I first compiled this list in 1997 when a friend asked me for a list of the 10 books that most shaped my life. Of course, I couldn’t restrict the list to just 10. I think in the original I kept it to a dozen or so. In the eighteen years since the list has grown to 19 as of 12 August 2015 with the addition of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, a book I put side-by-side with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Here they are in alphabetical order since I can’t really rank them any other meaningful way.

Chosen, The by Chaim Potok;

Clarence Darrow for the Defense by Irving Stone;

Crystal Cave, The by Mary Stewart;

Demon-Haunted World, The Carl Sagan.

Dune by Frank Herbert;

Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson;

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien;

Movable Feast, A by Ernest Hemingway;

Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse;

Razor’s Edge, The by Somerset Maugham;

Shogun by James Clavell;

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson;

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut;

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, the original uncut version;

Teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Way of Knowledge, The by Carlos Castaneda;

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley;

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Time Power by Charles Hobbs;

Walden by Henry David Thoreau; and

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.


  1. jaclyn says:

    thanks jeff! I like that we have many similar tastes! :)

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Jaclyn,

    No surprise there.



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  6. Mary Jo says:

    May I borrow a book or two from you? I promise to take good care.
    Mary Jo

  7. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Mary Jo,

    We do have such a great library system.



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  10. […] Clarence Darrow is one of my personal heroes and his biography, Clarence Darrow for the Defense is on my list of Eighteen Books That Have Shaped My World. […]

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  14. Daniella Lindquist says:

    Just counted that I read 10 on your list. It is funny because I was thinking a few days ago about the books that really lit me. Such as
    Sometimes a Great Notion
    One Hundred Years of Solitude
    Atlas Shrugged
    The Magnus
    There are more but this is your blog
    Be well Jeff!

  15. Jeff Hess says:


    I just finished reading 100 years a few months ago.

    Are you still blogging?


    • Daniella Lindquist says:

      Not blogging but I miss it so much, I never felt as alive as when I blogged. So I am thinking of a new blog, it must be about really good things because that is what I wish for all of us.

      I like reading blogs and have followed you. I am FB friends with some of the old Blogappalooza days. I hope you keep going.


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  17. […] book has become No. 19 on my list of the NINETEEN BOOKS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY WORLD. In my universe, this may be the bookend to Rachel seminal book Silent […]

  18. […] negro meant in the words of Malcolm X as recorded by Alex Haley in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, was formative. I have always viewed that alien experience through what I read there on the cusp of my […]

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