.

Best Books About Psychopaths

Horror can take many forms. While ghosts and monsters can be frightening (whether or not they exist solely within one’s psyche), there’s few stories that can strike more fear in people than those about psychopathic murderers. A human being bereft of empathy and driven solely by sadistic impulse may just be the scariest of all monsters.

Books about psychopaths are so popular that many have already made their way into other “Best” lists on this site. You can’t have a list about fictional serial killers without including the frightening Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but The Silence of the Lambs, was already featured on our Best Thrillers list. The Killer Inside Me would also be a contender for this list if we hadn’t already included it in our selection for Best Crime Novels. There’s all sorts of crazy going on in The Talented Mr. Ripleybut we’ve already got that covered in Best Mystery Books. And American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman (who may or may not have acted out the extreme violence that took place within his mind) already made it into our picks for Most Controversial Books.

But any list that includes masters of dark prose like Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy has no shortage of twisted characters or murderous mayhem. You’d be hard-pressed to find four books about psychopaths as unnervingly spellbinding as these.


Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

If you’re going to write a story from the perspective of a deranged serial killer, basing the material on cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer is a good place to start. Joyce Carol Oates did just that in her novel about a young man named Quentin P. who seeks out male victims in order to attempt to lobotomize them and re-wire their brains so they will be totally under his control. Told in a first-person narrative, the prose is written in a disturbing and blunt vernacular, often injecting all caps and other symbols to ramp up the mania. Reading the diary of a serial killer (even a fictional one) can be even more frightening then seeing their actions acted on the silver screen. Zombie is a ghastly and engrossing book, one that plumbs the depths of human depravity yet still is identifiably human.



Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy describes his disturbingly isolated and horrifyingly deviant character Lester Ballard as “a child of God much like yourself perhaps.” McCarthy crafts a tale of a murderous loner gone feral, reduced to a shadow of man who stows away corpses in caves for his personal use. But he never makes Ballard a complete monster. Much like Zombie‘s Quentin P., there’s an identifiable humanity under a fearsome character otherwise bathed in grime and blood and the stink of death. James Franco’s recent film adaptation of this unsettling novel only focuses on the darkness and the ugliness, but McCarthy’s novel is a transcendent, albeit stomach-churning, take on the depths of human perversity.


clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Alex is a very troubled young man. Growing up in a slightly futuristic Britain, he and his “droogs” enjoy far too much of the old “ultraviolence.” Going around the urban landscape picking fights with rival gangs, breaking into residences, and assaulting random people, Alex has no empathy for those he hurts. Despite a team of state authorities intent on reforming him before it’s too late, Alex ultimately takes his ultraviolence too far and commits murder. This opens up an whole new can of worms when, from prison, he seeks out a controversial new treatment method to cure psychopaths of their violent behavior. Narrated by using an abrasive dialect that Anthony Burgess invented, A Clockwork Orange both shocks and hooks and the reader.



The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Though technically a non-fiction book, this list would not be complete without The Devil in the White City. Presented in a novelistic style, this book chronicles the murderous exploits of America’s first documented serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Operating roughly around the same time as Britain’s Jack the Ripper, Holmes lured many an unsuspecting victim back from the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago to his “murder castle.” Elaborately designed to both entrap his victims and conceal their bodies, Holmes’ murder castle is one of the more ghastly entries into American history and this book does a spellbinding job of laying the secretive serial killer’s heinous and intricately-planned spree bare. 

Best Time Travel Books

Time travel has been of primary interest to science-fiction fans for almost as long as sci-fi has existed. Sure, wars of the worlds or journeys to the center of the Earth are incredibly captivating science-fiction scenarios, but if the rules of physics as we know them could be bent in any imaginable way, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to travel through time? As modern inventions like electricity and powered transportation began to take hold, changing the technological landscape, writers’ imaginations began to run wild with fantastical stories of things that may have been impossible, but might not always be so.

So we’ve compiled a list of the Best Time Travel Books, though you’ll notice a few big titles are missing. Kurt Vonnegut’s magnum opus Slaughterhouse-Five, and its protagonist who has come “unstuck in time,” certainly deserves a place here, but we’ve already covered that book in our Best Novels list. And this list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling The Time Traveler’s Wife, but that book was already touched upon in our list of Best Romance Novels. But that still leaves us with four titles that changed the way we think about that nature of time—books that deserve a few hours of yours.

timemachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Our modern fascination with the concept of time travel was jump-started in 1895 by the fantastic mind of H.G. Wells. An author who also gave us such classics as The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor MoreauH.G. Wells was the first to write about the use of a piloted vehicle in order to travel through time. “Time machine” is now a common term within science-fiction, and it was all thanks to Wells and his novella about an English inventor who comes to understand that time is simply a fourth dimension, and who is able to develop a means to transport himself into brave new worlds from other points in time.


