In making this list, I discovered that some of these books I didn’t actually enjoy all that well, proving that the experiences that are the most broadening are rarely the ones you choose.
1) 1984 by George Orwell
I think it’s a real pity this book finds itself on the banned book list so often and that everyone isn’t required to read it in school. It is one of those books that has shaped my worldview as well as my thoughts on government, personal privacy and the truth.
2) V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
If 1984 was a story about the results of a dystopian society, then V for Vendetta was a lesson on how to take it apart, what you’re going to be left with and, most importantly, why you should. A story about triumph, loss and personal choice, if you’ve read 1984 and you haven’t read V, you are missing out.
3) Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. by Karen E. Peterson
When I recommend books to other writers, this one always makes the list. It’s a very clean cut approach to why we get writer’s block and how to overcome it.
4) “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin
Okay, it’s a short story and not technically a book, but I included it anyway. I read “The Cold Equations” once 14 years ago and it was so burned into my memory I still give an internal shudder every time I think about it. I can’t say I recommend it, but it taught me about the price of survival and the price of a childish error in judgement.
5) Paganism: A Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by Joyce and River Higginbotham
The book that answered all of my questions about pagans and paganism, opening my eyes to yet another dimension of the world we live in and reinforced my appreciation of religious freedom.
6) Redshirts by John Scalzi
Authors always talk about the “rules” of writing, one of which is: never kill your character without a good reason. Redshirts is, in many ways, an entire lesson on this rule and it changed the way I treat the extras in my own stories.
7) The Dark Side of Man by Michael Patrick Ghiglieri
The Dark Side of Man is a strictly evolutionary look at male violence. It explains a great deal of why people in general, and men in particular, behave like they do and it has changed the way I look at human behavior.
8) Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Aside from being loaded with Pratchett’s wonderful humor and story, the book taught me how necessary belief is to being human.
9) Rats, Bats and Vats by Eric Flint
Rats, Bats and Vats is a beautifully paced and funny as hell war story that is still fundamentally a war story, with all the death and tragedy that goes with it. I always thought of war stories as dark and heavy reading until this book showed me that’s only a matter of perspective.
10) The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard
The first date that led to my love for pulp fiction, Solomon Kane is actually collection of short stories by the same guy who wrote Conan the Barbarian. The stories don’t have a ton of depth and some of them are blatantly racist, but they are also shameless action/adventure stories about a great hero versus ruthless villains and is part of the backbone of all those unrealistic fantasy tropes we don’t get to play with any more.