29 Lists of Recommended Books Created by Well-Known Authors, Artists & Thinkers: Jorge Luis Borges, Patti Smith, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, David Bowie & More


Cre­ative Com­mons image of Aus­tri­an Nation­al Library by Matl

At any giv­en moment many of us can rec­om­mend a list of books to read. Books that have imprint­ed on us, named emo­tions we did­n’t know we had, carved trails through our brains. Books that stand as a tes­ta­ment to a life lived as a read­er. We may con­struct lists to pass on to a curi­ous niece, nephew, son, daugh­ter, stu­dent, or appren­tice. “Life is per­plex­ing,” we might say, “com­plex, won­drous, curi­ous, painful, open to unimag­in­able pos­si­bil­i­ties. Read these, then go out and find the books that inspire, soothe, guide, chal­lenge, and enlight­en you.”

Of course, as you know from read­ing this site, we fre­quent­ly bring you many such lists, from famous writ­ers, artists, musi­cians, sci­en­tists, and oth­er titans of their respec­tive fields who have inspired mil­lions of young stu­dents and appren­tices. Today, we have com­piled a mas­ter list of rec­om­mend­ed read­ing lists, from writ­ers like Jorge Luis Borges, musi­cian-poets like Pat­ti Smith, sci­en­tists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, futur­ists like Stew­art Brand, and many, many more.

In fact, we have two lists from Borges, both pre­dictably lengthy and eccen­tric. The first con­tains 33 books that could start a fic­tion­al Library of Babel, among which we find Jack Lon­don and Her­man Melville along­side occult Eng­lish writer Arthur Machen and Qing Dynasty Chi­nese writer Pu Songling. Borges’ sec­ond list spans 74 titles, and was intend­ed, before his death, to expand to 100. Pat­ti Smith also rec­om­mends Melville in her list, as well as Mikhail Bul­gakov, Louisa May Alcott, and her hero, Arthur Rim­baud. Tyson’s list is short, only 8 titles, and he sug­gests these books not only for the avid read­er but—in answer to a Redditor’s question—for “every sin­gle intel­li­gent per­son on the plan­et.”

And Stew­art Brand? Well, his list of 76 books is one of many such lists (includ­ing anoth­er one from Bri­an Eno) for his Long Now Foundation’s “Man­u­al for Civ­i­liza­tion,” a library meant to inspire and inform the few intel­li­gent peo­ple left on Earth in the event of cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse.

Find the com­plete list of lists above. 28 in total. In some cas­es, the titles in each post link to online text or audio books freely avail­able online. And, sep­a­rate­ly, you should not miss our list of 74 essen­tial books rec­om­mend­ed by “a group of inter­na­tion­al women writ­ers, artists and cura­tors.”  Please let us know in the com­ments if there are any espe­cial­ly good lists not men­tioned here–ones you think our read­ers would do well to con­sult.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Books Could Be Used to Rebuild Civ­i­liza­tion?: Lists by Bri­an Eno, Stew­art Brand, Kevin Kel­ly & Oth­er For­ward-Think­ing Minds

“Tsun­doku,” the Japan­ese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the Eng­lish Lan­guage

74 Essen­tial Books for Your Per­son­al Library: A List Curat­ed by Female Cre­atives

100 Nov­els All Kids Should Read Before Leav­ing High School

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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