50 Posts: 50 Favorite Books

In honor of my 50th post, I have composed a list of 50 of my favorite books.  Now you have to understand how many books I own. I have two eight-foot tall bookshelves in my living room. In addition to the large built-in shelves in my classroom, I have 6 additional shelves. My classroom is in fact so full of books that the other day a student said, “Isgitt, everywhere I look in here, there are books!”  It’s a problem.

This list represents 50 books that have influenced me in some way. That does not mean that every reading experience was full of joy. Some of these books required hard work to read (see Moby-Dick). But all of these books have affected my life: they have changed my thinking and often, therefore, my behavior.   These are the books that stand out to me today; I’m sure that I will need to revisit and revise this list at least yearly.

Literature: Pre-20th century

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  5. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
  6. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  8. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  9. Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
  10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  11. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  12. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  13. The Exodus
  14. The Book of Luke

Literature: 20th/21st century

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  7. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  8. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
  9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  10. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
  11. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


  1. The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
  2. The Poetry of John Keats
  3. Any collection of Billy Collins poetry
  4. The Psalms

Children’s Literature

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

General Nonfiction

  1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  2. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J.  Dubner
  5. Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  6. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
  7. Columbine by Dave Cullen


  1. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
  2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  3. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
  4. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
  5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  6. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Books about Writing and Literature

  1. On Writing by Stephen King
  2. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
  3. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Books about Education and Teaching

  1. To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey by Parker Palmer
  2. And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-City Students by Miles Corwin

What are the books that have most influenced you in your life?  Please share in the comments below!



    1. I am looking at Half the Sky on my shelf over here. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve watched the documentary, and I’m a huge fan of Kristof!


  1. To touch in on your student saying: “Isgitt, everywhere I look in here, there are books!” It’s a problem. I admire your library and I will have a library of similar stature as yours in the future. I do believe that readers are leaders and you’re doing a wonderful job at teaching students the power of the mind and what reading can do for them. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher in my last year of high school.


    1. Thanks so much Taylor!! I have to stop myself from buying books now. I only purchase books that I really love, and sometimes not until I’ve read them first!


  2. Awesome list, Jennifer. My list is similar–actually, you’ve inspired me to write my own post. I have to add Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle– one book that’s truly changed my teaching life.


  3. I can’t believe The Sound and Fury didn’t make the cut! Such a great book AND you are the one who introduced me to this great literary work! Even through all the English courses in college (I received my degree in English Literature), you have remained my favorite English teacher of all time 🙂


    1. I thought about that one actually! I do love that book for all of its strangeness. I guess I didn’t know you had a degree in English–that makes me very happy!


  4. Isgitt, I love reading your blog. I’m slowly making way through your list and it has been such a wonderful experience. Thank you! For me, My Name is Asher Lev was so influential to me. I related really well to the inner struggle of Asher.


  5. Thanks Nick! I am going to write more this summer, I promise. I’m so glad that you loved Asher Lev. Such a powerful book. You should also check out Potok’s book In the Beginning. It deals a lot with the idea of doubt. That was a powerful reading experience for me.


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