Best Thrillers

There’s a fine line between a horror books and thrillers, and that line is often blurred. We’ve touched on the Best Horror Books already, a list rife with paranormal monsters and unexpected phenomena. While those types of stories have long had the ability to give goosebumps in those of us with even the steeliest nerves, a good thriller is a bit more grounded in plausibility and the monsters are usually flesh and bone humans with the potential for great evil rather than something from another plane of existence.

We’ve also touched upon Best Stephen King Books already, otherwise Misery certainly would be in contention. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series gets the adrenaline pumping as well, but was featured in our Best Mystery Novels list. But below we have five of the most pulse-pounding thrillers ever to grace the page, filled with crimes and intrigue by very human monsters (one even a non-fiction book) and also one instance of the supernatural aided by a group of mortals with nothing but treachery in mind. Check out these titles and you’ll probably also check the closets before you go to bed.

Thomas-Harris-The-Silence-of-the-LambsThe Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

The terrifying murderous genius of Hannibal Lecter may have first made it to the page in Harris’ Red Dragonbut in this much more famous sequel he (while behind bars) actually uses a twisted game of cat and mouse to aid young FBI agent Clarice Starling in solving the mystery of a horrific serial killer who has been abducting women and dumping their corpses with moth pupae lodged deep in their throats and large sections of skin missing. Meanwhile, Lecter manages to orchestrate a masterful escape from captivity, setting the stage for future books in which he becomes something of an anti-hero.


ALONG CAME A SPIDER COVERAlong Came a Spider by James Patterson

Along Came a Spider has been so successful since it was first published in 1993 that it has spawned a staggering 20 sequels featuring homicide investigator and forensic psychologist Alex Cross. In this first installment, Cross is yanked off a murder case involving the killings of two African American prostitutes and an infant in order to investigate the kidnapping of two white children from a prestigious private school. The racial component plays a large part in this breathtakingly tense novel that introduced the world to the enthralling character and brilliant mind of investigator Alex Cross.


in cold blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The only non-fiction book to make the list, this Truman Capote real crime classic is considered one of the best of its type. Detailing the quadruple murder of a farmer and much of his family, In Cold Blood is told in a narrative style virtually the same as that of a fictional novel, and this true crime book is widely considered to be the first of its kind. While it’s primarily a non-fiction book, there are some details of the book that differ from actual events and Capote takes a certain amount of license in speculating on the private thoughts of both the killers and the victims, but that only makes this book that’s based on a true story all the more spellbinding.


rosemarys babyRosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

One supernatural tale managed to make it onto our list. In Rosemary’s Baby, the titular protagonist and her husband, Guy, move to a Gothic style New York City apartment, disregarding the rumors they’ve heard about the building having a history of witchcraft and even murder. When Guy, a struggling actor, gets a big break, it seems too good to be true. When Rosemary becomes pregnant she discovers her neighbors are leaders of a Satanic cult and she tries to convince people, in vain, that her neighbors want her baby for a Satanic sacrifice. As it turns out, the truth is much more horrifying than she had imagined.


andromeda strain

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Thrillers can also involve the effects of unknown biological entities on everyday people. In The Andromeda Strain, it’s an extraterrestrial bacteria that causes society to go haywire when it is carried back to Earth on a satellite. Those infected are either killed or driven to madness to the point of harming themselves in bizarre ways that bring about their deaths. Throughout his career, Michael Crichton was responsible for many thrilling novels, but the otherworldly terror of The Andromeda Strain and its frightening effects on the biological processes of the humans it infects causes this novel to stand alone as one of Crichton’s greatest works, and one of the best thrillers ever.

Which are the Best Horror Books of all time?

Most people like a good scare. Stories that get the adrenaline flowing have captivated us throughout much of recorded history, as dark and sinister legends are perhaps older than the written word. While many horror films rely on the element of surprise, with monsters jumping out from the shadows, books often offer a slower burn, one that’s oftentimes more terrifying. So if you like the thrill of wondering what’s lurking behind the shadows or making sounds in the night, we’ve got you covered with five of the best horror books of all time.

