The list author says: "You probably don't care what I think, and that's probably for the best. But, in the off-chance you are just browsing people's reading preferences, these are books which I have read and consider absolutely essential. If I can do it without annoying them to the point of permanent literary abandonment, I will get my three sons to read these books before they turn 30."
"Everyone needs to read Tolkein. If you want to read Lord of the Rings, you HAVE to read all three books at once. An easier route is to read The Hobbit instead. A great piece of fantasy literature, whether as an introduction to the LOTR or as a stand-alone work."
"90% of all story lines are contained in the Iliad, and the Odyssey. I prefer the Fagle version, but it didn't pop up in this search. At any rate, you can't claim to have taken reading seriously if you haven't read Homer."
"Hilarious, insightful, and absolutely applicable today. Every time I hear someone say "it can't get any worse" I tell them to read Candide. Of course, those that have typically give me a death-stare..."
"See my note on the Hobbit. Between the LOTR and the Hobbit, the LOTR is obviously better. It just requires a greater commitment. Not only is Fellowship the first in the trilogy, but it is the easiest to read."
"Another book that I absolutely love. I don't know what was in the water when Shelley and the two Brontes were writing, but it definitely made them wary of the average human. Such casual evil lurks in the heart of their "heroes." The "Flawed Man" takes center stage in this tale of abuse and revenge. It has not been equaled since."
"Another hilarious book. Tom was simultaneously the luckiest and unluckiest man to grace the 18th-century English literary scene. Didn't quite care for the interludes, but the story itself is a grand experiment in fate and just desserts. It is also a great example of what it means to be a gentlemen under the most extreme of circumstances."
"Military discipline exists for a reason. It is also not tolerated outside of the military...for a reason. Here is an excellent example of privilege and logic coming into stark confrontation with military necessity. It wins battle, but loses the war. I routinely gave this to people who worked for me as a little joke...no one mutinied, but they probably should have."
"A challenging read, but very rewarding. A philosophical novel written by an under-appreciated writer. A man struggles with his urges and rationalizes his actions in the face of uncontrollable events."
"Some of the best alliteration you'll find. The parallel hunt/seduction story line is fantastic, and the knight's pursuit of honor in the face of certain death is a lesson which should be taught more often."
"There are many good books detailing man's struggle against nature, but none so compact. More importantly, no other man-vs-nature story manages to compellingly draw out the heroism in a stubborn refusal to give in to futility."
"I don't normally enjoy epistolary novels, but this one does a fantastic job of capturing the turbulent intellectual and political backdrop to 1930's Europe, including the bizarre relationship between oppressor (England) and aggressor (Germany)."
"I think it's important for Southerners to understand the Southern condition. Your choices are to either read Faulkner or read/watch Tennessee Williams. Unless you are VERY patient, start with Tennessee Williams."
"One of the most creative writers I have come across, Borges' short stories are a shining example of surrealism and magical realism. Literary snobs love this guy, but Sci-Fi lovers like myself would love this guy as well. (Incidentally, the only reason I don't include any Sci-Fi novels here is that they don't fit the definition of books I might have to FORCE my sons to read)."