We've been getting a lot of feedback from our readers asking for lists of writers and their favorite books. So here it is! Whether you're looking for some writing inspiration or just another good book to read, here's our first list of books recommended by famous authors and journalists.
Kara Swisher is an American technology business journalist and co-founder of Recode which is a technology news site that focuses on the business of Silicon Valley. She has written two books about AOL, runs several podcasts (like the popular Recode Decode) and contributes to the tech section of the New York Times Opinion section.
Swisher has been touted as “iconic” by the creator of the hit TV show, Silicon Valley, and apparently “layers charm and aggression to truth-serum affect”.
This boss-a** lady started reporting about tech in the early ‘90s and was already a veteran in the industry when the Web 2.0 generation was coming of age. She’s reported on some of the biggest news in tech such as Facebook Hiring Sheryl Sandberg and Google Trying to Buy Groupon(like damn girl, what an exciting time in tech). She met Jeff Bezos when Amazon was still a startup and Marc Andreessen when Netscape was about to IPO (Netscape is what brought us the World Wide Web so yeah, that’s a BIG deal).
Swisher is known to be very vocal about the underrepresentation of women at big tech companies #YAAASSS, scrutinizing Marissa Mayer and Yahoo, and unearthing the ethical issues surrounding TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington’s journalism. She is the Valley’s most loved and most feared journalist.
Check out Kara Swisher’s favorite books:
You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book's unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers.
The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, decades after its first publication, the essential portrait of America―particularly California―in the sixties. It focuses on such subjects as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up a girl in California, ruminating on the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture.
First published in 1979, The White Album records indelibly the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Examining key events, figures, and trends of the era―including Charles Manson, the Black Panthers, and the shopping mall―through the lens of her own spiritual confusion, Joan Didion helped to define mass culture as we now understand it.
Neil Gaiman has come up a lot on Wisebooks’ people lists (like Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber) which has some logic. They say a number of CEOs, founders, and makers are big fans of science fiction because it creates a habit of imagining things that don’t exist. What do you do as a founder or someone of the like? Create things that don’t exist. Maybe we should all be reading a little more Sci-Fi like some of Gaiman’s famous works: The Sandman, Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, Coraline ,The Graveyard Book, Good Omens, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Gaiman started his writing career with a number of different works such as publishing biographies of Duran Duran (if you haven’t heard of them, same; they’re a British Band) and Douglas Adams, the author of the very famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He moved onto comics and collaborations with Dave McKean, which led to their works being published by DC Comics.
His (as of right now) magnum opus is Sandman with 75 issues out (BTW it’s a comic book), and the first comic to ever receive a literary award at the 1991 World Fantasy Awards.
If he’s on your shelf, you might want to know which favorite books are on Neil Gaiman’s shelf:
The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe’s most remarkable work, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly, and “one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century” by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
"The single most beautiful, solid, unearthly, and unjustifiably forgotten novel of the twentieth century ... a little golden miracle of a book." - Neil Gaiman
Fact: A Goon is a being who melts into the foreground and sticks there…When the Goon turns up demanding 'Archer’s two thousand', life turns upside-down. As Howard desperately tries to get to the bottom of this peculiar demand, he discovers that the town is run by seven crazy wizards (not all of whom live in the present!) and someone is trying to take over the world!
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England-until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
An extraordinary work of investigative journalism, literature, and sociology, London Labour and the London Poor originated in a series of articles for a local newspaper and grew into a massive record of the daily life of Victorian London's underclass. By turns alarming, touching, and funny, the pages of London Labour and the London Poor exposed a previously hidden world.
Joe Hill's critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning debut chiller, Heart-Shaped Box, heralded the arrival of new royalty onto the dark fantasy scene.
Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the ALEC stories present a version of Campbell's own life, filtered through the alter ego of 'Alec MacGarry.' Over many years, we witness Alec's (and Eddie's) progression 'from beer to wine' — wild nights at the pub, existential despair, the hunt for love, the quest for art, becoming a 'responsible breadwinner,' feeling lost at his own movie premiere, and much more!
With an Introduction and Notes by Doreen Roberts, University of Kent at Canterbury Bleak House is one of Dickens' finest achievements, establishing his reputation as a serious and mature novelist, as well as a brilliant comic writer. It is at once a complex mystery story that fully engages the reader in the work of detection, and an unforgettable indictment of an indifferent society.
“Funny, wise, and infused with a sense of wonder and knowledge….Nobody else made myths real and valuable in the way Roger Zelazny could.” —Neil Gaiman
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare is a metaphysical thriller that was first published by G.K Chesterton in 1908. The plot begins when Gabriel Syme first gets recruited to a secret anarchist division of Scotland Yard.