Now, we’ve already covered the Best Stephen King books so that eliminates those from contention here. Certainly, The Shining and Misery (among others) would have been considered, as King is the modern master of the genre. And Dracula is so notable that it was featured in our Best Classic Literature list. But that still leaves us with five of the most truly terrifying and mesmerizing horrors books ever put to print.

What horror books should you read if you haven’t done so already?

frankenstein_book_cover_01Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One of the more frightening aspects of Mary Shelley’s classic mad science tale, Frankenstein, is that she got the idea from a dream and penned it at the tender age of 19. Cinematic adaptations have morphed the Frankenstein monster into the green, bolt-necked icon that’s deeply ingrained within our cultural consciousness today, so it’s easy to forget that Shelley’s classic focuses more on Dr. Frankenstein himself and his mad wonder at having created life only to be horrified with the monster he has unleashed upon the people close to him and the world at large.


exorcist The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

One of the most frightening horror films of all time was based on one of the most terrifying and suspenseful novels. Just as a Jesuit priest is having a crisis of faith, he’s called upon to tend to a girl who has been afflicted by some powerful diabolical force. The priest initially only wants to treat her as psychiatrist, but soon the disturbing physical transformation leads him to believe she is in fact possessed by a demon. When a more qualified exorcist dies of a heart ailment while attempting to perform the rites, the protagonist priest is left to do battle with a demonic force that beyond his comprehension.



calcthThe Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

It’s difficult to even imagine where the horror landscape would be today without 20th century scary story pioneer H. P. Lovecraft. This anthology of some of his best and most unnerving short stories continues to influence the genre to this day. The titular story introduces the reader to the frighteningly enormous tentacle-faced beast of Cthulhu who slumbers at the bottom of the ocean for all time, destined only to emerge once the Earth reaches an apocalyptic age. However, a cult works feverishly to hasten his inevitable awakening. And that’s only one of the many spine-tinglers in this marvelous collection.



let the right one inLet the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This Swedish vampire novel is both full of a mix of suspense and chills, and it also tugs at the heartstrings more than most horror stories are inclined to do. When the often bullied 12-year old Oskar befriends a strange neighbor girl, he doesn’t know how dangerous she is. Turns out the girl is a vampire, one who is eternally preserved in childlike form and whose adult guardian undertakes the grisly business of killing community members in order to harvest their blood so she can eat. Oskar’s bond with Eli grows, as does their co-dependence, which is both sweet and intensely ominous in its implications.



House_of_leavesHouse of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Much like the domicile in its title, House of Leaves is both agoraphobic and claustrophobic due to its bizarre and unsettling structure. Formatted with footnotes, shreds of documents, and strangely-shaped paragraphs and sentences that sometimes include only a few words on a page, this book details the supernatural dimensions of a room in a house that seem to go on infinitely into darkness. As the house’s occupants eventually explore the vast labyrinth of paranormal space, the sanity of all involved begins to unravel in this chilling and mesmerizing work of fiction.

Best Sci-Fi Books

Science fiction is a broad genre. It can encompass stories about creatures and place and events that are, as far as we currently know, physically impossible. Or it can speculate on the not-too-distant future or alternate histories. Modern sci-fi tends to focus on the final frontier of outer space or paranormal occurrences or alternate dimensions. However, some of the best sci-fi of all time have been those books that offer commentary on our tangible physical world through flights of fancy and speculation about where we could be headed as a species, or what we’re otherwise capable of doing to fellow humans and our Mother Earth. Those more speculative fictions are the types of books we’re focusing on here.

