10 Most Important Books That You Don’t Read in High School

I’ve been invited to a friend’s son’s high school graduation. As a present, I’m planning to send him the “10 Most Important Books That You Don’t Read in High School” (at least I didn’t). Here’s my first cut, first draft list. What would you add, subtract?

  1. Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey)
  2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
  3. The River Why (David James Duncan)
  4. Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
  5. Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer)
  6. Coming into the Country (John McPhee)
  7. On the Road (Jack Kerouac)
  8. Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
  9. Brokeback Mountain (Annie Prolix)
  10. A Separate Reality (Carlos Castenada)


  • Man’s Search for Meaning (Vicktor Frankl)
  • Mountains of California (John Muir)
  • Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
  • Arctic Dreams (Barry Lopez)
  • River Notes (Barry Lopez)
  • My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell)
  • A Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold)
  • The Snow Leopard (Peter Matthiessen)

Celeste Bates – Fathers and Sons / Turgenev, Sentimental Education / Flaubert, Rachel Papers / Martin Amis, Geek Love / Katherine Dunn, A Day in the Live of Ivan Denisovich / Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Wendell Birkhofer – Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
Howard ClarkeMatterhorn…….Karl Marlantes, Coming of age in the Milky Way……Timothy Ferris, Complexity, The emerging science at the edge of order and chaos………M. Mitchell Waldrop, Cryptonomicon……..Neal Stephenson, Chaos………James Gleick, The Alexandria Quartet……..Lawrence Durrell (4 books, actually), Seven Pillars of Wisdom………T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Pattern Recognition……..William Gibson, Slaughterhouse Five………Kurt Vonnegut, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime walk……..Ben Fountain
Andy Drexler – Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”, and swap in “The Teachings of Don Juan” for #10.
Len Filppu – Life After Life (Raymond Moody, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.)
Steve Furney-Howe – The Prince (Machiavelli), The Power Broker (Caro), Sometimes a Great Notion (Kesey)
Joel Groberg – West With the Night (Berryl Markham)
Lloyd Jones – The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Wendell Berry) Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Bury My Heart…., The Jungle (Sinclair), In the Absence of the Sacred, Four Arguments for the Abolition of Television / Mander
Jon Lee – For Whom the Bell Tolls, Moby Dick, The Bell Jar (Plath), One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest (Keesey), Hawaii (Michner,) A Christmas Memory (Capote), The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (Hemingway), Sophie’s Choice, Ishmael.
Susan Lieber – The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Angle of Repose (Wallace Stegner)
Jon-Christopher Myers – The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand), The Jungle (Upton Sinclair), Jonny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo)
Glenn Paliki – Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins
Katie Pofahl – A Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold), Collected works of John Muir, especially my First Summer in the Sierras, Peaks, Passes and Trails of the High Sierras by Secor (guidebook), Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard, Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez, The Serpents of Paradise (a collection) or Monkey Wrench Gang over Desert Solitaire, The complete works of Shakespeare, The Joy of Cooking, Stalking the wild asparagus by Euell Gibbons, Between Pacific Tides (Ricketts and Calvin)
Kate Serrurier – Freakonomics
Greg Serrurier – Cider House Rules (John Irving), Gilgamesh, The Right Stuff (Wolf), The Powers that Be (halberstam), King Leopold’s Ghost or/and companion Heart of Darkness, Stones from the River (hegi), Stones for Ibarra, Sophie’s Choice, Truman (Mccullough), Lonesome Dove (McMurtry), Angle of Repose (Stegner), or Remembering Laughter
Kamal Shah – The Big short (Michael Lewis), Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers)
Brad Smallwood – The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
JoAnne Tillemans – Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Keith Vandevere – The Man Who Killed the Deer (Waters), The Metamorphosis (Kafka), The Gambler (Dostoyevski), Journey to the End of the Night (Celine), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Thompson), A Sand County Almanac (Leopold)
Bruce West – The Godfather
Bradley Zeve – Jitterbug Perfume, Night, Manchild in the Promised Land, Shantyram