Stephen King is the guy that writes the books that get made into movies that make you scared of washrooms and the dark (a.k.a he writes freaky AF horror novels). More specifically, they say his genre is in horror, fantasy, drama, crime suspense, thriller, and other words along those lines.
His books have collectively sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into several feature films and television shows. And if it doesn’t fit into TV or film, someone finds a way to make it a mini-series (think Carrie, The Shining, IT, etc.)
After his graduation he was actually pursuing teaching among a number of other part-time jobs while writing in all of his free time. Two years later, the King of Horror sold his first novel, Carrie. If you haven’t seen it… don’t…. Unless you like cr*pping your pants. Its insane success allowed him to quit everything else and focus on full-time writing, and he starting pumping out book after book after book. He had so many ideas and even started publishing under pseudonyms out of concern that the public wouldn’t accept multiple books from the same author in one year.
See what Stephen King’s favorite books are:
Golding’s iconic 1954 novel, remains one of the greatest books ever written for young adults and an unforgettable classic for readers of any age. At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys.
This “dazzling” National Book Award finalist set aboard an ocean liner in 1931 reflects the passions and prejudices that sparked World War II (San Francisco Chronicle). August 1931. An ocean liner bound for Germany sets out from the Mexican port city of Veracruz. The ship’s first-class passengers include an idealistic young American painter and her lover; a Spanish dance troupe with a sideline in larceny; an elderly German couple and their fat, seasick bulldog; and a boisterous band of Cuban medical students.
Watership Down is the compelling tale of a group of wild rabbits struggling to hold onto their place in the world—soon to be a BBC and Netflix animated miniseries starring James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and Oscar and Grammy award-winning Sir Ben Kingsley.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning, New York Times bestselling novel of North Korea: an epic journey into the heart of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship. Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts.
In 1975 the National Book Award Fiction Prize was awarded to two writers: Robert Stone and Thomas Williams. Yet only Stone's Dog Soldiers is still remembered today. That oversight is startling when considering the literary impact of The Hair of Harold Roux. A dazzlingly crafted novel-within-a-novel hailed as a masterpiece, it deserves a new generation of readers.
A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of 'the Brotherhood'...
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the 'wild west.' Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever… Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes.
Here is Philip Roth's masterpiece—an elegy for the American century's promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss. Roth's protagonist is Swede Levov, a legendary athlete at his Newark high school, who grows up in the booming postwar years to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father's glove factory, and move into a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him.
Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking which argues that introverted people are undervalued in Western culture. Her TED talk on “The Power of Introverts” has more than 20M views and she’s the Co-Founder of Quiet Revolution which is all about empowering introverts.
And surprise, surprise! Cain is an introvert herself. On the Quiet Revolution site she says,“I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing, and cozy chats to group settings. I like to think before I speak (softly). Until a few years ago, I was terrified of public speaking, and I am still amazed that such a giant fear is conquerable.”
Cain has an impressive curriculum vitae, one that might make you think, “Is this really that introvert lady?”. She is an ex-corporate lawyer, having represented clients like Goldman Sachs and General Electric. She has also worked as a negotiations consultant, having trained all kinds of people from hedge fund managers to TV producers. She’s the perfect example of how your nature shouldn’t limit you in any way and how people shouldn’t be pigeonholed into labels.
Cain’s favorite activities are reading, writing, lounging around cafés, and doing the mambo with my family. Speaking of reading, here are Susan Cain’s favorite books.
This book illuminates the kind of life we should all be living. Csikszentmihalyi argues that one of the highest states of being is the state of flow — when you’re totally engaged in an activity, riding the narrow channel between boredom and anxiety. I talk about this book a lot, and try to live by it even more. (Cain's Notes, TED)
(Or really any of Billy Collins’ poetry collections.) Collins, who was once the US poet laureate, says he’s an extrovert, but if his poems are any indication, he’s a homebody like me. He writes about exciting things like looking up words in the encyclopedia and walking to town for a gallon of milk... (Cain's Notes, TED)
If you have ever felt weird or out of step because you like to sit around and think, I can’t recommend these books enough. I read them while researching Quiet. I was trying to trace the history of what I call 'the extrovert ideal' — the Western bias for people who are alpha, assertive and gregarious — and devoured these books. (You’ll find them referenced in chapter one of Quiet.) (Cain's Notes, TED)
In this award-winning classic work of consensus history, Richard Hofstadter, author of The Age of Reform, examines the role of social movements in the perception of intellect in American life.
Have you ever felt like an outsider? This is an acutely observed look at life inside a New England boarding school, as told from a public school kid from Indiana. I picked up this book the minute I heard about it. Like the Prep protagonist, I am not from a preppy background. But I went to Princeton in the 1980s, when it seemed that all the students were from elite private schools and possessed of a breathtaking savoir faire...(Cain's Notes)
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