For this list we’ve left out several notables simply because they’ve already appeared in one of our other best-of lists. These include Aldous Huxley’s classic Brave New WorldGeorge Orwell’s paranoid dystopian triumph 1984and Kurt Vonnegut’s unstuck-in-time masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Fiveall of which appeared in our Best Novels list. And Orwell’s anthropomorphic social commentary Animal Farm already appeared on our Best Political Books list. But enough about past lists, it’s time for our choices for five of the best sci-fi books ever.

fahrenheit-451-book-coverFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

We may be well into the 21st century, but book banning is still a reality, at least within school districts. Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic serves as a cautionary tale about a future society that has outlawed books entirely. Government “firemen” routinely burn any caches of books that are found. The theme of this landmark in sci-fi focuses on the oppression inherent in stifling free speech and free thought and, to this day, the book often enters into discussions about the suppression of dissenting ideas. Yet, ironically the book itself has been subject to requests to be banned from school curricula in America as recently as 2006.


doandroidsdreamDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

It’s difficult to even imagine where sci-fi would be today without Philip K. Dick. The man wrote dozens of books and many more short stories, yet he wasn’t well known outside of select genre circles. That all changed when his phenomenal post-apocalyptic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was released as the movie Blade Runner shortly following his untimely death. Focusing on a future world where nuclear war has nearly exterminated all animals, the book ponders the question of what the dividing line is between humanity and artificial intelligence in a world where technology has advanced to the point of both forms appearing almost identical.


LatheOfHeaven-200805Reprint_600HThe Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin has written many books about fictional realms and alien civilizations, but her best book is one that’s squarely focused on our own. Of course, what we know as our own world quickly changes at the whim of the protagonist’s dreams. That’s because the man at the center of The Lathe of Heaven has what he perceives as the curse of changing the nature of reality simply by dreaming things into existence. When his psychologist discovers this and harnesses this power for his own professional and financial gain, things quickly swing off-kilter into mayhem.


handmaidstaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s award-winning dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a near-future where the United States government has been overthrown by a totalitarian Christian theocracy. Atwood’s book is so poignant because it deals with themes of the historical oppression of women in the light of a future sociopolitical scenario. What was so prescient about this book is that many cultures around the world do continue to subjugate women in the almost unfathomable ways written about in the book (women are even forbidden to read), making this tale of a future hijacked by fundamentalist religious extremism ahead of its time.


galapagosGalápagos by Kurt Vonnegut

When it comes to his best work, Vonnegut’s Galápagos rivals Slaughterhouse-Five. Galápagos is narrated by a spirit of a deceased army vet who has been watching the last vestiges of humanity for over a million years. You see, when the world’s economy goes belly up in the modern era, a small group of misfits happen to get shipwrecked in the remote Galápagos islands. Good thing too, because a disease renders the rest of world infertile, leaving this small pocket of people to lead the way forward for the species into a future where humans eventually evolve into seal-like aquatic apes.

Best Stephen King Books

With 2013 marking the year of the unlikely sequel to Stephen King’s phenomenal horror classic The Shininga book that also spawned one of director Stanley Kubrick’s finest films (though King was famously not happy with the adaptation), it’s an appropriate time look back at King’s best books. The jury will be out on where that surprise sequel, Doctor Sleep, fits until we’ve had time to digest it, and since we’re addressing it here, we’ll leave The Shining out of this particular list as well—although that classic story of caretaker Jack Torrance eventually succumbing to his own personal demons and the evil spirits lurking in the Overlook Hotel may be King’s best. So as you’re gearing up to read about the grown-up Danny in Doctor Sleep, here’s our list of the Top 5 non-Shining related books written by modern horror master Stephen King.

it It

Of all the monsters King has conjured throughout his prolific career, few are more frightening than the shapeshifting entity simply referred to as “It.” In this 1986 classic, one that was adapted (as a number of King’s works were) to a TV miniseries, the monster exploits the fears and phobias of the people it stalks. Most often, “It” takes the form of Pennywise the clown in order to lure its favorite prey of children. Through a plethora of vividly horrifying images, King touches upon his favorite topics: the impact of childhood trauma, the power of memory and the dark and sinister underbelly that often lies hidden beneath the idyllic sheen of small-town values.




