Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday

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Dear kids,

Did you ever wonder what the best thing in the world is? Well, pay attention, because I know the answer: it’s reading.

Reading is the best thing.

You may have already discovered this for yourself, with all the great fiction you’re enjoying. But here’s a little secret, something I hope you learn sooner than later: nonfiction is more fun than you think it is.

When I was in school, nonfiction was textbooks. And the encyclopedia, and the dictionary. (Oh, and of course, the Bible.) What nobody told me is that there’s another kind of nonfiction out there. The kind that’s actually fun to read.

Modern nonfiction is some of the most enjoyable, well-written stuff you can find. (After all, if you want to make money writing about neuroscience, for example, you’d better make it relevant, understandable, and full of fascinating anecdotes, right?) It’s stimulating and informative, but that’s not all. It can even make you better. It can change your perspective, make you wiser, stronger, happier. Even give you more inner peace.

Nonfiction helps us come up with new goals, new ideas about what our lives can encompass–then takes our hands and helps us draw the circles.

Simply put: It gives us the answers.

So, a little gift to you, my beauties. Following is a curated list of what are, in my humble opinion, the best, most inspiring works of nonfiction in existence, plus links to classic fiction and more. To make the list, books must be:

  • Engaging;
  • Perspective-altering; and
  • Uniquely informative.

Though this list may seem overwhelmingly long, my promise to you is that I haven’t put anything on it that doesn’t truly deserve to be here. For the most part, the books listed aren’t stuffed with humdrum filler; they’re solid.

Also, they’re books I’ve actually read. Which is why this list is definitely a work in progress; I’m always reading awesome new stuff, and I’ll update this page regularly and tell you about it. (The permalink for this post is on my homepage.)

I’ve written full posts on some of the books below, too, making a passionate case for your reading the work someday. If the book title has a link, that’s where it heads.

It’s such a great time to be a reader, isn’t it? You’re such lucky kids. But I’ve told you that before.

Much love,
Mom

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Classic Fiction

Best Classic Fiction Works

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Spiritual Nonfiction

Best Spiritual Books

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Non-Spiritual Nonfiction

Best History and Geography Books
Best Science Books
Best Politics and Economics Books
Best Psychology and Sociology Books
Best Diet and Health Books
Best Writing Books
Best Education Books
Best Marketing Books
Best Relationships Books
Best Parenting Books
Best Memoirs
Best How-To Books
Best Nonfiction Classics

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: History, Geography and Philosophy