A_wrinkle_in_time_digest_2007A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Who says science and religion don’t mix? Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal winning science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time combines her religious views on battles between good and evil with a time travel story for the ages. When high school-aged girl Meg Murry’s scientist father is held prisoner by evil entities from another planet, she teams up with her younger brother and friend to travel through time and space to rescue him. The book was so unlike anything of its era (it was released in 1962), that few publishers wanted to take a chance on it, and despite its subsequent popularity it has been frequently challenged. Yet A Wrinkle in Time remains a classic of young adult fiction, and sci-fi in general.



Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Albert Einstein changed what we thought we knew about time and space. Imagine what the dreams of such a brilliant mind must have been like! Author Alan Lightman does just that in his 1992 novel. Each of his book’s 30 chapters explores one of a fictionalized Einstein’s dreams as he struggles with developing his theory of relativity. Each dream delves into a different concept of time, with some of them hinged in reality (such as relativity) and other consisting of wildly imaginative renderings by the author. The book is otherworldly and vivid and one of the more unique reads on the subject of time travel you’re likely to encounter.


Timequake(Vonnegut)Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five may forever be his most remembered time travel book, but his final novel, Timequake, did an equally fine job of both bending our concept of reality and in providing a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s life. Vonnegut uses the imagined phenomenon of a “timequake” to ruminate on determinism and craft a story about free will being a fantasy. In the book, the timequake thrusts the entire world back from the year 2001 to 1991, with everyone forced to act out the same actions over that 10 year period with no hope of deviation. The book focuses on the sadness experience by people who are forced to watch themselves repeat mistakes and relive the consequences of bad choices over and over again.

Best Crime Novels

People love lurid tales. Crime novels are chock full of bad behavior and intrigue, and they have, throughout the years, been both a best-selling genre and a rich resource for movie adaptations. Not only are crimes and misdemeanors interesting subject matter, but the criminals and innocents caught up in deceptive webs are often some of more the compelling characters you’ll find in print. When backs are pressed against walls, there’s no telling what may happen next.

Some heavy-hitters from the crime genre have already been covered in previous lists on the site, so we’ll leave them off here. We already touched upon The Maltese Falcon in our Best Mystery Novels list, and we featured Along Came a Spider and The Silence of the Lambs with our Best Thrillers. Meanwhile, Crime and Punishment is so good it made our list for Best Books of All Time. And while it seems wrong to have list of best crime novels that doesn’t include anything with Sherlock Holmes, the bulk of his detective work took place in short stories. And Agatha Christie’s work was already discussed in our coverage of the Best Selling Authors of All Time.

With that said, these four fascinating crime novels have earned their spots among the very best in the genre.

The-Big-SleepThe Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

There’s few better settings for a gritty, hard-boiled crime novel than 1930s Los Angeles. That’s where Raymond Chandler’s dynamic gumshoe Philip Marlowe hangs his hat in The Big Sleep. Marlowe is no sleuthing genius; he’s grizzled and deeply flawed. But the very fact that he struggles to get by as a detective, and frequently turns to the comforts of strong drink, makes him all the more realistic and intriguing. Chandler’s book contains a notoriously complicated plot, one involving blackmail, millionaire generals, disappearances, murder, and beautiful women. As a quintessential crime novel, it’s no wonder this 1939 book has twice been adapted into a feature film.


postmanThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

When Frank, a young drifter, happens upon a small town California diner, his life takes an interesting turn. He’s instantly drawn to Cora, a femme fatale who runs the diner, and the two strike up a passionate affair. Cora is unhappily married to a much older man, and she ropes Frank into hatching a murder plot with her. The pair concoct a scheme to make Cora’s husband’s death look like an accidental fall in the bath tub, but things don’t go as planned. From there, they work together to finish the job, while staying one step ahead of the law as it begins to close in on them. The book was so popular that it was adapted into seven films, two plays, and an opera.