In 1987, the horror master who often focused on the paranormal went the psychological thriller route, and Misery may be one of his most terrifying books. When romance novelist Paul Sheldon suffers a car crash, he’s rescued by Annie Wilkes, a rabid fan of his steamy, Victorian-era  stories, and one who’s particularly fond of his character Misery Chastain. Rather than take him to a hospital, Annie attempts to nurse her writing idol back to health at her home, until she learns what he’s done to her beloved Misery in his newest book. Learning this, Annie moves to force Paul to write a new ending by any means necessary.


pet sematary Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary almost didn’t see the light of day. King shelved the book, feeling that he’d gone too far in the subject matter, but he eventually unearthed it when he needed another book to fulfill his contract. In this grisly tale, a Chicago doctor moves his young family to Maine. There, he befriends a father-figure neighbor who, when the family cat is hit by a passing truck, instructs him to bury the dead animal in a nearby ancient Native burial ground. The cat resurrects, but is changed somehow. All hell breaks lose when the doctor’s toddler son is also killed, buried, and returned to life in altered form.




King’s first published novel is also one of his best. It features the eponymous high-schooler exacting revenge on bullies with her newly discovered telekinetic powers. King has described this work as particularly “raw,” and it’s one of the more frequently banned books in American schools. Unlike most his other books, King wrote Carrie in an epistolary story structure, using purported magazine articles, letters, book excerpts, and newspaper clippings to tell the story. The book has been adapted to film several times, with the most iconic being the 1976 Brian De Palma feature film of the same name that earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar nomination.


the green mile The Green Mile

Not all of King’s books are horror. King’s 1996 serial novel, The Green Mile showcases his ability to write magical realism. The story centers around a death row supervisor’s encounter with John Coffey, an inmate convicted of murdering two young girls who also possesses seemingly supernatural empathetic and healing abilities. The serial novel was originally released in six volumes, each of roughly 100 pages in length. Since then it’s been made available in a single volume, and it was adapted into a 1999 film of the same name that was directed by Frank Darabont and received four Oscar nominations.

Best Roald Dahl Books

Roald Dahl was responsible for some of the 20th century’s most vivid and imaginative tales, books that dazzled the young and old alike. It’s no wonder that his fiction is still routinely being adapted to film nearly 25 years after his death, many becoming classics in their own right.

Fewer people realize that in addition to his many wildly popular children’s books, he also was an accomplished short story writer and published two novels oriented toward an adult audience. However, it’s his children’s tales (often darker than many other children’s stories) that most stick in our memories, and those will be the focus of our list here.

Selecting the best Roald Dahl books is a little like picking a favorite Beatles album: it’s open to personal preference but, when it comes right down to it, you really can’t go wrong.

The_Twits_first_editionThe Twits

The only Dahl book on this list that hasn’t been adapted to a feature film is in the midst of protracted development to become one. The Twits was inspired by Dahl’s famous hatred of beards and centers around Mr. and Mrs. Twit, two horrible people who own and mistreat a family of pet monkeys and derive their only joy from playing mean-spirited practical jokes on each other. Mrs. Twit drops her glass eye in her husband’s soup while Mr. Twit lengthens his wife’s cane in an effort to convince her that she’s shrinking. Ultimately, the monkeys get their revenge by giving the Twits a taste of their own medicine.




Pranks pop up again in Matilda. The titular young girl is gifted with magical powers that go unnoticed by her wealthy, boorish parents who emotionally neglect her. But Matilda gets satisfaction for their misdeeds by putting her powers to work to perform these pranks. While in school, Matilda encounters a nurturing teacher, Miss Honey, whose attempts to recognize Matilda’s uncanny intelligence are thwarted by the cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. As the plot thickens, Matilda ends up using her telekinetic powers to help Miss Honey get what’s rightfully hers from the wicked Miss Trunchbull.


james and the giant peachJames and the Giant Peach

When his parents are trampled to death by escaped rhinoceroses, young James Henry Trotter is forced to live with his two evil aunts. The aunts physically and verbally abuse him and, even when it comes about that James inadvertently causes a magical giant peach to grow on the tree outside their home, the aunts profit off this turn of luck and lock him away. James one day enters a tunnel in the peach to discover enchanted talking bugs living inside who help him dispose of his aunts and ride the peach throughout the world in a madcap adventure.