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Susan Wise Bauer
A good world history encyclopedia for children
A good geography encyclopedia for children
Travel guides as needed/desired
Diary of Anne Frank,
Anne Frank
Roots,
Alex Haley
In Cold Blood,
Truman Capote
Autobiography of Malcom X,
Malcom X
The Power of One,
Bryce Courtenay
Citizen Soldiers,
Stephen E. Ambrose
Alexander of Macedon,
Peter Green
The Devil’s Triangle, Richard Winer
Treblinka, Jean-Francois Steiner
The War Magician, David Fisher
Is Paris Burning?, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
An American Life, Ronald Reagan
Plain Speaking, Merle Miller
Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen
Twelve Great Philosophers, Wayne Pomerleau
Mythology, Edith Hamilton
Aku-Aku, Thor Heyerdahl
1776, David McCullough
The Bridge at Chappaquiddick, Jack Olsen
The Night of the Grizzlies, Jack Olsen
Enola Gay, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux
The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson
Don’t Know Much About History, Kenneth Davis
Bomb, Steve Sheinkin
Cyberpunk, Katie Hafner
How the Web Was Won, Paul Andrews
The Hundred Year Diet, Susan Yager
Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer
Citizen Soldiers, Stephen E. Ambrose
Miracle at Philadelphia, Catherine Drinker Bower
Black Boy, Richard Wright (1908–1960)
Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1920–1980)
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
The Holy Bible
The Koran
The Analects, Confucius (551–479 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze (c. 6th century BC)
The Trojan Women, Euripedes (c. 480–406 BC)
Hippolytus, Euripedes (c. 480–406 BC)
Selected writings of Buddha (c. 500–300 BC)
Selected writings of Aeschylus (c. 525–455 BC)
Selected writings of Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC)
Selected writings of Plato (c. 428–347 BC)
Rhetoric,
Aristotle (384–322 BC)
Nichomachean Ethics,
Aristotle (384–322 BC)
De Republica
and other writings of Cicero (106–43 BC)
On the Nature of Things,
Lucretius (c. 99–55 BC)
The Early History of Rome,
Livy (c. 64 BC–AD 17)
Wars of the Jews, Josephus (37–100)
Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch (c. 46–120)
Annals, Tacitus (c. 56–117)
The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius (c. 69–after 122)
The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian (c. 89–after 160)
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (121–180)
The Confessions, Saint Augustine (354–430)
The Autobiography, Saint Augustine (354–430)
The City of God, St. Augustine (354–430)
Enchiridion, Epictetus (c. 55–135)
The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (c. 480–524)
The Art of War, Sun Tzu (late sixth century BC)
Selected writings of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis (c. 1380–1471)
In Praise of Folly, Erasmus (1466–1536)
The Education of a Christian Prince, Erasmus (1466–1536)
Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther (1483–1546)
The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther (1483–1546)
Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1509–1564)
Selected writings of John Knox (c. 1513–1572)
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross (1542–1591)
The Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
Novum Organum, Frances Bacon (1561–1626)
The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (1596–1650)
Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (1596–1650)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1632–1704)
The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1632–1704)
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys (1633–1703)
Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (1663–1728)
An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)
The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman (1720–1772)
The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1723–1790)
A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
On American Taxation, Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
Rights of Man, Thomas Paine (1737–1809)
Common Sense, Thomas Paine (1737–1809)*
A Child’s History of England, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
The Way to Wealth,
Ben Franklin (1706-1790)
Life of Johnson, James Boswell (1740–1795)
Memoir, Correspondence and Misc., Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797)
The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804)
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859)
Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth (1797–1883)
The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)
On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)
For Self-Examination, Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897)
Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
Other works by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass (1818–1895)
The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1838–1918)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
Beyond Good and Evil, Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
An Autobiography, Annie Besant (1847–1933)
Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Ego and the Id, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois (1868–1963)
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
The Constitution of the United States
Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale
The Gettysburg Address
The Magna Carta
The Ecclesiastical History, Adam Bede
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Science

A good science encyclopedia for children
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
The Particle at the Edge of the Universe, Sean Carroll
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Richard Feynman
The Meaning of It All, Richard Feynman
Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin (1809–1882)
Zoobiquity, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz
Bonk, Mary Roach
Spook, Mary Roach
Endurance,
Scott Kelly
Being Mortal,
Arul Gawande
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
Genome,
Matt Ridley
Gulp!, Mary Roach

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Politics and Economics

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Capitalism and other books by Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand
Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler Cowen
Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki
The Four-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss
God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Psychology and Sociology

The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
The Plug-In Drug, Marie Winn
Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher
The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Summers
Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer
Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, Malcom Gladwell
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcom Gladwell
Other books by Malcom Gladwell
Telling Yourself the Truth, William Backus and Marie Chapian
The Feeling Good Handbook, Kenneth Burns
The Consuming Instinct, Gad Saad
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, Dan Ariely
Irrationally Yours, Dan Ariely
Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Type of Beauty, Carol Tuttle
Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman
Flourish, Martin Seligman
Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmivaly
The Science of Happiness, Stefan Klein
The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky
Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Daniel Nettle
Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener
Happiness, Ed Diener
The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha
Engineering Happiness, Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin
The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo
The Inner Game of Work, W. Timothy Gallway
The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz
Blink, Malcom Gladwell
The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook
The Mindful Brain, Daniel Siegel
The Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantarn
Daring Greatly and other books by Brené Brown, Brené Brown

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Diet and Health

The Diet Alternative, Diane Hampton
French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Food Rules, Michael Pollan
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, Gary Taubes
Neanderthin, Ray Audette
The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf
Overcoming Emotional Eating and other books by Geneen Roth, Geneen Roth
Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
How to Make Almost Any Diet Work, Anne Katherine
Fasting and Easting for Health, Joel Fuhrman
How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds, Dana Carpender
The Twelve Steps of Overeater’s Anonymous
The Diet Cure, Julia Ross

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Writing

The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
Spunk & Bite, Arthur Plotnik
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan
A Whack On the Side of the Head, Roger von Oech
Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell
On Writing, Steven King
Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maas
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maas
How Fiction Works, James Wood
The Well-Fed Writer, Peter Bowerman
Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole
Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster
Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Hyon
Your Life Is A Book, Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann
Hooked, Leslie Edgerton
Good Prose, Tracy Kidder
Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Education