Godfather-Novel-CoverThe Godfather by Mario Puzo

Most of us have seen Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal mafia movie derived from Puzo’s novel, but the book itself remains a must-read to this day. In Puzo’s story, fictional New York mafia family the Corleones wage mob war with five other prominent families. When Corleone patriarch Don Vito Corleone is shot by rivals, his two sons, Santino and Michael, must take over the day-to-day of the family business. When more violence breaks out against the Corleone family, the mafia tensions in NYC escalate to the point of a full-on mob war. In addition to Coppola’s original adaptation, there were two sequel films based on Puzo’s work (though only one of them was good idea).


the-killer-inside-meThe Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Pubished in 1952, The Killer Inside Me has been described by an anthology as “one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written.” The book is told from the perspective of Lou Ford, a small-town police officer who is hiding a ink black secret. His predilection for sadistic sexual acts, and a tendency toward antisocial personality traits in general, are relatively kept in check until he begins a sadomasochistic interaction with a prostitute. This unlocks a darkness within him that he’s kept secret, and he’s soon compelled to violence in order to cover up past evils. As pressure mounts, he begins to crack, making for one of the best crime novels you’ll ever read. It’s twice been adapted for the silver screen.


Best War Books

War may be one of the darker aspects of humanity, but the storytelling that comes out of it can be one of the more vibrant. Great art has risen out of times of conflict by looking back and analyzing war times—whether through reporting of facts or the construction of fiction—which helps humans as a species attempt to learn from our past mistakes in the hopes of preventing a repeating of history.

There are several key titles that you won’t find in our list here simply because they’ve already appeared elsewhere on the site, and as warlike as beating a dead horse may be, it’s not something we aspire to do here. One such book is Anne Frank’s diary. While not exactly a book explicitly about battlefields, it was penned during the Holocaust while the Frank family hid in an attic hoping to avoid capture by the Gestapo and internment in concentration camps. This heartrending first person account of a young girl who was wise beyond her years already appeared on our Best History Books list. If strategy piques your interest, the Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is an ancient yet still crucial title, but it’s already been featured on our Best Political Books list. Likewise, Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Slaughterhouse-Five is clearly deserving of placement here, but already received our Best Novels of All Time treatment. But what we have here are five of the best war stories (though not necessarily non-fiction accounts of war) that have ever been put to the page.

blackhawkdownBlack Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

This fiction-heavy list begins with the non-fiction account of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, the most extensive close combat by U.S. military forces since the Vietnam War. Mark Bowden comes from a journalism background and is not a historian, so while his book is non-fiction, it’s written in narrative format that reads like a novel. The book derives its title from the pair of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that were downed by local militias and the ensuing efforts by the elite forces of the U.S. military to rescue the imperiled soldiers from behind enemy lines. Black Hawk Down makes for a fascinating and true story about modern war.


allquietAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

War stories have a tendency to focus on the more sensational and action-oriented aspects of battle, but All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) is a novel by a World War I veteran that details the less talked about aspects of military life. Remarque details the day-to-day living conditions dealt with by troops, the tedium and boredom between battles even with the constant threat of artillery fire, the difficulty of keeping troops nourished, and the seeming randomness of who managed to live and who ended up dying either in battle or in the barracks. Given the groundbreaking angle taken by its author, it’s little wonder that All Quiet on the Western Front also became a landmark film.


catch-22_coverCatch-22 by Joseph Heller

Heller’s classic novel Catch-22 is perhaps the all time best portrayal of the absurdity inherent to war. Not even the timeline of novel about World War II is conventional, as Heller skips around with the chronology and tells the story from the multiple perspectives of the various characters involved. The book was so influential that “catch-22” is now commonly used in the English language to describe a no-win situation, based as it is off protagonist Yossarian’s attempts to avoid flying missions because he thinks he’s crazy (in the book, crazy people aren’t allowed to fly missions, but if you think you’re crazy than you must not be). Catch-22 perfectly encapsulates the warped logic and bureaucracy inherent to military action.


war and peaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

No war books list is complete without Tolstoy’s seminal War and Peace. Published in 1869, and focusing on the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic era and its impact on the Russian culture and political structure as seen through the eyes of the aristocracy, War and Peace was even considered unconventional by its author. Tolstoy didn’t consider this a novel, which makes sense given that the last portion of the book is essentially a philosophical discussion rather than a narrative story. But however you want to classify this book, one thing’s for sure: War and Peace is one of the best war books of all time.



Farewell_to_ArmsA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms, first published in 1929,  did more than establish Ernest Hemingway as a literary force (it went on to become his first bestseller), it also focused on issues of romance, allegiance and loyalty during wartime. Centered around an expatriate American serving in the Italian army during World War I, the book is cynical and bleak, and many of the imagery in the book are culled from Hemingway’s own experiences serving in World War I during the Italian campaigns, and the primary female character in the book is based off a nurse who cared for him, making this novel one of those essential works of fiction that are pulled straight from reality.