fantastic mr fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox

The crafty Mr. Fox feeds his family by swiping livestock or crops from the farms of three nearby dimwitted farmers. As the farmers grow livid at constantly having their farms raided by the fox, they ultimately devise a plan to kill Mr. Fox but only manage to shoot off his tail. Their quest for revenge gets so intense that they even dig up the fox den with heavy machinery, but are largely ridiculed for doing so by the townspeople. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox burrows his family deeper underground until he discovers a subterranean path to the encroaching farmers’ barns, where he ends up inviting other animal friends to live while the three farmers waste their time waiting for him at his old fox hole.

charlie-the-chocolate-factory-book-cover1Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Perhaps Dahl’s most famous book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follows the poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket in his quest to find a golden ticket that will allow him unprecedented access to the reclusive Willy Wonka’s famed chocolate factory. As Charlie is fortunate enough to find one, he’s whisked away on a strange and surreal adventure within the factory’s walls, and the four other children who tour with him are picked off one by one due to their own moral failings. As the sole golden ticket winner to successfully complete the tour, Charlie becomes Willy Wonka’s heir and his entire destitute family is whisked to the lavish factory to live out the rest of their lives in saccharine splendor.

Best Mystery Novels

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t intrigued by a good mystery. There’s something about the seemingly unexplainable—or at least questions without obvious answers—that tugs at the inquisitive nature within us all. It’s therefore no surprise that mysteries are among the most popular and enduring genres in both books and film. In fact, each of these great mystery books were so popular they have also been adapted for the silver screen.

Our Best Mystery Novels list focuses on those mystery stories that also teach us about what it means to be human. And the much-loved books in the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series get passed over simply because our list is focused on mystery novels oriented toward adult audiences. So, in no particular order, here are our recommendations for Best Mystery Novels.

shutter-island-bookShutter Island by Dennis Lahane

Shutter Island is quite simply one of the most mindbending mystery novels of all time. As U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels and his new partner investigate the strange disappearance of an inmate at an island hospital for the criminally insane, the nature of reality begins to unravel all around him. Daniels is also there to avenge the death of his wife, and this added dimension injects even greater tension to an already white-knuckled thrill ride through the mind. The novel’s ambiguous ending makes the enormous twist that precedes it all the more compelling and cements Shutter Island as a mystery classic.




The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This mystery novel utilizes dramatic irony to keep the reader enthralled. The reader knows who raped and murdered young Susie Simon, who serves as the novel’s disembodied narrator from beyond the grave. But the family and friends of the unfortunate girl are left to try to put the pieces together. Her disappearance and death profoundly impact her father, Jack, especially as he begins to rightly suspect their peculiar neighbor, Harvey. The tension ramps up as Jack attempts to prove Harvey’s guilt, and the novel spirals out into a heartbreaking and profound work that transcends the mystery genre.


the_maltese_falcon.large_The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

This list simply wouldn’t be complete without Sam Spade and this detective classic. When Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired to trail a man who has allegedly run off with their client’s sister, Archer quickly winds up dead. Spade is implicated as a suspect and soon finds himself at the center of a mysterious conspiracy. Spade is thrust into the whirlwind with only his wits to clear his own name and get to the bottom of this web of intrigue. It only took a year for the first film adaptation of this classic, with the famous Humphrey Bogart remake coming out a decade later.


the girl with the dragon tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

It’s a shame that Stieg Larsson never lived to see what a success his Millennium series became both on the page and in both Swedish and American film trilogies. His books have it all: high profile legal cases, corporate intrigue, computer hackers, lusty bedroom scenes, dark pasts, savage violence, and vengeful bloodlust. The following books in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, could also easily be on this list, but it’s the initial book that started it all and is one of the best mystery novels.




The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This 1955 classic introduced the world to Tom Ripley, who would return in subsequent books by Patricia Highsmith. Ripley is a small-time con man who stumbles upon the chance of a lifetime when a shipping magnate approaches him to retrieve an errant son living it up in Greece. Ripley soon ingratiates himself within that son’s life and begins to become obsessed with him and his lavish lifestyle. Fearing he’s about to be cut loose, Ripley murders the son and assumes his identity. There’s a reason this book continues to dazzle readers to this day with its mystery and psychological intrigue.