How Children Fail, John Holt
How Children Learn, John Holt
Learning All the Time, John Holt
Instead of Education, John Holt
Teach Your Own, John Holt
The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin
Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn
The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn
No Contest, Alfie Kohn
Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer
The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer
Books Children Love, Elizabeth L. Wilson
Study Is Hard Work, William H. Armstrong
In Their Own Way, Thomas Armstrong
Seven Kinds of Smart, Thomas Armstrong
Unschooling Rules, Clark Aldrich
Un-Jobbing, Michael Fogler
The Unschooling Handbook, Mary Griffith
The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Marketing

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis
Viral Loop, Adam L. Peneberg
The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt
The Long Tail, Chris Anderson
Trust Agents, Chris Brogan
Get Slightly Famous, Steven Von Yoder
Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsich
Permission Marketing and other books by Seth Godin, Seth Godin
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Relationships

His Needs, Her Needs, Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, John Gray
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and other books by John Gottman, John Gottman
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Shaunti Feldhahn
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, Dr. Laura Schlessinger
For Better, Tara Parker-Pope
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Shaunti Feldhahn

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Parenting

Between Parents and Child, Haim G. Ginott
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, Adele Faber
Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber
Parenting with Dignity, Mac Bledsoe
Parenting with Love and Logic, Foster Cline
The Child Whisperer, Carol Tuttle
If I Have to Tell You One More Time, Amy McCready
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv
The Case for Make-Believe, Susan Linn
Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn
Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn
Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, John Mordechai
Attachment Parenting, Katie Allison Granju
The Baby Book, Barry Sears
The Discipline Book, Barry Sears
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, Bryan Douglas Caplan
Home Grown,
Ben Hewitt
Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Oh, Crap! Potty Training, Jamie Glowaki

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: Memoirs

The Story of My Life, Helen Keller
A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout
Into the Wild, John Krakauer
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
The Two Kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso
Primates of Park Avenue, Wednesday Martin
Jay J. Armes, Investigator, Jay J. Armes and Fredrick Nolan
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klostermann
Klostermann II, Chuck Klostermann
Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman
Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman
Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken
How Starbucks Saved My Life, Michael Gill
Found, Jennifer Lauck
It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell
Let’s Take the Long Way Home,
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
Sex Object, Jessica Valenti
They Left Us Everything, Plum Johnson
In Memory of Bread,
Ordinary Light,
Passage, Connie Willis
Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan
The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan
Lift, Kelly Corrigan
Dying, Cory Taylor
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
Hunger, Roxane Gay
What Comes Next and How to Like It, Abigail Thomas
The Seven Good Years, Etgar Keret
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, Amy Silverstein
Flat Broke With Two Goats, Jennifer McGaha
Fifty Acres and a Poodle, Jeanne Marie Laskas
Fifty Years in Polygamy, Kristyn Decker
Why I Left the Amish, Saloma Miller Furlong
Cult Child, Vennie Kocsis
Favorite Wife, Susan Schmidt
“It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass, Joanne Hanks and Steve Cuno
Banished,
Growing Up Amish, Ira Wagler
Educated, Tara Westover
Cult Insanity,
Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
Straight Pepper Diet, Joseph W. Naus
Coming Clean
Fall to Pieces, Mary Forsberg Weiland
Girl Walks Out of A Bar, Lisa Smith
Manic, Terri Cheney
Madness, Marya Hornbacher
Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, Chelsea Handler
My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler
Official Book Club Selection, Kathy Griffin
I Regret Nothing, Jen Lancaster
MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bersche
Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me, Rachel Bersche
A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, Kristin Newman
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, Lev Golinkin
Eating Ice Cream With My Dog, Frances Kuffel
A Year of No Sugar, Eve O. Schaub
It Was Food vs. Me-And I Won, Nancy Goodman
Massive, Julia Bell
The Taming of the Chew, Denise Lamothe
Hungry, Allen Zadoff
The Good Eater, Ron Saxen
The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, Wendy Shanker
Locked Up for Eating Too Much, Debbie Danowski
Full, Kimber Simpkins

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: How-To and Miscellaneous

Drawing with Children, Mona Brookes
The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer and Marior Rombauer Becker
The Story of the Incredible Orchestra, Bruce Koscielniak

Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

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