Build The Perfect At-Home Library

How many of these titles live on your bookshelf?

What qualifies a person as well read? Is it the sheer number of books consumed, or the depth and breadth of their literary repertoire? Do you consider yourself well read? We’ve examined this idea before: “in matters of taste, there is no argument” and there is no better example of this than in our choice of reading material. Book lovers will browse through bookshelves whenever they get the chance. And who isn’t guilty of perusing the bookshelves of our friends? We’re always on the hunt for the next great read, or to identify books in common that we can then discuss. While it’s highly unlikely that we’re building a library from scratch, let’s just pretend – for the sake of argument – that we were.

What titles are essential to have on your bookshelf? It’s an almost impossible task, but working through genres it becomes a little easier to narrow down those authors and books that seem to define what “good reading” is. We’ve put together a list – in no particular order or by no particular genre – of 50 titles that we’d consider as a part of any personal library. These titles cover a wide range of voices and experiences in fiction and nonfiction. Clearly there’s something about each title that has struck a chord, stood the test of time, or offers significant insight into an idea or experience.

50 Titles For Your At-Home Library

1. The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

2. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

3. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon

4. A Child Called “It”, David Pelzer

5. Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

7. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

8. The Human Stain, Philip Roth

9. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

10. Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes

11. Elements of Style, Strunk and White

12. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

13. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

14. On Beauty, Zadie Smith

15. Poetics, Aristotle

16. The Color Purple, Alice Walker

17. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney

18. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

19. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

20. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

21. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

22. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

23. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig

24. Ulysses, James Joyce

25. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett

26. Beloved, Toni Morrison

27. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

28. The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

29. The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli

30. Das Kapital, Karl Marx

31. Rights of Man, Thomas Paine

32. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence

33. The Histories, Herodotus

34. Confessions, St. Augustine

35. The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

36. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

37. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

38. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak

39. On War, Carl von Clausewitz

40. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

41. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

42. The Railway Children, E. Nesbit

43. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

44. Le Morte d’Arthur, Thomas Malory

45. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

46. Neuromancer, William Gibson

47. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

48. Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller

49. How to Cook, Delia Smith

50. If This Is Man, Primo Levi