Best Children’s Books

Before the modern distractions of TV, video games and all manner of computer technology, books were the primary means for children to absorb stories. Whether as bedtime stories read by a parent or kids flipping pages themselves, children’s books continue to hold a special place in the hearts of parents and little ones alike. Storytelling is simply one of the most effective means of both educating and entertaining children, and reading is one of the single greatest sparks to a young person’s imagination.

Below you will find our list of the best children’s books. We focused on books oriented towards the wee ones, not the pre-teens and adolescents. So you won’t find any of the Harry Potter books, nor will you find Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as they appeared in our Best Novels and Best Fantasy Novels lists, respectively. You will, however, find five of the most enduring and well-loved children’s books ever.

GoodnightmoonGoodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

With gorgeous illustrations by Clement Hurd, Margaret Wise Brown’s classic bedtime book is one that has been enjoyed by generations of sleepyheads. With allusions to earlier children’s books, and rhythmic language, Goodnight Moon is a realistic book that takes on almost fairy tale qualities, the perfect transition between waking life and dreams.




Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)

The only children’s novel on this list, Charlotte’s Web is in turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. After Wilbur, a runt-of-the-litter piglet is saved from slaughter and relocated, he befriends a kindly spider named Charlotte who saves him from slaughter again by weaving messages into her web that dumbfound the farmers. As Charlotte eventually produces an egg sack (her “magnum opus”) she informs Wilbur of her impending death and the book serves as a beautiful testament to the cyclical nature of all life.



Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

A picture book consisting of only 338 words, Maurice Sendak’s most famous book can be viewed as a whimsical flight of fancy or as a psychoanalytic story of anger. After a tantrum, young boy Max is sent to his room, which transforms into the land of the Wild Things. When he becomes their king, he triumphs over his primal side and returns to the maternal comforts of a hot meal.



The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969)

A marvel of graphic design, Eric Carle’s hungry caterpillar chews its way through this classic book and eventually emerges as a butterfly. Having sold over 30 million copies, it’s been described as having sold one copy per minute since its publication and remains one of the most enduring and vibrant children’s books ever.



Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (1990)

There are a half dozen or more Dr. Seuss titles worthy of this list, but the final book published during his lifetime may simply be his best. Directly addressing the reader, this book is delightfully open-ended after transporting the reader through diverse and magical realms that, much like Seuss’ work in general, appeal to the imagination while in this case also encouraging the reader to avoid complacency. The fact that Dr. Seuss’ final book would bear a title with such appropriate finality and grandfatherly encouragement is icing on the cake of a life well lived.

Best Political Books

Politics seem to shift with the wind. As times change, so do the needs and agendas of various constituencies of people in the ever-changing dynamics of civilizations. While the hot button issues may rise up and fall away ad infinitum, and the tactics and shenanigans of politicians may seem to grow ever more absurd, some basic principles of government have proven far more enduring.

The list we’ve compiled includes books that have spoken to the deeper aspects of humanity and our need for politics, those that transcend the specific issues of a particular era. Memoirs by famous politicians, such as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father or Winston Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War deserve their own category, so here we’re only focused on those books that have withstood the swirling winds of their times and have established themselves as important voices of the greater human condition.

art of warThe Art of War by Sun Tzu (around 500 BCE)

Influential to both Eastern and Western military thought throughout the past 2000 years, The Art of War frames warfare as a necessary evil, one that must be avoided whenever possible but also waged justly and efficiently when it becomes necessary. Sun Tzu argued that wars be waged swiftly to avoid excess cost and that massacres and other atrocities be avoided lest they serve as a rallying cry for the opposition. He also went into great detail about the importance of military positioning in combat, and his ancient words still inspire military leaders to this day.


the republic

The Republic by Plato (around 380 BCE)

The definition of justice is typically something that’s considered rigid or the result of common sense, yet it’s actually rather fluid given the varying circumstances. One of the first notable ruminations on the subject occurred in Plato’s Socratic dialogue The Republic. In it, Socrates argues that justice does not always involve helping friends and harming enemies, because a just man would harm no one. The dialogue between Socrates and various Athenians includes debates on how both a city-state and an individual can be defined as “just” and also delves into more nebulous topics including the role of philosophy and poetry in society at large and discussion on the nature of soul.


democracy in america

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (1835-1840)

During his 19th century tour of America on the pretense of writing about its prison system, Frenchman Tocqueville studied American society at large for one of the more insightful outsider commentaries on the burgeoning world power. He commented on the dissolution of aristocracy and the emergence of democracy as one of the leading systems of government of the era, specifically for its emphasis on creating greater equality among America’s citizens. Despite holding patriarchal views of women in society, Tocqueville was one of the first to note America’s shift toward greater equality for both genders.




Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

The only novel in this list makes it because Orwell’s classic serves as such a poignant allegory for how absolute power corrupts absolutely. When farm animals rise up and overthrow their unjust farmer, claiming their independence in the process, the pigs gradually assert ever-tightening control over the other groups of animals. Orwell said that this book was written in response to his witnessing how totalitarian propaganda can so easily infiltrate the collective mindset of democratic societies, leading people to believe in equality but also, in practice, believe that “some animals are more equal than others.”


fear and loathingFear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72
by Hunter S. Thompson (1973)

Politics can be a strange beast, so there’s no better person to capture the madness of an election season that gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. In his travelogue of the 1972 U.S presidential campaign trail (focusing on the Democratic Party’s primaries, while adding in a healthy dose of Thompson’s vitriol for Richard Nixon), this book provides a unique insider look at campaigns as well as a critique of the mass media machine that fuels the ugliest aspects of the democratic process.

Best Classic Literature

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that books and plays used to be the only game in town. With the amount of digital distractions today, an unfortunate number of people turn on an electronic device to entertain them rather than open a book. But classic literature made such a mark on modern society because of its ability to transport people’s minds when, over the past centuries, physical transportation methods were much more arduous. For this reason, stories that would become classics captivated the collective consciousness of the literate.

This short list of some of the best of classic literature is missing a few heavy-hitters, of course. Crime and Punishment and Heart of Darkness already were featured on our Best Books list. Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby showed up on our Best Novels list. And dramatic classics from the likes of Shakespeare deserve their own category altogether. So without further ado, our choices for five of the best undisputed classics.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Despite being penned in the early 1800s and being primary concerned with early-19th century British society, Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice routinely tops most-loved books lists. As protagonist Elizabeth weathers the rigors of manners, marriage and morality of England’s sophisticated and wealthy, the reader is privy to the intimate details of the lifestyle of the elite. Like much of Austen’s work, Pride and Prejudice focuses on how environment and upbringing influence an individual’s overall sense of morality.


count of monte cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

Along with The Three MusketeersThe Count of Monte Cristo is a true adventure classic by Alexandre Dumas. The Count has captured imaginations over much of the past two centuries through its tale of justice, vengeance and mercy. The hope-filled journey of a wrongfully convicted man who escapes from prison is soon transformed into a story of retribution as he acquires a fortune, but as he seeks revenge on his enemies the story becomes one of how such acts often harm the innocent as well as the guilty.


taleoftwocitiesA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

This list would not be complete without Dickens. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” remains one of the more notable and recognizable literary references to this day. The two cities in question are Paris and London, as the French peasants feel squeezed under the grip of the pre-revolution aristocracy while parallels are made to life in London. One of only two historical novels the prolific and iconic Dickens wrote, it’s also one of his very best.




Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Vampires haven’t always been heartthrobs. In the 19th century, the were actually mysterious and vicious creatures of the night. Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula is the greatest vampire story ever told, and he managed to do it through an epistolary storytelling method (mostly letters and journal entries from various people who’d come in contact with the infamous Count or his aftermath). Though horror classics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s difficult to imagine a world in which Bram Stoker’s Dracula didn’t give new meaning to garlic, coffins, bats, and wooden stakes.



Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)

Steinbeck could have as easily made this list for The Grapes of Wrath, but none of his other books tug at the heartstrings quite like Of Mice and Men. As George and  Lenny (two migrant workers who share a dream of working their way up to one day owning their own land) butt heads with other workers at a ranch that briefly employs them, it quickly becomes apparent that Lenny’s limited mental abilities and large size are going to get him and George into trouble. The ending of this relatively short book is a truly heartbreaking scene of mercy and friendship.

Best Philosophy Books

Humans have pondered the nature of our perceived reality for millennia. While scientific innovation over the past couple of centuries has allowed for much deeper insight the workings of the mind and the nature of time and space, the great thinkers throughout history are still heavily influential on the world today. The Greek philosophers may have lived in such an ancient epoch that Aristotle laughably suggested that the brain’s function was to cool the blood, but his mentor, Plato, has been described as so instrumental to the eventual European philosophical tradition that it can be generalized as “a series of footnotes” referencing him.

So while any Best Philosophy Books list would be remiss to completely leave out Plato’s Republic, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, or Sun Tzu’s The Art of Warwe’re keeping our list more contemporary and focusing on the descendant philosophical traditions these works eventually encouraged through either agreement or rebuttal. We’re also not looking into political philosophy, so you won’t find the likes of Voltaire, Machiavelli, John Locke or Karl Marx. What you will find are five of the more influential philosophical works on the nature of existence from the past 250 years.

Critique-of-Pure-Reason-9780140447477Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (1781)

Kant is one of the more challenging modern philosophers due to the precision of his focus. His philosophy espoused in Critique of Pure Reason is derived from Aristotle and primarily asserts that the nature of reality is unknowable to the human mind. He posits that everything in the universe is a thing “in-itself,” meaning a true essence that humans cannot hope to directly experience because of the limitations of our sensory perceptions. By passing through a filter, the true nature of objects in the world is changed and therefore reality itself is obscured.


thusThus Spoke Zarathustra by Frederich Nietzsche (1883)

Nietzche’s seminal nihilist novel put forth his philosophical positions on eternal recurrence (his position that time is cyclical and everything that physically happens will continue to happen over and over), the death of God (and his critique on religion and politics as being based on hatred of the body and the physical world), and his Übermensch (higher form of life to which humans can aspire to achieve by improving ourselves and the world from generation to generation). He remains hugely influential and controversial to this day.



Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922)

Novelist, poet, and painter Herman Hesse expressed his philosophy through his creative output. In Siddhartha, he tells the tale of a man who went on a similar quest of self-discovery as that of the Buddha. The main theme of the book is that enlightenment and understanding is achieved not through events inside the mind (through study or meditation) or, conversely, from carnal pleasures in the physical world but rather comes about through the whole of experience. Therefore, even experiences that are painful or seemingly detrimental are not negative because they are one part of the completeness of one’s experience that ultimately leads to greater understanding.


being and timeBeing and Time by Martin Heidegger (1927)

Heidegger was a crucial contributor to existentialism, positing in his most notable work, Being and Time, that despite the millennia of thought on the subject it’s still unclear exactly what “being” means. He was critical of philosophers in the past for so easily dismissing the question of what it means “to be.” There are separate beings, or entities that are in the physical world and interact with it, but the nature of Being is deeper and more mysterious. Authentic people appreciate this mystery and embrace it and go about their lives pondering the mystery but engaging the physical world.


secondsexThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)

As one of the more influential French philosophers of the 20th century, Simone de Beauvoir excelled in a field nearly exclusively dominated by white men. One of her most notable books The Second Sex contributed to the rise of second-wave feminism as it confronts human history from the feminist perspective. Her assertion that men have, throughout history, oppressed women by designating them as the “Other” is now essentially canon among contemporary thought. In addition to her work with lifelong partner Jean-Paul Sartre on the nature of being-in-itself, de Beauvoir blazed trails not only for her gender, but for the way we understand what it means to be human.